Panasonic DMR-EX99V review

In Panasonic's latest AV wonder, digital recording coexists happily with a bygone analogue era called VHS

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Our Verdict

A good way of backing up old VHS to HDD or DVD. It also offers great AV performance

For

  • Excellent aV performance
  • Sensibly-featured digital recorder

Against

  • VHS-only VCR
  • No pay-TV upgrade path
  • No infrared control over STB

For the benefit of younger HCC readers baffled by the picture below of Panasonic's new DMR-EX99V, take note: that large slot on the left of the front panel takes analogue VHS tapes.

Yes, while it may cater for Freeview terrestrial digital and DVD, this Panasonic deck also connects with the old-tech past, by featuring a VCR.

The very mention of VHS makes many of us go all misty-eyed and nostalgic for the early 1980s, when VCRs were prized family possessions. The good news is that, with the EX99V, those vintage tapes lurking at the back of the cupboard can easily be transferred to DVD.

Get editing

First, though, you can dub them to the 250GB HDD. This'll let you eliminate unwanted material, thanks to Panasonic's friendly editing functions, before copying what's left to blank DVDs. Discs/tracks can be named, and thumbnails and basic menus chosen, before the disc is finalised. Bingo.

What's also cool – especially if someone in the family is either not au fait with modern tech or merely charmed by the retro fuzzy chic of clunky VHS – is that HDD and (non-copyright) DVDs can be dubbed to tape.

The VCR supports index search, hi-fi sound, NTSC playback/dubbing and SP/LP/EP recording modes, but lacks full S-VHS compatibility. Sure, it will play/dub such tapes, but with mere VHS quality. S -VHS users can, however, connect up their old VCRs to the front-panel AV inputs.

Naturally, there's far more to the EX99V than its VCR talents. It's also a Freeview+ HDD recorder, upscaling DVD player and music jukebox. It doesn't record Freeview's digital datastreams as broadcast directly, though. Instead they're decoded and then re-encoded by the machine's recording electronics. On the plus side, you can cram a lot more on the hard drive or DVD – but with a drop-off in AV quality.

Another niggle is the EX99V's timeshifting feature. For a start, the annoying onscreen graphic that appears cannot be turned off. What's more, you can't permanently preserve a recording that's in the buffer, should you decide it's a 'keeper'.

But beyond that, I'm pleased with the EX99V's TV-related features: the GuidePlus EPG, which can schedule the 32-event/1-month timer directly, offers a programme search facility as well as basic categories; and 'auto renewal recording' means you need never miss another soap again...

The EX99V lacks a Firewire input for DV camcorders, but the USB port will accept footage from modern cams. The SD card slot allows playback and copying of JPEGs and MPEG-2 video, too.

File support extends to MP3 music, and you can rip CDs to the hard drive, where an onboard Gracenote database will even attempt to identify your disc.

Setup

Owing to HDMI incompatibilities with my Onkyo AV receiver, I had to connect the EX99V directly to my TV, sound being carried to the AVR via optical digital (the only non-HDMI option that Panasonic gives you).

I immediately discovered the machine pesters you with a 'new channels found...' message whenever it's started. Rescan and reboot, and the message persists! Thankfully, it can be turned off in the menus.

Freeview pictures were impressive, even after upscaling (which is available for all sources including VHS). Naturally, recording quality depends on which of the modes you've set. In the top (XP) mode, it's difficult to tell the recording apart from the original.

As far as digital TV is concerned, though, the next rung down (SP) is probably an adequate bet. The third choice (LP) retains all of the source's detail, but is spoilt by blocking. EP is best described as wobblymatter swimming in a sea of artifacts. Even VHS is better!

On which subject, the VHS-to-digital dubbing facilities exceeded my expectations in terms of the picture quality. I expect Panasonic is using some very clever processing. In all modes, sound quality is superb, and the jukebox facility uses linear PCM (no MP3 compression here) so there's no perceptible loss of quality relative to the original CD.

Old faithful

Okay, Panasonic's EX99V is a bit dowdy in terms of looks, and feels about as cutting-edge as rubber scissors, but it's still a very versatile, solidly-built machine that covers all bases (excepting S-VHS, maybe).

However, Freeview datastream recording would give you the best possible AV quality. It's also annoying that the EX99V doesn't automatically play the next HDD recording – something Panasonics used to do. oh, and finally, the machine can be very slow to boot up. A bit like an old VCR, in fact.

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Tech Specs

Product TypeDVD Recorder/VCR
Scan Format1080p
Hard Drive Capacity250 GB
Digital TunerDVB-T (MPEG2)
USBYes
HDMIYes
Number of SCART Interfaces2
Media FormatsDVD-RAM, DVD-RW, DVD+RW, CD-RW, VHS
Brand NamePanasonic
FeaturesPseudo HD Up-conversion, 1080p Upscaling
Video FormatsDVD Video, DivX, SVCD, Video CD, MPEG-2, MPEG
Dual-Layer Media SupportedYes
Composite VideoYes
Maximum HDD Recording Time3 Week
Maximum DVD Recording Time14.33 Hour
Digital Audio Optical OutYes
Video Signal FormatNTSC, PAL
Memory Card SupportedSecure Digital (SD), MultiMediaCard (MMC), Secure Digital High Capacity (SDHC), miniSD, microSD
Height84 mm
Width430 mm
Depth346 mm
ColourBlack
Sound SystemDolby Digital, DTS
Audio FormatsMP3, WMA, CD-DA
ManufacturerPanasonic
Product ModelDMR-EX99V
Product NameDMR-EX99V DVD Recorder/VCR Combo
Manufacturer Part NumberDMREX99VEBK
Manufacturer Website Addresshttp://www.panasonic.co.uk
Marketing Information

By interpolating video data using proprietary algorithms, SD format data is up-converted to 1080 x 1920p HD format video data. This conversion to HD format increases the richness of the original data by approximately six fold, and produces the highest possible image quality when viewing content on a large-screen HDTV. Enjoy watching crisper and sharper video enabled by detailed reproduction of content on DVD and Hard disk drive. Color reproduction that is faithful to the original picture, produces colorful in details.

Package Contents
  • DMR-EX99V DVD Recorder/VCR Combo
  • Remote Control
Remote ControlYes
Scanning ModesProgressive Scan
Limited Warranty1 Year
Weight (Approximate)6.10 kg