The Panasonic DMR-PWT500 Blu-ray player also doubles up as a Freeview HD PVR giving you two products in one plus DLNA streaming
The Panasonic DMR-PWT500 is one of Panasonic's latest Blu-ray players, but the inclusion of a 320GB hard disk and two Freeview HD tuners transform it into a handy all-in-one box, albeit one that comes at a slightly steep price.
Panasonic DMR-PWT500: Design
Looking at the DMR-PWT500, you wouldn't believe it had all that technology stuffed inside it. Similar to Panasonic's straight-up Blu-ray decks, it's a slim unit with a conservative black finish and a bright LED display blazing through the drop-down front panel.
Behind the flap are an SD card slot and USB port for all your digital media playback needs.
On the back are HDMI, optical digital audio and analogue stereo outputs, plus an Ethernet port, but those with wireless routers won't need the latter due to the built-in Wi-Fi. Result.
A second USB port is found on the back specifically for the TY-CC10W communication camera, needed to use the unit's Skype video calling feature.
Panasonic DMR-PWT500: Features
Skype and Wi-Fi are just the tip of the iceberg. Like Panasonic's other Blu-ray decks it's fully primed for 3D including the ability to convert 2D pictures to 3D and even record any 3D channels onto the hard-disk, if and when they ever come to Freeview.
It also lets you stream a wide range of media formats from your home network (using DLNA protocol) and access internet apps through Viera Cast, although compared with the newer Viera Connect service this feels a little antiquated, lacking key services like BBC iPlayer and Facebook.USB playback is supported, offering DivX HD and MKV, plus AVCHD is welcomed on SD cards.
On the Freeview HD side, the DMR-PWT500 steals a march on the Samsung BD-D6900 with its built in 320GB hard disk (the Samsung requires USB memory to record) and twin tuners, allowing you to record two separate channels simultaneously, or watch one while recording another.
There is an EPG too, but it's terrible. The layout is cluttered and clumsy, but the onscreen prompts elsewhere are helpful and the Panasonic remote is still among the most intuitive on the market.
Panasonic DMR-PWT500: Performance
Picture quality from Freeview's high-def channels is stunning. Detail is resolved with pin-sharp clarity, staying steady and focused during live football. With the BBC's flagship HD shows like EastEnders and Frozen Planet the images have a glossy, vibrant look.
Blu-ray pictures are similarly dazzling, with greater depth and poise than we're used to seeing from budget Blu-ray decks. 3D images are textbook, perfectly reproducing the stereoscopic layers while maintaining accurate detail clarity and fluid motion. It's utterly absorbing.
On the downside, standard-def pictures look scruffy, with mosquito noise shimmering around moving objects and an unnatural colour balance.Web video streaming is excellent over a network or Viera Cast, with minimal buffering and clean, enjoyable picture quality.
Panasonic DMR-PWT500: Verdict
The DMR-PWT500 is a wonder of integration, packing a fully-fledged Blu-ray player and 320GB Freeview HD PVR into its slender frame. That's two HD sources for the price of, well, two but it'll save space in your AV cabinet. With Viera Cast, Skype and Wi-Fi on board, not to mention DLNA streaming and 3D Blu-ray playback, there's very little it can't do.
There's a wide range of Freeview recording and editing functions too, let down by a ropey, cluttered EPG. Limited web content and noisy SD TV pictures are further foibles, but with top-notch HD pictures this is an otherwise magnificent all-rounder.
Panasonic DMR-PWT500 availability: Available now
Panasonic DMR-PWT500 price: £409