Getting kitted-up for the high-definition age is crucial, but what about all those VHS tapes you're loathe to discard? Combi decks have been around for a while, but Panasonic's newest is aimed squarely at owners of flatscreen TVs because not only is it a VHS/DVD recorder, but it can also upscale everything to HD quality.
From its built-in Freeview tuner, it can also upscale digital TV to HD, which alone makes it an attractive proposition for hooking-up to a HD Ready TV. Not that the DMR-EZ47 completely bridges the digital divide: it doesn't have an analogue TV tuner, which renders it useless for recording TV (except from external sources) in a non-Freeview reception area.
For the rest of us, it's a real step forward. Its HDMI output allows the deck to pipe upscaled material into an HD Ready TV or projector, but there's also a set of component video outputs for watching DVDs in progressive scan. There's also S-video, composite video and Scart, and anything attached via these inputs can be upscaled into hi-def.
By dint of its DV input, even camcorder users can playback footage in hi-def, but aside from upscaling, the DMR-EZ47's real talent is its day job - editing to DVD. Almost all formats of DVDR are accepted by the DMR-EZ47's DVD recorder, including DVD+ and DVD- formats as well as rewriteable and dual-layer discs, although its advanced features work largely with the oft-ignored DVD-RAM format.
Using a DVD-RAM disc (as there's no HDD), you can watch programmes while they're still being recorded as well as trimming recordings and adding or deleting chapters. On all other DVD formats the Panasonic DMR-EZ47 is able to record in four differing qualities, the highest of which produces clean, detailed pictures and fills a DVD in just one hour. The lowest contributes as much as 8hrs on a single disc.
The VHS deck itself can play S-VHS tapes, but sadly cannot output them in their top quality, rendering it a pointless exercise. That's especially true because regular VHS tapes can be output through the HDMI socket in hi-def quality. Well, almost.
For what it's worth
Although the resulting picture quality is much improved from VHS, we're not convinced of its worth because they still suffer from far too much picture noise when compared with upscaled Freeview pictures. It's a problem on all internal sources - VHS, Freeview and DVD - because the DMR-EZ47's noise reduction circuitry only works with external sources. Whoops.
Using HDMI, pictures from the DVD player are spot-on: sharp, crisp and suffering from none of the video nasties sometimes associated with upscaling. Even if it doesn't quite live up to its billing, the Panasonic DMR-EZ47 remains a great-value DVD recorder with some nifty extras.