What is the Panasonic HWT250?
Design, Connections & Control
Menus & Setup
We had much more success with the DLNA serving capabilities of the HWT250 which allows compatible devices on the same network to access the contents of the hard drive - including all the recordings made from the Freeview tuner – and play them back. There’s also the DIGA ‘Smart TV’ platform which has a decent range of apps, including YouTube, Netflix and Amazon Instant Video available to install. Playback from the apps is reasonably good but, unlike some, doesn’t allow for automatic framerate switching so any ‘24p’ content – most movies and major US TV series – is output at 60Hz which means you might see a judder on the likes of panning shots. You can’t even manually force a 24p output either which is a bit of a shame. On a more positive note, we’re pleased to see that Panasonic has cracked the problem of using streaming services while recordings are taking place but you still can’t get in to the menus in that circumstance, which can be irritating.
Freeview PVR performance
Dealing with timer clashes is also much better handled than with previous generations of Panasonic PVRs; should you try and schedule more than two concurrent events, you will be taken to a warning screen where you get the chance to alter or delete one of the overlapping timers. It’s not quite as slick as some systems that will offer up alternative times for the same programme but at least you get a fair chance to change things. We would also like to see the software flag up that a high definition version of a programme you set to record on a standard definition channel exists, where applicable. That information is present at the top of the EPG in a little yellow/orange box containing the text ‘SD>HD’ bit it’s hardly very obvious.
Two of our favourite features of the DMR-HWT250 are related to ‘time slip’ features accessed from the remote control. As well as the minus 10 second and plus 60 second buttons, there’s also the chance to skip backwards, or forwards, in user-defined segments at minute intervals using the TIME SLIP button; so, for instance, if you wanted to get to the 2nd half of a recorded football match, you would enter 45 minutes and the box will take you there. It works very nicely and means you never have to be subjected to adverts if your viewing is time shifted.
There are some inevitable niggles with the HWT250EB; firstly, pressing the GUIDE button, during playback of a recording sees you thrown unceremoniously back into ‘live TV’ on exit. It’s easy enough to resume a recording from the last viewed point but, still, it’s slightly annoying as we like the capability to be able to set recordings, even when viewing one. Another slightly galling limitation is that the HWT250 won’t allow you to pause a channel you’re recording when both tuners are being used to record. Instead you are required to go in to the Video Menu, hit Play and then you’re able to pause. Speaking of pause – and more a slight grumble than something that needs real attention – is that pausing any Live TV seems to take a lot longer than it should; it’s probably only a matter of 2 to 3 seconds but compared to most other PVRs it feels decidedly pedestrian.
- Solid and reliable programme recording
- Easy to skip ads
- All major catch-up services integrated
- Plenty of other streaming apps available
- EPG is a bit slow to load
- Pausing Live TV also sluggish
- No framerate detection for Netflix, Amazon and others
- Some operational niggles
Panasonic DMR-HWT250EB (HWT250) PVR Review
Should I buy one?The Panasonic HWT250 is a more than capable personal video recorder with the added benefit of integration with the (fairly) recently launched Freeview Play service. What that means, in practical terms, is that you get access to all the major UK catch-up platforms from the BBC, ITV as well as Channels 4 and 5, plus a ‘scroll-back’ 7 day EPG allowing you to easily find content to watch through them. There are also a good range of apps, although services such as Amazon and Netflix don’t play as smoothly as with some players. Connectivity options are adequate and build quality is good enough, with the DMR-HWT250EB nice and quiet during operation. You also get a 1TB hard drive which is enough for nearly 700 hours of high definition programme recording. In terms of its abilities as a personal video recorder, the Panasonic is very solid and reliable and it has some nice features for skipping through content you don’t want to watch, i.e. the adverts. There are a few drawbacks; the programme guide is slow to load, as is pausing live broadcasts and you can’t useably view the guide when you’re watching a recording but they aren’t serious enough negatives to prevent the HWT250 from earning an AVForums Recommended Award.
What else is there?The Humax FVP-4000T is another Freeview Play enabled PVR with, obviously, very similar capabilities to the Panasonic but, in the right circumstances, trumps it by being able to record up to four programmes at once, although for us the remote is not as nice and it also suffers from a slow loading EPG. The YouView platform is very similar to Freeview Play but is more mature and has more catch-up apps; a notable player using that software is the Humax DTR-T2000, which is slicker in operation than both but lacks manual editing of timers. For something a little more left-field, you could consider the VBox TV gateway which brings almost unrivalled flexibility but it isn’t really aimed at users without a bit of technical nous.
Ease of Use Menus/GUI
Picture Quality HD
Picture Quality SD
Value for Money
Our Review Ethos
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