[February 2009 Update - Panasonic Blu-ray recorders now announced. Full details here ]
Panasonic has claimed "there will be a Blu-ray recorder available in some areas of Europe this year". Already available in Japan, Blu-ray recorders are key to the growth of the HD format, but Panasonic is the first manufacturer to hint at an imminent European launch.
The claims were made at Panasonic's 2008 HD Networking Convention in Valencia, but other than a company spokesperson adding "the archiving spec isn't finalised, but we'd love to have a product to market as soon as possible," the manufacturer stopped short of naming product or release specifics.
Instead, Panasonic revealed six new DVD recorders, including hard-disk models that double-up as music jukeboxes. [/intro] Here are the six new models, due in shops from March (exacts dates and pricing to follow).
- DMR-EX98V: DVD Recorder with Digital Tuner, VHS VCR, SD Memory Card Slot, USB Terminal and 250GB HDD
- DMR-EX88: DVD Recorder with Digital Tuner, SD Memory Card Slot, USB Terminal and 400GB HDD (pictured above).
- DMR-EX78: DVD Recorder with Digital Tuner, USB Terminal and 250GB HDD
- DMR-EX768: DVD Recorder with Digital Tuner and 160GB HDD
- DMR-EZ48V: DVD Recorder with Digital Tuner and VHS VCR
- DMR-EZ28: DVD Recorder with Digital Tuner
As you can see, connectivity is a big deal for Panasonic (currently clear leader in the DVD recorder market, incidentally). The two flagship models - the EX88 and EX98 - both feature SD Memory Card slots, plus they and the EX78 also include USB sockets: all enabling the easy transfer and archiving of digital photos and camcorder footage to DVD.
Of course it works the other way, too - making it easier to transfer TV shows from your DVD recorder to your PC or portable player.
The USB socket is also an important feature in the new music-jukebox capabilities of the HDD models - not only so you can transfer digital music files to the recorder, but so you can (via downloads from the Panasonic website) update the Gracenote database of track information that comes preloaded on these machines.
Pop a CD into the recorder and it'll give you the option to play or rip the disc in uncompressed Linear PCM format, adding full track information where available (and with the Gracenote database including information on 350,000 albums, there's a fair chance of that). You can then browse and playback your collection, plus archive to DVD if needed.
Currently PCM and MP3 are the only music formats the Panasonic recorders support - so best to keeping backing up any AAC-based iTunes collections via your computer!
All the 2008 recorders offer "majorly improved" 1080p DVD upscaling, and also feature an enhanced version of Panasonic's Viera Link system, which enables them to be controlled via the remote control of any Panasonic Viera flatscreen TV. Features of the enhanced system include the ability to pause live TV (hard-disk models) or simply start a recording without having to switch on the DVD recorder - it will be automatically roused and returned to standby as needed.
Finally, going back to Blu-ray, Panasonic confirmed both HD players unveiled at CES - the DMP-BD30 and DMP-BD50 - will make it to the UK. The DMP-DB50 is already available for £299 (we'll be testing it in our April issue, out March 6th) while the 'B550 will be available later in the year at a 'premium price'.
Also coming our way is the SC-BT100 Blu-ray home cinema system - news on that and other Panasonic home cinema in a box options coming in a separate story shortly.
Apologies for no more exact UK pricing and availability details in these updates, by the way - very frustrating all round. We've been promised more later this week, once Panasonic's dealers have pored over the products long enough to know what they'll be stocking when/for how much....