Panasonic DMR-BW880 review Panasonic DMR-BW880 review

We love
It’s a Freeview HD PVR and a Blu-ray recorder in one
We hate
No Wi-Fi, costs as much as a new HDTV
A glimpse at the future of set top boxes, but wait until price comes down
Launch Price
5 Pages

Panasonic DMR-BW880 review

The Panasonic DMR-BW880 is one of the first of a new breed of Blu-ray players set to invade high street stores this Summer. It slings and record on to high def movie discs, but it’s also adept at piping Freeview HD through to your flatscreen, and recording it. Add network media streaming and IPTV apps, and it looks like a master of all trades on paper, never mind a jack. Does it match its potential though? We put it to the test, so read on and find out in our full Panasonic DMR-BW880 review.

Read the rest of our Panasonic DMR-BW880 review
Panasonic DMR-BW880 review: web TV skills
Panasonic DMR-BW880 review: PS3 beater?

Forget about BD Live and all those lame Blu-ray extras stuffed inside previous gen boxes: the Japanese gadget giants are finally starting to clock on that to come up with a truly a must have HD disc spinner, it needs to do a lot more besides. Thankfully, the Panasonic DMR-BW880 is one of the very best of this new generation.

The Panasonic DMR-BW880 is a Blu-ray Profile 2.0 player, sure, and an adept one too. But Pan has baked in just about every other set top box feature in we could want alongside it, and it’s all the better for it. As well as shunting perfect, pixel crisp images from Blu-rays on to your HDTV, it can pipe Freeview HD channels to it (If you’re in an area with reception) too.

Though there are several Freeview HD boxes on the market already, we still can’t get over the simplicity of set up and image quality of the three terrestrial HD channels. And even though the Panasonic DMR-BW880’s EPG is one of the most impractical around (No background picture? You might as well turn the TV off and look in the Radio Times instead), it’s still the best Freeview HD box we’ve tested yet.

That’s down to the Panasonic DMR-BW880’s incredible recording skills. It’s packing twin tuners, so you can pause live HD TV, watch one channel and record another, or even record two simultaneously, and the 500GB hard drive should prove more than enough space to stash all your shows. A 250GB model, the DMR-BW780, is also available. Usefully, both only record the direct broadcast so you never accidentally downscale a HD recording. Instead, you can then compress a file down to save space, and even the lowest quality setting (HM Extended Play) looks great. Should you somehow manage to run out of space though, you can offload a file to a Blu-ray recordable disc too: there are certain copy restrictions on many HD recordings that vary by channel, but they’re all clearly labelled and won’t get in the way in practice.

That high def combination alone is reason enough to consider the Panasonic DMR-BW880, but it does a great deal more too. It’s an internet connected box that can jump on your home network for DNLA streaming, and has ports a plenty (USB and SD/SDHC/SDXC) for playing back video, music and your camera photos.

Its web TV skills aren’t spectacular compared to those of Sony and Samsung’s latest AV gear (There’s YouTube, and er, that’s it), but that huge hard drive makes it a seriously tempting offer as a dumping ground for all your photos and music, especially since it can rip your CDs and tag them using Gracenote. Just watch out though as you’ll need an Ethernet connection near your telly to enjoy all of these features, and unless you live in a new build flat, that’s by no means a guarantee.

Absent Wi-Fi aside, there are only a few build flaws with the Panasonic DMR-BW880: it’s a tad prone to long screen blackouts while diving around in the menus, the remote control is a bit too cluttered, and it won’t play 3D Blu-ray discs in the extra dimension should you happen to own one of those new fangled 3D tellies. But those issues aside, what you’re left with is a near perfect recording machine, and a superb converged set top box.

Unfortunately, there’s still an elephant in the living room: the price of the Panasonic DMR-BW880. It’s shipping for £799, and while you can get the 250GB model for a slightly less dear £699, it’s still a tricky sell for anyone without a wallet made of money itself. Gamers would do well to forgo the convenience of one set top box and try a PS3 and Freeview HD PVR combo, while others might want to hold on a bit longer to see what price Sony, LG and Samsung’s similar models come in at.

At the very least though, the Panasonic DMR-BW880 is a tantalising glimpse at the future of home entertainment, and we can’t wait to see its features trickle down the price pyramid.

Read the rest of our Panasonic DMR-BW880 review
Panasonic DMR-BW880 review: web TV skills
Panasonic DMR-BW880 review: PS3 beater?

  • David

    Help!!!! Bought an 880 in September and very pleased with performance in every respect BUT a week ago would not timer record. Subsequently when you select guide and the programme you want to record, you are thrown out of guide back to TV channel selected on recorder. Since new we have been unable thru guide to programme recordings for more than a week ahead. Help David

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