After witnessing the 3D greatness of its latest Viera plasmas, we shouldn't be too surprised to see the Japanese brand go on to deliver the cleverest hi-def machine yet.
Do we mean Blu-ray? Well, yes, sort of … the DMR-BWT700 does indeed spin Blu-ray discs of both kinds – 2D and 3D.
It even converts the former into the latter, and not just on Blu-ray but DVD and Freeview HD, too. The latter comes from one of its two DVB-T2 tuners that fetch (and pauses/rewinds) Freeview HD channels, but it's this deck's status as a HD recorder that's got us most excited.
It can't record from the Sky 3D channel, but anything else can be stored on its 320GB hard disk drive (here's the maths: one hour of SD uses 1GB, and an hour of HD uses 4GB – that's 80 hours in total).
That could be a tad small in the long run, especially for those who stick to a strict hi-def diet, but there's also the option of archiving to Blu-ray.
We say 'option', but there are actually a plethora of compression modes designed to allow the user to squeeze as much as possible on to a blank BD-R or BD-RE disc (bear in mind the 'copy once' restrictions, though it deals freely in AVCHD footage from camcorders).
Other features on this rather staid-looking, typically Panasonic-style product include an SD Card slot for AVCHD and JPEG display, a USB slot that adds AVI, MKV and MPEG video, and the option of adding a Skype camera that makes full-screen video calls (via some quite brilliant software).
Unfortunately the DMR-BWT700 lacks WiFi because as well as Skype and DLNA streaming, this product packs an online hub. In another sad twist, it's not the latest BBC iPlayer-sporting Viera Connect, but an older version, Viera Cast, that's onboard.
Aside from a 500GB hard disk, this machine's sister deck, the DMR-BWT800, adds features like WiFi, a second HDMI output for routing audio to a non-3D Ready AV receiver, Digital Tube Sound (a warm sounding six-sided mode modelled on vacuum tube amplifiers) and Pure Sound, which reduces the interference of the machine's rotating fan and HDD.
As a bonus, Panasonic is offering four 3D Blu-ray movie titles [www.panasonic.co.uk/avatarspring2011] when you buy this machine – comprising Avatar, Gulliver's Travels, Ice Age 3 and Animals United.
The same applies to the DMR-BWT800, DMP-BDT110, DMP-BDT210 and DMP-BDT310, as well as its Blu-ray Home Theatre systems.