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Apr 15 2009

Panasonic Freesat Blu-Ray PVR

Following on from the announcement we made back in February that Panasonic were to launch a range of Blu-Ray HDD PVR’s, we now have more news available following their demo at Panasonic UK in Bracknell on Tuesday.

The three models available will launch 20 June 2009 and include two Blu-Ray models (DMR-BS850 and DMR-BS750) and one DVD-R model (DMR-X350). The premium DMR-BS850 will include a 500GB HDD with an initial rrp of £999. The DMR-BS750 with the smaller 250GB HDD will come in at £899. The final base range model, the DMR-X350 is fitted with a DVD recorder instead of Blu-Ray, plus 250GB HDD for £699. These prices certainly suggest the products are being aimed at the enthusiast side of the market, although expect prices to drop after a couple of months.

All three units come with Freesat twin tuners allowing you with the aid of two cables from your satellite dish the ability to record two channels whilst playing back a previously recorded programme; or alternatively recording two channels whilst watching a Blu-Ray/DVD.

The Freesat EPG allows for single programme and series link recording, plus ‘split’ recording for those pesky occasions where films are broken into two parts usually by the news. As with the Humax FOXSAT-HDR, this software is also capable of giving you the option of SD or HD recording should that programme be available in both.

Each PVR comes compatible with Viera Cast, Panasonic’s proprietary internet portal that’s standard across its entire 2009 Blu-Ray range and many of its latest televisions.

The two Blu-Ray models have on-board decoders for Dolby TrueHD, Dolby Digital Plus and DTS-HD Master Audio, and the premium DMR-BS850 gets upgraded audio components such as a better quality DAC and gold-plated terminals.

Coming complete with an SD card slot and 2 x USB connections, the digital receivers will also allow Panasonic camcorder users the option of saving their AVCHD files to the hard drive. Similarly you’ll be able to store music (with Gracenote support) and images from your digital camera (JPEG format).

On the same subject, there is also a built-in music jukebox with 350,000 album and song titles pre-installed from the Gracenote database. This can be updated via the web using the recorder’s Ethernet connection. The Ethernet port will also be iPlayer compatible when it launched in the Autumn.

There will be five quality modes available when recording to the HDD or a Blu-Ray disc; these are DR (14mbps), HG (12mbps), HX (8mbps), HE (5mbps) and the lowest quality HL (4mbps). In the highest quality DR mode you can store 77 hours of high-definition content on the 500GB HDD, 37.5 hours on the 250GB HDD and 7.5 hours on a blank 50GB dual-sided Blu-ray disc. Switch to the lowest quality HL mode and you’ll get 240 hours on the 500GB HDD, 120 hours on the 250GB HDD and 24 hours on a 50GB Blu-ray disc.

Both Blu-Ray versions come complete with 6x BD-R capability, allowing fast copying to disc. The units will be 50GB compatible with 100GB Blu-Ray discs expected in 2010.

The one sticking point is the copy protection flags available for broadcasters, allowing them to select the type of recording available on their programmes; such as unlimited recording, once or never. Whilst you’ll of course be able to record to the HDD, transferring to Blu-Ray may not be possible; it would depend on the broadcaster.

More information on these new Freesat PVR’s can be found on Panasonic’s HD Everything page.

28 Responses to “Panasonic Blu-Ray HDD Recorder Update”

  1. MikeB Says:

    I think it is perhaps a little optimistic to expect prices to drop in a couple of months. Similar products on sale in Australia have been selling for some time at virtually the same price as these announced prices for the UK.
    See my post #33 at
    http://www.joinfreesat.co.uk/index.php/panasonic-confirm-freesat-hdd-blu-ray-recorder

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  2. Pete Cullen Says:

    HOW MUCH?!?! Flippin heck!

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  3. admin Says:

    @MikeB

    This is true, although providing these are retailed on the same standard as Panasonic televisions, drops of £100-£200 may be possible. Possibly more a hope than expectation :)

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  4. Lee B Says:

    With the copy protection flag on most of the time there seems little point in the Blue Ray option, why pay for an expensive option if you will have little chance to use it.

    The price seems way off, I think it should be the Humax HDR price i.e. £299 plus the price of a PC Blue Ray writer bolted on – £150 ish total £449

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  5. Mike Says:

    Though i agree, technically this is the way forward.In my opinion, a Blue Ray recorder with built in HDD. I definately won’t be investing until the 1K price tag for their flagship model comes down to a sensible price level, if it were about £500 as some sort of comparison with the Humax HDR. I agree with above, a few months is a little optimistic.I feel however, that given 6 months or so, we’ll be seeing considerably cheaper prices. Already the Humax HDR is falling in price ( £276 approx. with some retailers), couldn’t possibly be because Humax knows it’s going to get competition from June this year could it?!! Generally, Freesat and this sought of gadgetry is just what i’ve been waiting for ( as an avid avoider of Sky’s subscription charges, if only on princilple ) but Freesat desperately needs to increase their HD broadcasting service to more channels and these sort of recorders need to fall considerably in price and very swiftly if they want to seriously compete in this market.I think that perhaps the manufacturers of Blue Ray recorders need to get together with the broadcasters, as if broadcasters are going to be ‘flagging’ ( some broadcasts won’t be able to be archived onto Blue Ray disc) a lot of HD broadcasting, what’s the point of the public purchasing these machines in the first instance?! As one person pointed out on another web site, unlike some DVD recorders, these Freesat recorders & PVR’s only contain Freesat tuners, not Freeview etc.

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  6. admin Says:

    Already the Humax HDR is falling in price ( £276 approx. with some retailers), couldn’t possibly be because Humax knows it’s going to get competition from June this year could it?!!

    Not at all, Humax have not once dropped the trade value on the HDR, nor the HD, the price reductions are by the retailers who started high due to rrp and demand and are now having to compete against each other. Humax don’t make a habit of dropping prices. Panasonic do.

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  7. Steve Says:

    @Lee B

    It is a little misguided that you simply add the price of a PC drive to the cost of a Humax.
    The BluRay drive needs controlling and there is a massive amount of video and audio processing required just for playing BluRay never mind the recording processing and control.
    Panasonic BluRay players are around £300 so add that to your Humax price to get £600 – rather closer to the release prices and you still have some consideration for BluRay recording.
    The killer question is that of the DRM issues – the worst case being if the CPF not only stops backup from the HDD but also recording direct to BluRay. At least if the programme is on a BluRay you would have a chance of manipulation on a PC.
    There are other advantages – you have a freesat PVR and a BluRay (player) in one box – I could get rid of 2 external boxes and replace with 1.
    The quality of the 1080i signal on freesat is superb, but the 1080p BluRay pictures are completely astonishing and the leap of quality in the audio is just as big. The ability to PVR freesat to HDD and BluRay AND have a BDlive BluRay player in one box is a great prospect that is going to demand, at least initially, a high price. As time goes on and BluRay starts to take hold (and it will – look at most mid spec PCs – they have BluRay player drives in them and that is a sure fire means of measuring technology reach) prices will drop.

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  8. Lee B Says:

    @Steve

    I appreciate it will need a chipset but I assume the freesat chipset or extended version of it will be used for playback, it’s amazing how integrated these chipsets have become already.

    At least we both agree it’s far too expensive at £1000 and the copy protection flag could be the killer.

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  9. Georgey Fruit Says:

    Nice idea but, how much???!!!???!!!

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  10. AndrewM Says:

    @Steve: You make a good argument about why the price of the Blu-ray recorder + PVR would be so expensive, but I cannot for the life of me understand how they get to a price of £700 (!) for the plain DVD version. It has 70GB *less* of hard drive capacity than the FOXSAT-HDR, and DVD recorders have been around for years and looking around, it seems you should be able to get a good one for £100-150 at most. So what on earth are they adding that drives the price up to £700?

    Also, on the copy-protection front, Danielle Nagler, head of BBC HD, announced yesterday that they were changing their copy-protection flag to allow one copy to be burned to a Blu-ray Disc ( http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/bbcinternet/2009/04/welcome_to_some_new_initials_d.html ). Also, as I understand it, any copies burned to Blu-ray will be encrypted with AACS, which would further complicate things if you wanted to make a backup copy on a PC, for example.

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  11. AndrewM Says:

    Also, I noticed that on the Panasonic announcement you linked to, it somewhat misleadingly claims:

    “Full HD Recording and Playback
    In DR mode you can record a digital broadcast signal, without the slightest change in quality, directly to your HDD. The precise Full HD picture quality…”

    Full HD is generally understood to mean 1080p, but nobody is actually broadcasting in 1080p at the moment (and I don’t think this unit would be capable of recording it if they were).

    The rest of the specs do look impressive though (as you would expect for something in the £900-1000 price range). Although I do think DIGA is a silly name ;)

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  12. towny Says:

    Nice, very nice … I want one! Mind you I also want to avoid a divorce so I won’t be shelling out a grand.

    Does anyone know whether the units will play back Divx/Xvid media files from a USB stick or SD card?

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  13. Lee B Says:

    It better also make my coffee in the morning at that price!

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  14. Deano Says:

    For that price i would expect no less than coffee and my bed made !!
    it would be great to get one of them to go with my Panasonic TV but NOT at them prices ..

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  15. Deano Says:

    I would also like to know whether the units will play back Divx/Xvid media files from a USB stick or SD card?

    what about the Humax HDPVR can that ???

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  16. Steve Says:

    @Lee B and @AndrewM

    I would consider that the freesat and DVD/BluRay chipsets and hardware, certainly at present, are very separate beasts.
    There are 4 elements that would mark a high price for such a device.
    1- Cutting edge – noone else has done this yet
    2- Top manufacturer – you will always pay more for the top brands
    3- Multifunction – it is box reducing and you can’t “buy” space
    4- Supply and demand – the biggest factor in this; they simply are not going to sell massive numbers, at least not yet anyway

    I don’t actually think that the price tags are *that* bad ESPECIALLY if you have invested in a large fullHD display – your viewing experience is only ever going to be as good as your source and, at present, nothing is going to beat BluRay as far as Joe Public is concerned, with freesat a close second.

    The test will be the street price and the DRM / CPF issues:
    The 50PZ81 was originally set at £1700 but that went at a real (ie shop around on the net) price of around £1550, £200 more than the equivalent non-freesat version
    As long as you can get the programmes onto BluRay disc (preferably by either direct record OR archive from HDD) then you will be able to rip onto PC

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  17. Derek Says:

    Whilst (to a degree) I can understand the desire for copy protection, the broadcasting companies need to swallow a “reality pill”. Some of the material on BBC HD has been excellent, and I would like to watch it again. My ideal would be to archive it to DVD or BluRay simply for personal use, but at the moment what is actually happening is that my Humax HDD is filling up with things that I cannot export in HD.

    Soon I will not have enough space to use the darn machine :-)

    If the Panasonic is also restricted there will be no point in buying it.

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  18. Robin Says:

    Here in France this product has been available with twin TNT inputs (French Digital) tuners for some time origionally retailing for €1800.00 this has recently come down to about €1500 on amazon.fr. So the UK launch price of £999 seems reasonable in comparison. I am sure it will probably settle at about £799 by Christmas which considering the technology would be a sensible price.

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  19. Brady Says:

    I dont understand the recording capacities:-

    “There will be five quality modes available when recording to the HDD or a Blu-Ray disc; these are DR (14mbps), HG (12mbps), HX (8mbps), HE (5mbps) and the lowest quality HL (4mbps). In the highest quality DR mode you can store 77 hours of high-definition content on the 500GB HDD, 37.5 hours on the 250GB HDD and 7.5 hours on a blank 50GB dual-sided Blu-ray disc. Switch to the lowest quality HL mode and you’ll get 240 hours on the 500GB HDD, 120 hours on the 250GB HDD and 24 hours on a 50GB Blu-ray disc.”

    Surely these options only apply to recordings going onto the Blu-Ray disc not the HDD.

    Does this mean it is not capturing the Freesat bitstream directly like the Humax HDR does and is doing some kind of conversion instead? Surely that would be pointless because it will lose fidelity even if using the highest bit rates. Many of the Freesat SD bitstreams are under the lowest quality option of 4Mbps anyway. Even the HD bitstreams are well under the ‘DR 14Mbps’ setting.

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  20. Tony Hales Says:

    This machine has a onboard H264 encoder.

    H.264 Encoder
    Panasonic’s original H.264 Encoder responds to the movement in a video image and compresses it so that the recorded image is as clear and vivid as possible. H.264 conversion recording is particularly convenient if you want to save space on your HDD or want to record a number of programmes onto a Blu-ray Disc™.’

    There is also a DR mode which presumbly captures the bitstream directly so you have the option of both.

    HD Recording (DR Mode) and Archiving

    Full HD Recording and Playback
    In DR mode you can record a digital broadcast signal, without the slightest change in quality, directly to your HDD. The precise Full HD picture quality, 5.1ch surround sound, subtitle and audio description, all recorded perfectly and ready to view. ‘

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  21. Brady Says:

    Thanks Tony.

    That makes sense but the marketing bumpf from Panasonic is a little misleading because it suggests that using the H.264 encoder will save disc space when in reality for most content it will use more space and reduce quality compared to the DR mode (if the DR mode really does capture the Bitstream as it seems to suggest).

    I’d imagine most users would use the DR mode to record to HDD so it makes the HDD recording capacity examples irrelevant. I hope it can carry out the DR to H.264 conversion when recording from the HDD onto Blu-Ray.

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  22. Brady Says:

    Ah right – just had another read of the capacity info and it says the ‘DR’ mode uses 14Mbps so this can’t be capturing the Bitstream directly because that will vary anywhere from >2Mbps up to 8Mbps+ depending on the bitrate used and the type of content (SD vs HD). Therefore I’m guessing DR mode is just the highest quality mode available but it’s not capturing the Bitstream.

    This seems like a potential issue or design oversight to me but maybe I’m getting my wires crossed. However if it is as it appears it is effectively saying that if you want to record as close to broadcast quality as possible it will only get 77 hours on the 500GB HDD. The Humax PVR will give better quality because it captures the Bitstream so no conversion is carried out on the source and it will give 80 Hours HD or 200 hours SD on a 320GB HDD.

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  23. AndrewM Says:

    @Brady: The DR stands for Direct Record, and further down it says that the subtitles and audio description data is only recorded in DR mode, so I think it is capturing the bitstream directly. Presumably the ’14 Mbps’ means ‘up to 14 Mbps’. With regards to how much it will record, I think they’re just being very conservative, because if it is just recording the bitstream, then as you say, you should be able to fit much more on the HDD.

    Taking the Humax figure of 4 GB per hour of HD (actually 4 billion bytes, as they are not real gigabytes given we are talking hard drive capacity), then the 500 GB model should be able to hold 125 hours of HD.

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  24. Al (Original) Says:

    Hard drives are way too small.

    I filled my Humax HDR within 6 weeks over Christmas / New Year. I now have a 1TB drive which is a far more realistic size but still 39% full.

    Only the 500GB top model is the least bit respectable size wise for the Panasonic and anyone buying a 250GB model is going to be disappointed at 1/3 rd smaller than the Humax from my experience.

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  25. sam Says:

    I was gutted when I heard about the Pana PVR / Blue Ray but geeze – £1000 ! A little steep for recording movies with adverts in em onto disks your never gonna watch again !?

    AT Al (Original) – 500GB seemed restrictive to me on the Humax and i did fill it over christmas but when you get down to it there is never enough time to watch it all anyway as there is always something new coming up to watch as well. I end up recording movies i never watched and HD content for the sake of it.

    I would say however that whilst I think 500GB is enough for mainly SD broadcast IF we ever get a real ITV HD service or the fabled C4HD makes an appearance (yea right!) then we could all be struggling for space !

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  26. Robin Says:

    I was watching the “Gadget Show” on C5 last night and this was voted best gadget of 2009 they also have one up for grabs as part of this week’s prize bundle.

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  27. Rachel Says:

    Robin its not the Gadget Shows best gadget of 2009. But it is Gale’s number one ” stand out tech ” of Gadget show live. Important too of said it don’t you think ? (name that film)

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  28. Panasonic Freesat+ PVR’s Given Launch Date | Join Freesat Says:

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