Despite its inability to decode high-definition signals, the Panasonic DMR-EX79 offers a reasonable feature set given its £317 price.
The Panasonic DMR-EX79 DVD recorder is a good-looking device with a piano-black fascia and a black aluminium body. The top-left of the face-plate is the drive tray flap while the lower section flips down to reveal composite out ports, a USB port, a FireWire port and an S-Video output.
On the back, the Panasonic DMR-EX79 has an aerial connection for the built-in standard-definition digital TV tuner, the HDMI 1.3 connection (useful for modern televisions), a digital optical audio connection, a component connection and two SCART connections.
Once an aerial and a television have been connected to the Panasonic DMR-EX79, it's a simple matter of letting the auto-tuner find the stations. A 7-day electronic program guide is accessed by pressing the green Guide button. You can use the EPG to schedule recordings. Changing channels takes three to four seconds.
Although the Panasonic DMR-EX79 recognises high-definition digital TV channels, trying to access them results in a black screen. This is a definite negative given that the 250GB hard drive is large enough to store HD video. It will be especially annoying for owners of Full HD TVs, because artefacts and motion blurring will be visible on large HD screens.
Panasonic marketing material states that the Panasonic DMR-EX79 can start recording live TV with a one second delay, and we found this to be accurate. The quality of the recordings was quite good, but limited by the SD source. You'll be able to record 55 hours of video at the best quality settings and 441 hours at the lowest.
The Panasonic DMR-EX79 can record to both the hard drive and writable DVDs, but it's unable to transfer data to USB drives.
The Panasonic DMR-EX79 has a very good DVD upscaler. The quality of the upscaling is comparable to what you can find from similarly priced Blu-ray players, but if you're looking for the same level of quality as the Toshiba XD-E500-K-TY DVD upscaler you'll be disappointed. If you play a music CD, the Panasonic DMR-EX79 uses a copy of the Gracenote database to try to identify the track and provide information such as track names.
One negative point is the remote control, which lacks both a simple menu button for when watching DVDs and an eject button. They're odd oversights by Panasonic.
While the Panasonic DMR-EX79 is a capable DVD recorder with a decent-sized hard drive and excellent DVD upscaling, it is let down by the lack of an HD tuner. Even so, it's worth considering because of its price.