Panasonic DMR-EZ25 £250

30th Jun 2006 | 23:00

Panasonic DMR-EZ25

It seem's that Panasonic is entering a golden age

TechRadar rating:

4.5 stars

Simply the best standard DVD recorder around


<p>Picture quality</p><p>design</p><p>Freeview tuner</p>


<p>No DivX playback or CI slot</p><p>JPEGs downscaled for viewing</p>

You've got to hand it to Panasonic, the Japanese manufacturer is currently at the top of its game when it comes to producing DVD/HDD recorders.

The secret to its success is simple: get the basics (picture quality and connections) right and integrate Freeview. Take for example the DMR-EX85. It ticked virtually every feature checkbox, offered stunning connectivity and the performance was outstanding, making top marks a mere formality.

You'll forgive me, then, for being more than a little bit excited about the arrival of the DMR-EZ25. The first Panasonic DVD recorder to combine a digital tuner and a 720p/1080i upscaling HDMI output, the EZ25 is basically the DMR-EX85 minus its 250GB hard drive, so surely success is guaranteed...

With a price tag of £250, you'd be forgiven for expecting the EZ25 to cut corners, but like its more expensive brethren it's superslick. The sloping fascia is more like the nose of a Lamborghini Countach than a DVD deck.

Front connections are hidden behind a flap, with an SD card slot behind a panel that slides into the fascia like a garage door.

Connectivity is cutting-edge. Panasonic was clearly in a generous frame of mind when putting this recorder together. Top of the list is the aforementioned HDMI output, which is backed up by an impressive supporting cast. There are two Scarts, one of which is RGB-enabled for the benefit of satellite and cable boxes, S-video and composite analogue inputs and a Firewire port allowing you to pipe in footage from your DV camcorder. There's a digital tuner (it's amazing how many major brands still fail to offer this essential ingredient), however, there's no CI slot for Top Up TV. As with many other decks, the component outputs do not provide HD upscaling.

Panasonic's DMR-EZ25 is platform neutral, supporting DVD-RW, DVD RW, DVD-RAM, DVD R (single and dual-layer) and DVD-R. There's a choice of four recording modes offering between one and eight hours per single-layer disc. DVD-RWs allows for basic edits, meaning that you can create thumbnails, delete and rename files. The downside, however, is that you won't be able to chase playback. The latter also applies to DVD RWs and recordable discs (DVD-R/DVD R).

Opt for DVD-RAM and a whole new range of features becomes available. Edit options allow you to split and partially erase recordings in order to remove unwanted ad breaks or create playlists for sequenced random-access playback for tidying up footage shot on you camcorder. Chasing playback is also available.

The inclusion of a Freeview tuner dramatically enhances the useability of the recorder. A simple to use Electronic Programme Guide (EPG) can be called up by pressing the 'i' button so that you can schedule a timer recording. For those sticking with analogue broadcasts, there's a 16-event/1-event timer that can be programmed manually or by VideoPlus. Subtitles can be also be captured, but remember that they will be permanently part of the recording once the disc is burnt. It's worth mentioning that red button interactivity is not available when a channel is recorded from the EZ25's built-in tuner.

There are some restrictions regarding JPEG playback. Although megapixel stills can be viewed via the SD card slot, the images are downscaled to standard-definition, even when using an HD Ready display via HDMI. Photos can be copied from SD card to DVD-RAMs and you can make slideshows that will work in any player.

Perhaps the best compliment I can throw the EZ25's way is that it's probably worth buying even if you're not that bothered about making DVD recordings. Confused? Let me explain. At £250, it's effectively the cheapest digital set-top box to include an HDMI port, making it ideally suited to those that own flatpanel monitors or want a source for a projector.

I opted to put the EZ25 through its paces with a projector and was mightily impressed by the results. Off-air upscaled digital pictures were acceptable, although there were a couple of foibles that ensured images were not quite perfect. The first of these, a touch of softness, was easily rectified with a quick tweak to the projector's sharpness control. Less easy to deal with, however, were the tiny rows of dots that appeared at the upper and lower extremes of the picture. Bizarrely, these promptly disappeared on recordings.

As experience has taught us, Panasonic's DVD recordings are exemplary, both in the Tech Lab and up on the big screen. The XP recording mode is perhaps better suited to backing up camcorder footage than anything else, although it is ideal for backing up laser discs onto dual-layer DVD R discs. SP is perfect for digital TV recordings providing material that is difficult to separate from the original source. The LP mode is full res and retains all of the stunning depth and detail of the original broadcast - something that is confirmed by the excellent frequency response results in the Tech Labs. The only downside with this mode concerns motion and fine detail, both of which reveal slight, but unexpected, artefacting.

Finally, I should mention playback of commercial DVDs. Whether you opt for RGB, component or HDMI outputs, you won't fail to be deeply impressed by the playout from the DMR-EZ25. CD playback is functional.

Not everyone that chooses to invest in a DVD recorder wants to spend a lot of money and many will feel no need to indulge in a hard drive on which to store recordings. Assuming that you fit into either of these categories, you can't fail to be impressed by what has to be the best standard DVD recorder around. Steve Keaton

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