Panasonic E85 - 4 day experience.

Discussion in 'Blu-ray & DVD Players & Recorders' started by digitalsauce, Apr 19, 2004.

  1. digitalsauce

    digitalsauce
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    I’d just like to add my own comments to the mix regarding the new Panasonic E85 that I purchased before the weekend.

    Firstly I originally fancied buying the HS2 when it first appeared but felt the price to be more than a little prohibitive for what essentially is a VCR with bells on; no matter what anyone else might say, so decided to wait… months .. Then came the Pioneer 510H and was really tempting until I found out it had no RGB-in and the E100 with a similar price to that of the original HS2.. but once again decided to wait..

    Now the E85 is out and not an awful lot seems to have changed between the first HS2 and the E85 in terms of core-specs bar a few minor improvements, a DV-In/Out removed and a lower price point. I’d waited long enough and the only other recorders I could see on the horizon was the Sony HDD units and possibly the Pioneer 510H/mkII with RGB-in.. chances are that the Sony units would be extremely expensive and not a risk I’d be willing to take and the Pioneer wouldn’t be that much improved on last years effort.. meanwhile almost two years would have passed without a purchase.

    So I bought the E85 a few days ago whilst it is still relatively new, deciding against waiting for the E95 (same technology but with DV-IN and larger HDD but dated core technology by at least the E85 release) and although I have admittedly found the unit more than a little quirky to begin with, am now -almost- entirely happy.

    This is my first DVD-Recorder and I’ve never really experienced Sky+/TiVo PVRs so don’t have too many expectations other than the E85 being a digital replacement for my VCR along with a few extra features thrown in.

    I’m not a big fan of the aesthetics of the unit .. I don’t like the mirrored front panel, but that’s just me. I hate the tacky ‘remote’ that comes with it; feels ever so light and something from a bargain basement dvd-player and glancing a the unit again it just reminds me of the ancient VCRs that came out years ago.

    Rigging the E85 up involved sticking the main NTL/SKY RGB feed directly into the unit and then a pass-through to your TV-set .. kind of nice in theory but it makes old fashioned ‘VCR style recording’ a lot more of a hassle than you could imagine, for the simple reason that your not able to watch your main NTL->E85->[TV AV1] (tv-set) feed any longer when it begins to ‘record’ a terrestrial feed.. So setting it to record for example terrestrial BBC1 but wanting to watch a more important program via digital-tv (NTL/Sky) in RGB via AV1 is now impossible.. because the unit owns whatever feed its recording from.. either terrestrial or your NTL/Sky feed.. this was never the case with your VCR; set it to record BBC1 terrestrial and you could still continue to watch your digital feed in all its RGB glory.. now you have to either rig up another scart connection (composite) or UHF programmed feed and watch it that way.. really messy, but maybe this is how it will be for all DVD Recorders; but I just can’t see why the system can’t distinguish between recording a terrestrial/uhf feed and still allow you the choice to watch your AV1 feed.. madness.

    The main issue at the end of the day was always going to be ‘quality of recording’ first and foremost; and so far I’ve not been let down. I was initially recording everything in XP mode but quickly found that SP gave almost identical-to-broadcast results.. I should add that I'm not too convinced that the UHF tuner is as good as it could be.. most of my recordings have been from digital-tv but I'm quite sure there is a lack of quality in the UHF tuner.

    I’m still not quite sure about what is the best method when recording *from* HDD to DVD-R is without any further re-encoding (the manual is unforgiving and does not go into that much detail) .. so it’s a case of trial and error.

    I don’t like the fact that when you select “High Speed Dubbing to DVD-R” you will immediately lose 16:9 auto-switching (it is more of a big deal than you might think).. and your screen-ratio will be 4:3 until you (tediously depending on tv-set) have to manually change it during playback; hence why 99% of the time I turn the option off if only to watch programmes recorded to the HDD without the need to click through my widescreen modes on the TV-set.. but then you might lose out in 'quality' terms if you wish to save to DVD-R.

    I’m also not sure that turning HSDubing ‘off’ and recording to XP or SP and then transferring at ‘normal speed’ to DVD-R would result in *further* encoding and therefore a lesser quality finish to your DVD-R.. but this keeps the 16:9 signal?

    The quality of normal SP recordings that I’ve played back purely from the HDD are almost indistinguishable from that of my feed (in this case NTL Digital).. I love the fact that you can begin a recording and not have to watch it immediately or wait until its finished recording.. but can dip in at any time; surprising how much its been used.

    I am slightly disappointed that it does not have a coaxil digital-out (audio) but neither does the Pioneer units (only the Sony seem to have that).. It also lacks SVCD ability which is something I wanted if only to rid myself of another box under the TV.

    So, the main conclusion as far as I’m concerned is that as long as you treat it as a basic VCR and don’t expect too much more from it than that it’ll be fine; its got little niggles here and there but I can’t see anything in the near future going beyond what we already have on the market a the moment. You might be waiting a few more years if your too demanding -)
     
  2. andy572

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    Thank you for taking the time with this one, digitalsauce.

    A good read, for sure - and I'd expect, one that could prove useful to a lot of people :smashin:

    Perhaps you could add further comment, should you make any little discoveries or develop current findings, once you've 'settled-in' still further?

    Incidentally, your comments toward areas where such hardware could be considered 'lacking' really rung true. Basic functionality, those VCR/digital recorder comparisons and of course (several months ago, anyway), cost, were the reasons that I resorted to buying another VCR, last year. And I'm not entirely happy with that! :rolleyes:

    Something tells me I shall be waiting... :laugh:
     
  3. trainspotter

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    A very interesting read, thank you, I am interested to know

    1) how it rates as a CD player

    2) has anyone played DVDs on it via component outs & projector?
     
  4. kenfowler3966

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    You can't dub the switching signal to -r, it is retained on the hdd and ram, but is lost in the dub on all machines as far as I know.

    To use high speed dubbing you need to do the initial recording at the required final resolution. AS it will also be impossible to predict the final recording length after edit of ads etc, you will also inevitably waste space on the media after the final dub. You are bound, except in xp tp xp dubbing, to get a better result by recording to the hdd in xp mode, editing as required and then dub at fr to get the best quality on the final disc. The fact that this can only be done at normal speed proves that high speed dubbing is a pretty usless feature at anything above sp at a pinch. It would only come into its own for multiple copying, ie create a -ram at the required final quality by dubbing as above from the hdd. Transfer back at high speed and then dub a number of -r at the best possible quality at high speed.
     
  5. digitalsauce

    digitalsauce
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    I’m not so sure about that. The very fact that your final encode would have been ‘doubly’ encoded could cost you more than you might ever have imagined.

    The encoding process should be performed ‘once’ and once only for the times when you know you will be archiving your recording; this is why High Speed dubbing and FR exists.

    If you record to XP (but not in high-speed DVD-R mode) and then dub this off at normal-speed (SP quality) you will merely be highlighting imperfections from the first XP encode.

    FR mode to my knowledge really only comes into its own when you are recording greater than 1 (XP) and less than 2 (SP) hours; that way your getting something ‘in-between’ XP & SP.. but could be further complicated by any ‘adverts’ that might be included, thereby reducing the usefulness of FR mode to being almost worthless in most cases.
     
  6. richard plumb

    richard plumb
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    does it play normal VCDs, not SVCDs?

    And can it control the digibox directly (i.e. change its channel when it wants to record something)?
     
  7. digitalsauce

    digitalsauce
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    Yes, VCDs play perfectly well.

    Regarding SVCDs I have just this minute been doing a few experiments to see the viability of getting the system to play by a simple conversion to DVD-RW and without *any* further encoding. The result I just tested out played fine.. but need to do a few more tests to be sure.

    I don't believe it can change the channel of a digibox ..
     
  8. HMHB

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    Does this mean that you just copied the SVCD to DVD-RW ?
     
  9. digitalsauce

    digitalsauce
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    The working method that I have been using is as follows:

    1) Copy the *.MPG files to your hard-drive; this can be done either copying directly from your CD-ROM or indeed via Alcolhol 120% (if in *.cue *.bin format)
    2) Download DVDPatcher 1.06 from DVD-Patcher and run.
    3) Open each MPG file inside of DVD-Patcher making sure that the following instructions are followed:

    "Bitrate" should be set to "Custom" and the value changed to the very same Bitrate that is displayed in the right hand side of the screen (i.e that of your loaded in SVCD)

    "Horizontal Size" should be changed to "352"

    "First header only" should be set also.

    The other values should remain as they are.

    Click "Patch Now!" .. and repeat for all MPGs belonging to the film (i.e usually two or three)

    4) Download "TMPGenc DVD-Author" (*not* TMPGenc encoder)

    4b) "Create New Project"
    4c) "Add File" (IGNORE any GOP warnings that appear) - and repeat for all MPGs belonging to the film.
    4d) "Create Menu" (usually selecting NO MENU from the left panel works best)
    4e) "Output" and then "Begin output" ..

    The other option after the VOBs have been created is to have TMPGenc-DVD-Author burn the files to DVD-RW (which I selelect)..

    The files will then play back fine on your player.

    There is *no* re-encoding of video.
     
  10. HMHB

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    Excellent mate thanks, I'll give that a go. One of my DVD players won't play back VCDs or SVCDs so I've been looking for an easy way of doing this.
    Now, I wonder if you can put more than one VCD onto a DVD ?
     
  11. digitalsauce

    digitalsauce
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    Yes, you can put as many as will fit the size of the DVD (i.e around 4GBs worth.. 5 or 6 SVCDs per DVD-/+/R/RW) .. you can create menus too if you like.. works surprisingly well.
     
  12. eddyad

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    I just read through this thread as I'm thinking of ordering an E85. I'm curious about one point:

    If the E85 is recording one analogue channel, I assume it passes through all analogue channels to the RF out, not just the one being recorded?
    I ask this because there was a Panasonic VCR some years ago that blanked all the analogue channels except its RF-out one (36 or whatever) when recording or playing. This turned out to a mistake which had to be corrected.

    The original post says that if the E85 is recording terrrestrial (e.g. BBC1) then the NTL signal doesn't 'pass through' the scart (I assume the scart) to the TV, unlike a VCR.
    I have a 2-scart DTTV box, 2-scart Sony VCR and 3-scart TV.
    The wiring is (as per DTTV box instructions):
    Aerial->DTTV->VCR->TV
    DTTV scart1->VCR AV1 (composite)
    DTTV scart2->TV AV1 (RGB)
    VCR AV2->TV AV2 (composite - but s-vid available on TV)
    and this is exactly what the Panny E100 and HS2 manuals say (AV numbers may be different)

    My VCR doesn't 'pass through' the DTTV digital when recording analogue. I wouldn't really expect it to, because if I select one of the TV tuner positions allocated to the VCR (vcr antenna channel 38 or AV2) I see what the VCR is doing, but if I select any other TV tuner position I see what I expect there - terrestrial 1 - 5 or AV1 for DTTV.
    If I could see the DTTV output throught the VCR's scarts, how would I watch a tape? I suppose the VCR could turn off the scart 'loop through' on Play, but that seems over complicated.
     
  13. kenfowler3966

    kenfowler3966
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    It will pass the rf signal whilst recording either from rf or from any other input. It won't pass the scart signal though, so you need an alternate connection for this circumstance. You can view the rf recording whilst in progress via the scart though.
     
  14. digitalsauce

    digitalsauce
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    I don’t have time to digest your full message at the moment .. but the basics of it are that you will be able to do ‘everything’ that you talk about but not necessarily in the way that you go about it at the moment.

    Yes, the unit passes through the all of the analogue channels fine. So you could as an example be recording something off terrestrial BBC1 (via the E85) but still watching BBC3 terrestrial via the UHF feed directly to your TV (passed through various boxes).. but at the same time your RGB feed (directly into the E85) will not be usable *but* a composite version can be accessed if you plug a second scart (from your Satellite / Cable box) into another AV-TV socket.. or even use the UHF frequency feed accessed that is passed through your boxes that ends as part of the feed directly into your terrestrial TV feed (i.e turning to CH7 will display the NTL feed).

    I have to say that I expect you to be more than happy with the E85 should you purchase it. Yes, it has its niggles.. but all systems do; and it takes a little time to ‘bed in’ and be content with. It’s a wonderful machine and impossible to go back to *just* your VCR afterwards.
     
  15. rich_g

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    I've read quite a few user reviews on various websites regarding the E85.

    I have to admit that I'm at a bit of a loss as to why I see so many negative things written about it.

    I've had mine for a couple of weeks now, and I really don't see much you can be negative about.

    There's been quite alot been said about the remote control being cheap and nasty, which I can't really see myself.

    It's well laid out, controls things like the av channel on the tv which is handy and has a metal fascia. It also fits well in your hand which makes it easy to operate.

    The picture quality of recordings on XP and SP settings are very good, almost the same as the broadcast.

    The menus are well laid out and let you control quite alot of the settings, and it has various options for dfferent video input types.

    These inputs are also converted to different output types - eg RGB in... goes out component etc.

    The only things that I would have thought people would think were below par would be the very thin manual which doesn't seem very in-depth. (though you can pick up things from HS2 and E100/80 owners online) ... and a lesser one which (seems to me) is that the component out isn't as good as other ones I've seen.

    Overall though, it does seem like a very good, solid machine, that does exactly what is says on the tin! Ok it has a 'fashionable' mirrored section on the front, but I'd rather watch the TV than the silver boxes under it! :)
     
  16. eddyad

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    Thank you for your reply. You have in fact answered the points I was wondering about.
    My box isn't an NTL - it's a Freeview with two output scarts. One is RGB for TV, other is composite only for recording and can be timer controlled - this one carries a 'pin 12' trigger to turn on and off a recording device which reacts to it (I assume the e85 has this External Link feature as the German sites mention it).
    There is no RF for the digital, so scart is the only way out for digital TV. The aerial pass-through just carries the input through to the next device - so that would be the E85, then on to the TV.
    So I guess the 3-scart set-up I use now would fit the E85.
    Without ploughing through my original post again, this would be:

    Aerial->DTTV->E85->TV - to record and/or watch analogue
    DTTV scart1->e85 scart1 (composite) - record digital
    DTTV scart2->TV AV1 (RGB) - watch digital
    E85 scart2 ->TV AV2 (composite) - playback recordings
    Or: e85 s--vid out -> TV AV2 in s-vid mode with a suitable lead, but probably not worth it for recordings made from composite digital feed or aerial analogue. But then I could connect the VCR to the e85 with a scart if I ever decided to copy some tapes to DVD, despite the ropey quality of the tapes.
    Thanks again.
    Now i just have to talk myself into spending the £££
     
  17. raigraphixs

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    Hi,

    Just ordered E85 from multiregionmagic. Thanks for all the info.

    Just a quick note for others, I order 2 dvd-ram from panny site.,

    multiregionmagic sell, their media almost double the price they are on the panasonic.co.uk - eshop.

    exmple; 9.4gb DVD-RAM double sided with caddy

    multiregion - 9.4gb £11.99

    e-shop - 9.4gb £6.99
    4.7gb - only £2.99


    thanks

    rai
     
  18. phelings

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    I was dubious about the merits of high speed dubbing when I had an HS2,but now I have a Pioneer 5100,its a godsend.Obviously you need to know the runing time of your final edit,but for compiling tv series on dvd its great.What used to take 10 hours on the HS2 takes 56 minutes now.
    16:9 switching is retained on -R on some recorders an some channels.I believe the Toshiba can add it manually.
    Does anyothr recorder offer the Pioneer feature of 'disc backup',enabling a digital-digital copy of any home recorded disc in 25 minutes like a PC unit.I find this invaluable.
     
  19. digitalsauce

    digitalsauce
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    I agree that High Speed dubbing is ever so important if your intention is to (at some point) archive the video off to a DVD-R; .. yes, you do lose the 16:9 flag-switch on the Panasonic units, but this can always be added manually (via the PC) by copying to another disc and patching the vobs to retain the flag.. and besides, most will readily manually switch to widescreen mode - so not too bad (other than a bit of a chore) ..

    The one problem with the Pioneer 5100 is that it doesn't record RGB.. I've done experiments with the RGB turned on-and-off on the E85 with various records.. and really, I notice the difference around the 'edges' of programmes; they appear 'fuzzy' in comparision to the RGB recorded feed. As good as the 5100 might be .. its really let down in this area.
     

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