What is the Panasonic PWT550?
Design, Connections & Control
Disc Playing Performance
Standard definition & DVD PlaybackThe DMR-PWT550EB benefits from Panasonic’s fine heritage as makers of video processing electronics and scales standard definition content in a very accomplished way. The Panasonic also has no problems in detecting a variety of film cadences and, very crucially for the Freeview side of things, it’s deinterlacing capabilities are also very strong so motion holds up well. The PWT550 produces no unpleasant ringing artefacts and given a half decent source, manages to output very watchable pictures. There’s not a lot that can be done with the substandard, bit-starved, channels that proliferate Freeview but that’s not any fault of this player.
2D & 3D Blu-ray PlaybackWe would expect nothing less than pristine Blu-ray performance from a Panasonic player and that’s precisely what the DMR-PWT550 delivers in both two and three dimensions. You’ll not want to touch the default picture mode settings – accessed from the Options button on the remote during playback – as the default Standard mode performs perfectly with no extraneous processing, noise reduction or tampering with the colours. Films captured and encoded at 24/23.976p (which is virtually all of them) are handled spotlessly but even those rarer examples at 1080i60 look excellent, courtesy of the DMR-PWT550’s near faultless video deinterlacing abilities.
4K ScalingBarring some of the cheap ‘n’ nasty TVs that might employ low quality scalers, we don’t think this particular feature of the PWT550 will bring all that much benefit to users. There’s no doubt it makes a great job of making 1080i/p sources look close to Ultra HD resolutions and even 720p images are noticeably improved but that’s the case with just about every Ultra HD TV we’ve reviewed in this last 12 months. You might perhaps give the Panasonic player the edge with Standard Definition material but the gains are negligible at typical viewing distances.
Freeview PVR Performance
There have been improvements in the 2016 Panasonic PVRs over handling timer clashes – i.e. where you’ve set more than two recordings in overlapping time-frames – so, upon doing that, you will be taken to an options menu where you can alter or delete one or more of the timers; the other option is to leave them be and have a recording truncated but we’re not sure why anyone would do that unless it was a matter of a few minutes. We would like to see Panasonic take the idea a step further, as some other PVRs do, by notifying the user when there’s a HD version available where they’ve set a standard def broadcast to record; there is a little box at the top of the EPG showing you the text ‘SD>HD’ but it’s not very obvious.
As we hinted at above, two of our most used features on the DMR-PWT550 relate to ‘time slip/skip' features accessed from buttons at the bottom of the remote control. You can skip back 10 seconds and forward by sixty using dedicated keys. Additionally, you can move around recordings or chase play content in segments at minute intervals using the TIME SLIP button, which is particularly handy for missing the ad’s or just getting to the point you want to be further in to the event.
There’s no doubt that the PWT550 is a good Freeview PVR but there are some niggles we’d like to see ironed out. One irritant, although admittedly instances were rare, is that you are unable to pause a channel you’re recording when both tuners are in use; instead you have to enter the Video Menu, press Play on the remote, which seems a strange limitation of the underlying software. The pausing of ‘live TV, could also be a more reactive process and it can take up to around three seconds for the player to acknowledge your button press, which leaves you with the impression the command from the remote hasn’t been received. You are also unable to change any settings while a recording is taking place and using the EPG when watching a previously recorded event sees you placed back in to live TV upon exit; it’s sometimes useful to be able to see what’s coming on later or schedule another recording while watching one so we’d like to see this addressed also.
- Very reliable recording
- Most major catch-up apps available
- Flawless disc playback
- Skipping features
- EPG can be slow to load
- Some operational nuisances
- PWT655 is priced only a very little less for 500GB more storage
- No Demand 5
Panasonic DMR-PWT550EB PVR/Blu-ray Player Combi Review
Should I buy one?The Panasonic DMR-PWT550EB has plenty going for it as a disc player, Freeview PVR and video streaming device. The build quality is solid with a black metal chassis and tinted facia which conceals a tray-loading disc mechanism and houses a useful display panel. The connectivity options are probably sufficient, for most, and consist of an HDMI port, a digital audio out, a pair of USB ports and an SD Card slot; of course, there’s also a Freeview HD aerial input too, as well as an RF out to take the signal to other devices, such as your TV.
The supplied remote is hardly chic but it’s designed with functionality in mind and delivers by way of a well-planned layout and some really useful dedicated buttons. Those include dedicated options for Netflix and the Freeview Play suite of catch-up players – iPlayer, ITV Hub & All 4 – and a couple that are invaluably useful for skipping through recordings with ease.
As a Freeview PVR, the PWT550 is a perfectly capable twin tuner entry with all the usual features you would expect, including season records, simultaneous recordings and chase-play capability. There are some operational limitations such as not being able to access the settings while recordings are taking place, the inability to view the guide effectively while watching a recording and some general sluggishness in loading the guide and pausing action but definitely no showstoppers and the PWT550 is very reliable.
As we would expect from a Panasonic player, this is an excellent disc spinner with first-rate video processing, no unwanted tampering with high definition and 3D images and sympathetic handling of DVDs. So, all-in-all, as a multi-functional device encompassing duties as a Freeview PVR, Blu-ray/DVD player and Smart TV box, the Panasonic DMR-PWT550EB is a bit of a triumph and worthy of recommendation. The only thing holding it back, in terms of its value rating, is the PWT655 which, for just a few pounds more, offers double the recording capability - and that’s not to be sneezed at.
Ease of Use Menus/GUI
Picture Quality HD
Picture Quality SD
Value for Money
Our Review Ethos
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