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<  Satellite receivers, cable boxes and PVRs  ~  Panasonic DMR-BWT720EB HD PVR

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ciderdude
Posted: Fri Nov 02, 2012 2:10 pm Reply with quote
Regular contributor Joined: 19 Mar 2007 Posts: 46 Location: Milton Keynes
So the toppy is still working great, after its PSU fix, and I am more than happy with it.

But, I have an HD capable TV and nothing to throw HD pictures at it with. Add to that the fact that I have some John Lewis vouchers burning a hole in my pocket.

So, I thought, why don't I buy one of these new fangled BluRay DVD players so that I can at least see my TV doing HD and, in most cases, get the added benefit of internet provided material too e.g. viera connect.

So I trotted off to John Lewis to look at what they have in the way of BluRay and came across the Panasonic DMR-BWT720EB which seems to be a jack of all trades: PVR (twin channel), Freeview HD, 1TB HDD, BluRay DVD, internet, DVD up-scaling, DVD (and BluRay) writing... the list goes on. I haven't seen any bad reviews either not that I have looked too far.

So I thought I'd see what the Toppy community might think about it, however there appears to be no mention of it anywhere as a potential toppy replacement with HD.

So does anyone have a view one way or the other? Is there a flaw or issue that I am not aware of that might make it an unsuitable replacement for the Toppy? Or will I be the first to try one were I to purchase it?

Thanks in advance
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meadfoot
Posted: Fri Nov 02, 2012 4:04 pm Reply with quote
Frequent contributor Joined: 19 Jul 2005 Posts: 256
I don't know if this box is any good or not, BUT, I bet the administrators of Comet will be selling loads of the same/similar in the next few days for a fraction of the retails price. Wink

Rog

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ciderdude
Posted: Sun Jan 13, 2013 7:05 pm Reply with quote
Regular contributor Joined: 19 Mar 2007 Posts: 46 Location: Milton Keynes
Well, after much deliberation I decided to buy one anyway, helped by some additional JL vouchers that came my way courtesy of Santa and the fact that JL knocked 100 of the price in their post Xmas sales.

I have been fooling around with it for a week now, so for those who are interested here is what I think of it so far. Note that having never had an HDMI source I did not know quite what to expect, so some of the things I mention below may come as no surprise to those who have.

What I like about it: -

1. When you turn off the TV or place it into standby the Panny automatically switches to standby too. I think that is very cool, simple things etc.
2. When you attempt to set an SD timer the Panny will attempt to find an HD equivalent and ask you which you want to record. Just today I asked it to record Time Team from SD Channel 4 and it prompted me to choose between the SD and HD versions. Very clever.
3. The remote control has a skip forward 60 seconds button and skip back 10 seconds button allowing you to hop through adverts during playback. Whilst MyStuff offers this and better on the Toppy I am not sure whether it is that common on other more mainstream boxes out there so it was a relief to find it on the Panny.
4. I can?t fault the picture quality it is at least as good as or better than the Toppy given that it up scales SD to HD. HD of course is very nice to have; at last I can see my TV doing what it was designed to do.
5. DLNA: This was just one of the acronyms that I didn?t take much notice of when I purchased the box. However, I must say it is one of the things I like most about it. With this functionality it is possible to stream from the Panny to IOS or Android devices connected to your home network. I simply downloaded the Panasonic DIGA app to my iPhone and I can now watch TV or recordings that I have made anywhere in the house. This does use a tuner in the Panny though so it won?t work if both tuners are tied up doing other things.
6. It is possible to hide TV channels that you are not interested in, much the same as deleting unwanted channels on the Toppy. They are still there, and you can access them if you know the channel number, but when hidden they do not appear in EPG/Channel lists and are skipped when using the channel change button.
7. The remote control has a little corner for controlling the TV. It has channel change, Volume, Source and Standby controls. By default these will only control a Panasonic TV but it is possible to very simply reconfigure them to operate other TVs (mine is a Sharp). This is a very important consideration as it is not possible to control the volume of the source from the remote like it was with the Toppy. I was informed by the John Lewis salesman that this is a restriction of moving from SCART to HDMI. I am a little sceptical about this but I am sure that there is someone out there who can explain the reason.
8. It has internet on it. A first for me so I don?t have anything to compare it with but nice to have, so far I have watched a little BBC iPlayer. SD works Ok on my rather slow broadband connection but I will have to upgrade in order to prevent buffering with HD. There are issues though ? see below.
9. Built in Blu-Ray player/burner. Once again this is my first Blu-Ray player so I haven?t got anything to compare it with, so far I?ve only watched a standard DVD and found it to be excellent picture quality and up-scaled as well. I have yet to experiment with burning DVDs or Blu-Rays.
10. It?s quiet: Whilst I have been experimenting with this box the Toppy has largely been in standby and peace has returned to the living room.


What I don?t like about it: -

1. Responsiveness: It is clunky and quite slow to respond, I often feel that it hasn?t recognised my key press, so I press it again only to find I have invoked and immediately dismissed what I was after.
2. Pause live TV: Once again clunky, from the moment you press the pause button you have to wait 8 seconds before it happens, the first four of these seconds are spent wondering if you have actually pressed the button as the program continues to run uninterrupted, then the screen goes completely blank for another 3 to 4 seconds before finally throwing up the paused still frame. Press play and it takes a further 2 seconds to get going again. If you fast forward the stream it will catch up with live TV but remains in catch up mode, to actually return to live TV you have to press stop at which point a dialog pops up asking you to confirm whether you really want to return to live TV. For me this is a significant backwards step from the seamless pause/chase play functionality of the Toppy.
3. Twin Recordings: Recording two programs simultaneously means you can only view the channels that are being recorded. You cannot view other channels on the same Mux as the recording(s) that you are making. Furthermore I have discovered that if you schedule back to back recordings on the same channel, for a minute or two between the recordings both tuners get tied up on the same channel, one recording the first program and the other recording the second. At this point you can only view that one channel on your TV. Another step back from the Toppy.
4. Internet Functionality: Whilst I am delighted to have internet functionality on the box I was mortified to discover that if a freeview recording starts in the back ground you get kicked off the internet!!!! For instance if I want to watch a film on Netflix I have to avoid Thursday where a number of regular timers kick off at various times during the evening. This to me is a ludicrous restriction which I cannot believe they can?t get round and for me seriously affects the usefulness of the inclusion of internet functionality. Is this a restriction that is common to internet enabled media devices like this?
5. Internet Content: It is a real shame that there is only one On Demand internet service available ? BBC iPlayer; no ITV Player, no 4oD and No Demand 5. There?s plenty of comment elsewhere on the internet about this so I won?t elaborate here except to say that I fervently hope, nay expect, a future firmware update to add these services that I would say are essential for any modern self respecting Smart TV appliance.
6. Panasonic DIGA App: Whilst I applaud the DLNA functionality of this system the DIGA iPhone/Android app could do with some polishing; it takes ages for the app to discover the PVR on the network, I have wasted hours of time repeatedly telling it to search for the box. It eventually finds the system but if there is a hiccup with the app which does happen all too frequently or you reboot your iPhone you are back to searching for the device again. Very frustrating. Once running it is very good but has limited functionality, for instance I?d very much like to see it able to set timers.

What can?t it do that the Toppy can: -

1. You can?t pull stuff off the Panny like you can with the Toppy, yes it has USB and SD ports, but you can only use these as an extension of the inbuilt HDD. Any external USB device has to be formatted and registered before it can be used and any recordings made or copied to them will not be readable elsewhere. The only way of pulling off your recordings is to burn them to DVD or Blu-Ray (note you have to convert them to a different format if you want them to work in a different player).
2. You cannot create the sophisticated series link searches that you can with a MyStuff embellished Toppy. Only a standard Series link and one off recording are available. Personally I don?t make a lot of use of the more sophisticated series searches that MyStuff provides so I am hoping this won?t be a big issue.
3. You can?t modify the user interface in anyway, what you get is what you got ? end of story.
4. It has no functionality equivalent to the TAP. I don?t suppose many boxes do. I wish it had, because then perhaps a similar user community to that of the Toppy could get together and fix some of the problems.

What I cannot comment on:

1. The Panasonic does 3D apparently; I do not have, neither do I intend to get, a 3D television. I am no fan of 3D, gives me a headache.
2. The Panasonic supports connectivity with Panasonic and Sony camcorders. I do not posses or have interest in such things.

Summary
---------
So is it worth sticking with? Well yes, I suppose it is.
If I were a more pernickety person the flawed Internet functionality, unfathomable mux viewing limitations whilst recording and frankly awful pause/chase play functionality would have me running back to John Lewis and asking for my money back. But I can learn to live with those failings in recognition of the benefits that come with it including BluRay, upscaling, DLNA and HD; oh and silence, it?s so quiet. No it isn?t as slick as the Toppy in its operation, few things are. Perhaps the Toppy with MyStuff amounts to a Concorde moment.

What we have here then is a case of a few steps forward and a couple of steps back and for that reason I probably won?t be in too much of a hurry to dispense with the Toppy, whilst that was the intention, it does mean I have a couple of extra tuners to play with should the need arise.

If I were to relay any message to Panasonic it would be to dot the i?s and cross the t?s You have crammed a lot of good stuff into the box but left it rather unpolished which is surprising for a company that is generally so recognised for its quality.
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YorkshireJumbo
Posted: Sat Jan 19, 2013 6:33 pm Reply with quote
Frequent contributor Joined: 16 Sep 2005 Posts: 735
Thanks for that - interesting...

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John Robinson
Posted: Fri Mar 08, 2013 2:16 pm Reply with quote
Regular contributor Joined: 04 Aug 2007 Posts: 93 Location: Cheadle, Cheshire (but Yorkshireman in exile)
Thanks, Ciderdude, for that comprehensive review.

I agree with it completely, and am very pleased with this BD/DVD recorder which I bought to replace a Toppy damaged by a sever water escape from the loft.

To add to your review, yes, it does play and record 3D programmes broadcast. I have last year's Last Night of the Proms, which looks very good in 3D. Having said that, we don't use the 3D facility very often primarily because of the lack of material available. I wouldn't go so far as to say it's a gimmick, though; perhaps there will be more in the future.

One important drawback - in fact the only one as far as I'm concerned - is, as you stated, the slow response to commands from the remote control. I, too, have found myself thinking nothing was going to happen only to find it was deciding whether to react! A Humax unit, which I run alongside the Panasonic, responds instantly and I'd really like the Panasonic to do the same. Does anyone know whether there are any software updates that might improve things?

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ciderdude
Posted: Sat May 11, 2013 11:07 am Reply with quote
Regular contributor Joined: 19 Mar 2007 Posts: 46 Location: Milton Keynes
Quick update to my review.

The unit received a firmware upgrade a week or so back. Sadly this does not seem to have fixed any of the issues I mentioned, on the contrary, it has introduced one in that BBC iPlayer now no longer works: -

http://iplayerhelp.external.bbc.co.uk/help/announcements/panasonic_iplayer_may2013

So now the unit supports absolutely no catch up TV at all! There are 13 new and, as far as I am concerned, useless services/apps available from the internet. I don't know whether they come courtesy of the firmware upgrade or not. Other than that I fail to see what if anything the new firmware has fixed or embellished.

I note that there is now a successor to this unit available (DMR-BWT735EB) which supposedly has a "New Quick EPG and Function Menu", no comfort for those of us who plunged for its predecessor which I am beginning to suspect is forever stuck with the clunky one.
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John Robinson
Posted: Sat May 11, 2013 3:11 pm Reply with quote
Regular contributor Joined: 04 Aug 2007 Posts: 93 Location: Cheadle, Cheshire (but Yorkshireman in exile)
Yes. I also installed the firmware upgrade recently and it made no difference.

I contacted Panasonic a few weeks ago, asking for advice about the 'slow response time' problem. They suggested I put new batteries in the remote control and install the new firmware. Not very helpful, I'm afraid.

It would be nice if Panasonic could provide a software upgrade to address this problem.

I must add that, apart from this problem, I am very happy with the unit.

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Toppy:TF5800 F/W:1365AbBfBqCeCkCyDeEcEfErEsFFmGmHHeKtMhNfPPcPfRRaReRhRpRsSSdSrStT2TfXpXwXl
TAPs: eit2mei BETA 7.8m6 - MyStuff 5.62c - Font Manager 1.0 - Extend v1.5 - MyInfo A3a
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Laser
Posted: Sat May 11, 2013 5:49 pm Reply with quote
Frequent contributor Joined: 10 Jan 2008 Posts: 431
ciderdude wrote:
I have been fooling around with it for a week now, so for those who are interested here is what I think of it so far...

For some reason I missed your post when you originally made it. Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts in a balanced and intelligent review.

My personal preference has always been for gadgets that do only specific tasks, not the all-rounders like this far more impressively specified device. That's just me, I have no deep insight to justify it. Wink

Two things stand out for me from your review. First is that even large well-known companies like Panasonic still can't manage a perfect or even anywhere near-perfect PVR. Makes me want to hang on to my MyStuffed-Toppy even more!

Secondly, it emphasises how difficult it is to understand what the actual experience of using a device will be based on feature tick-boxes. Too often I hear people saying how some new toy does x, y and z meaning they could get rid of some other bit of kit were they to buy it. Yet, short of actually buying one, how are you supposed to know whether it implements said features in a good way?

That's why reviews like yours are valuable to help others weigh their own needs. Cool

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