We’ve seen MySky and MyFreeview HD recorders that allow you to record television to the device’s hard drive, but the recorded media is then trapped on that hard drive. And when the disc fills up, you’re forced to make some tough deletion choices. But now there’s an alternative that means you won’t be forced to delete any of your favourite recordings ever again. Not only does Panasonic’s DMR-BW850 allow you to burn high-definition television from its 500GB hard drive to Blu-ray disc, but it really is an all-in-one media hub. If you’re put off by the thought of further cluttering your living room with a Freeview HD set-top box and a Blu-ray player, then this is the device for you. With not one but two integrated Freeview HD decoders, the DMR-BW850 can record media from two different channels simultaneously – all while you’re watching any of your other stored media. And although the problem is arguably moot since you can now burn your media to disc, the DMR-BW850 offers all manner of resolution options for recording – from full HD down to standard definition – so you can best utilise the hard-drive space available. And there’s even an Ethernet connection that provides access to the Gracenote audio database, YouTube and Picasa photo albums from the comfort of your sofa. The DMR-BW850 also outputs in 5.1 Dolby Digital sound, (although you will have to purchase your surround-sound set-up separately).
Alternatively, a DVD model with the same functionality (and a lesser hard drive at 250GB) is also available for $1199.
PROS: An all-in-one media hub, twin Freeview decoders, relatively quiet Blu-ray drive, multiple input and output options, DivX support, YouTube connectivity, media portability,
CONS: No wireless networking support (so you’ll have to have your broadband modem handy to the TV), no PC integration, USB media must be transferred to the hard drive before it can be accessed, some functionality limited when burning to disc (such as online connectivity).
VERDICT: At two grand, the DMR-BW850 is a relatively large outlay – but well worth it when you consider everything that’s on offer here. If you haven’t already splurged on a Blu-ray player and a Freeview HD set-top box, it’s perhaps the most efficient means of creating an all-encompassing media hub in your living room.