Panasonic DMR-BWT740 PVR/Blu-ray Player Review
A Freeview+HD PVR, Smart TV, Blu-ray & DVD Player, all in one.
What is the DMR-BWT740EB?It might be easier to ask what the BWT740 isn’t! This device is a one-stop-shop of home video entertainment, encompassing a dual tuner Freeview HD+ Personal Video Recorder, a 3D capable Blu-ray player, which can also play your DVDs and scale up to 4K resolution, and a Smart TV box with access to a suite of online features.
Who is it for?The BWT740 is for those that want an all-in-one solution, without compromises. Specifically, this is a device for people who like to archive their TV recordings and/or want to record from external sources, such as a set top box. We’ll have more on that below but, if those features are of no interest to you, there are other products on the market that will fit the bill. Check out the ‘What else could I consider?’ section in the conclusion.
What does it look like?There’s only so much you can do, in design terms, with these things but the DMR-BWT740EB is nicely styled with a fairly industrial look. We should point out that the review sample was supplied by a retailer and is a special ‘Platinum’ edition which gives choices of all-black, all-silver and mostly-silver finishes. We like the black but if you have other kit with a metallic finish, we can see how the silver would appeal. Regardless of colour, there’s a very large and clear display panel on the facia, providing useful feedback on playback, recording and channel status. The disc tray is hidden and pops out automatically from behind a drop-down flap which also conceals Stop and Play playback control buttons…
There's a pleasing understated industrial look
How do I connect the DMR-BWT740?…That’s not all that’s below that flap, as it also hides a USB port and SD Card slot that can be used for media playback from connected storage devices. But most of the action is around the back where all the video and audio terminals are housed. To take advantage of all the High Definition goodness on-board, ideally you’ll be connecting it to your TV via the HDMI output but there is a Scart socket, too, although we’d suggest that’s more useful as an input for a set-top-box from which to record.
The HDMI output is Audio Return Channel (ARC) compliant, which is very useful when hooking up to a soundbar or AV Receiver, as it means you can use the 740EB remote to control the volume. If your audio equipment doesn’t have an HDMI connection, there are also digital optical and coaxial alternatives which can carry multichannel audio, as well as RCA stereo outs. This being a Freeview HD device, there is of course an aerial antennae terminal, as well as a RF loop-through connection you can hook up to your TV's aerial input so you can use its tuner for viewing, too. You never know, there might be three good things on at once!
Is it easy to set up and use?Initial setup was incredibly simple and once you’ve negotiated the speedy channel tuning, network initialisation and software update processes, you’re good to get going. Obviously, anything packing in so much, by way of features and functions, will always be a tad more complex to use than a dedicated device, however, but Panasonic has made a good job of simplifying their navigation. The main Menu – accessed via the Function Menu button on the remote – provides a tiled style interface with 9 clearly labelled sub-menus. There’s an instruction manual included in the box so we won’t go chapter and verse but we think the menu system is easy enough to find your way about.
One thing you might want to do, for the smoothest user experience, is to make sure Quick Start is enabled in the ‘Others’ section of the Setup Menu as it makes boot up almost instant. For first time users it may not be that readily apparent how one switches between the TV and disc playback, too. This is achieved using the Drive Select button on the remote but we think Panasonic could probably have done a better job in making it more clear and stand-out.
The Diga Player app is pretty darned impressive
How do I control it?Primarily, of course, you’ll be dealing with the included remote control. This is of fairly standard Panasonic issue, meaning it’s black, solid and well-planned. It’s possibly time for a redesign, however, and the handset looks a bit dated and could use more intuitive colour coding to highlight the variety of features as well as their relationship with one another.
Alternatively, there’s the DIGA Player app for smartphones and tablets and it’s available for Android and Apple users. It’s much more than a remote replacement, however. In fact, it doesn’t really fully replicate the button functions, at all, although you can initialise recordings from it. It’s more of a companion app really, allowing you to stream live or recorded content from the box to your smart device from anywhere you have a WiFi connection.
What’s more, you can set recordings from wherever you are by using the Remote Record feature. You first have to register the device (and an email address) with Panasonic but after that one-time process we found the functionality easy to use and fairly flawless. The UI of the app could use some polish but overall it’s excellent.
What special features does it have?Lots. In fact, it’s almost daunting to go through them all. Beginning with the online content, there are the likes of YouTube, Netflix, iPlayer, BBC Sport, Facebook and Twitter apps. Netflix even gets its own dedicated button on the remote and the fact you can provide your own DNS settings, in the menus, will be good news for fans of region switching the service. You also get a web browser but we wouldn’t recommend it and the app doesn’t help out here, when it should, with no touch screen navigation support. But who wants to surf the web on a set-top-box, anyhow? The media player is far more useful, though, and allows for playback of a huge array of photo, music and video files via DLNA, SD Card, USB storage and from your material copied to the hard drive.
Probably the major selling point of the DMR-BWT740, however, is the built-in archiving capabilities that make it truly a stand-out product in the category. You can syphon off your recordings to connected USB storage or a variety of recordable disc formats. Those include BD-RE, BD-R, DVD-RAM, DVD-R (SL/DL), DVD+R(SL/DL) and DVD+RW. You can choose from a variety of recording formats too and apply various proprietary compression techniques, to them, in order to cut down on space. This is an area that almost merits a separate review of its own but it’s safe to say Panasonic has this functionality well and truly nailed down.
As we said above, the supplied sample is a retailer exclusive and therefore has a couple of unique features you won’t find on the standard models. Chief amongst those is mulitiregion playback for both DVD and Blu-ray. The special firmware makes it easy to switch between zones for disc playback and full instructions are supplied in the box. In addition to the MultiZone/Region playback, the Platinum edition also overrides UOP and PUO, and has Cinavia disabled.
What are we talking about? User Operation Prohibition and Protected User Operation are basically the things that stop you skipping the trailers. We think that if you’ve paid for your disc, either by rental or purchase, it should be up to you whether you want to view any adverts, so UOP and PUO shouldn’t prevent this is, in the first place. This special feature is most welcomed by us but we will steer clear of the moral arguments over Cinavia; anybody that understands the term will know what its disablement means.
Panasonic knows how to make great Freeview PVRs and superb Blu-ray players. Which is nice.
Is the BWT740 a good Freeview PVR?No, it’s a great Freeview HD recorder! Panasonic has been in this game, almost from the beginning, and their software is at such a level now that it’s hard to pick fault with it. The EPG (Electronic Programme Guide) is very clearly presented and recordings, whether single or series records, are very simple to perform. Accessing recorded content is done by using the Direct Navigator button on the remote and the BWT740 allows for ‘chasing play’ by making currently recorded items available to view before they end.
Other nice features include ‘ad skipping’ ten and sixty second jump buttons. They aren’t labelled as for avoiding adverts but we all know the real truth and for those that live their TV lives time shifted, they are great additions. We also like the fact the DMR-BWT740 will make suggestions when timer clashes occur for future repeats and it will also advise you when a hi-def alternative of any standard definition recordings you’ve scheduled are available. Most importantly, the BWT740 proved rock solid in terms of recording reliability. We set it the ultimate task of taking care of business when we were away on holiday and it came up aces, with every single timer flawlessly recorded. There is no tougher test of a PVRs reliability than leaving it to its own devices!
Is the DMR-BWT740 a good Blu-ray/DVD Player?Yes, and then some. This is essentially a flagship disc spinner from Panasonic featuring their latest scaling and colour processing techniques and our barrage of technical tests saw it pass with flying colours for Ultra High, High and Standard definition content. Colours remain true, provide you don’t mess with the Picture Type from Normal in the Option menu, and scaling right the way up to Ultra HD resolutions is genuinely impressive. We realise very few readers will yet own a 4K TV but if you happen to be one of them, and have a BWT740 at your disposal, we’d suggest you compare the relative scaling performance with DVDs, in particular, which was of a very high standard. This Panasonic is also capable of 3D Blu-ray playback and did so as faultlessly as it handled 2D content. Disc load times are also very quick and it’s ever-so quiet in operation, which again is a huge bonus as far as we are concerned. In short, it’s faultless in this department.
Panasonic DMR-BWT740 Video Review
What’s not so good?The most galling thing about using the BWT740 is the clash between using online services and making recordings. As in it’s not possible; so, for example, if you’re watching something from Netflix and a recording starts, you will be unable to continue with the stream unless you cancel the scheduled timer. This is not the behaviour befitting a true multi-functional device and it’s a problem that Panasonic needs to crack.
For that matter, it’s also impossible to alter menu settings during a recording, although we’re far more forgiving of that but we also find it annoying that it’s not possible to set a recording whilst playing back another. We can understand why that’s impossible when watching something from an optical disc but many PVRs allow you to access the EPG to set timers when viewing recordings. This is something else we’d like to see rectified by Panasonic!
Getting thrown out of Netflix when a recording begins is irritating.
- Steadfast & slick Freeview PVR functionality
- Top-notch Blu-ray & DVD playback
- Remote recording & streaming is great
- Good online features with core streaming services
- Unique archiving features
- Not possible to use online content when recording
- Also impossible to schedule recordings while watching another
Panasonic DMR-BWT740 PVR/Blu-ray Player Review
Should I buy one?
This is a product fulfilling a very specific set of user requirements. You must first ask yourself the question, do I need/want one box for my Freeview viewing and recording, as well as my Blu-ray and DVD player? If yes, proceed to the next question – do I want the ability to archive recordings to disc or USB hard drive? And if your answer is in the affirmative there, the Panasonic BWT740 is absolutely the solution for you! In fact, there isn’t really anything comparable on the market but it’s not a case of ‘Hobson’s choice,’ really, as this is a fantastically complete package that works with incredible reliability.
What else could I consider?
Assuming you answered, ‘No,’ on the archiving front, you might well want to take a look at the Samsung BD-H8900, which provides a comparable feature-set and is equally as good a PVR and disc spinner. The Smart TV features are also more comprehensive, with more catch-up and streaming services on offer. There’s also the option of going separate, to avoid the online/recording clashes, and Panasonic’s own HWT230 makes a fine standalone Freeview PVR with all the winning features of the BWT740. You can then add any Blu-ray player you like to the system but, again, you’ll be missing out on the archiving functionality.
Ease Of Use8
Value For Money9
Our Review Ethos
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