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The HDTV Podcast
This review is featured in the latest podcast from The HT Guys
http://www.htguys.com/archive/2007/May04.html

The Panasonic DMR-EZ47VK ($330 Buy Now) can be thought of as a digital video Swiss Army knife. It has a built in ATSC tuner, DVD recording capability, VHS Playback and dubbing, and its an upconverting DVD player (up to 1080p via HDMI) to boot. So with all this capability we were excited when the unit showed up at the home offices of the HT Guys. On paper this device was too good to be true. So how did it fare in the real world?

ATSC Tuner
The unit comes with a built in ATSC tuner which will make your current TV ready for the analog cutoff. That is if over the air is how you are getting your current TV signals. More likely its not but its still nice to know that you can record those beautiful digital signals in their pristine quality. However, while the player is able pick up the digital HDTV signal it has no way to record them in 720p or 1080i. But what you get is a very clean 480p (DVD quality) signal recorded to a DVD. An area of disappointment though is if you are want this device to act as an HDTV source for your HD Ready TV you are out of luck. The player won't pass an HD signal through to the TV. We thought it was odd that the ATSC tuner does not support an Electronic Program Guide. Although the interface is straight forward to use, it makes setting up recordings a bit more like the old VCRs. You really never know you recorded what you want until you see it on the screen.

DVD Playback (Upconverting Performance)
We evaluated the picture with both objective and subjective tests. For the objective tests we used the HQV DVD from Silicon Optix. We connected the player to our Mitsubishi WD-65831 and set the player to output 1080p via the HDMI cable. We found that the player did a great job with the Color Bar test and a decent job with the Jaggies. The jaggies test evaluates the players capabilities of dealing with moving objects. Detail Enhancement, Noise Reduction and Motion Adaptive tests were a bit too difficult for this player but it did a great job with 3:2 detection. Overall the DMR-EZ47VK is a decent upconverting DVD player. Definitely an improvement over a standard DVD player.

Because the HQV disc is set up to stress the DVD players capabilities, we also wanted to take a look at how this player performed with regular movies. Here we pulled out our old standbys, Blackhawk Down and Spiderman 2 Superbit. The player did an excellent job with these movies. The night scope vision scenes did not appear grainy and detail was highly visible in dark scenes. Spiderman 2 looked incredible! We can't wait for the Spiderman 3. Digital audio, both Dolby Digital and DTS, was transmitted via the HDMI cable. So one cable brought both video and audio to the receiver. The whole chain, (Mitsubishi DLP, Panasonic DVD Recorder, and Aperion Speakers) looked and sounded fantastic. We forgot that the player was a DVD Recorder with upconversion capability. Overall, we were very pleased with the playback of DVDs on the DMR-EZ47VK.

VHS Playback and Dubbing
If you have boxes of old videos that you recorded of the kids and are looking for a way to transfer and store them in a digital format then this product if for you. Saving your child's school play for future generations is as simple as inserting the video tape and blank DVD-R and hitting a single button. This also works for copying DVDs to a blank VHS Tape. Can you still find those in stores ;-) ? The recorder supports almost all recordable disc formats including dual layer discs.

DVD Recording
The player has four recording modes that come with a good mix of capacity to quality considerations. The highest quality mode (XP) can record one hour of video on a single layer disc. The longest record times are achieved in EP mode with up to 8 hours of recording. Dual-layer discs are supported and almost double these values. The unit also supports SP and LP modes. All recordings can be watched on the player via a "Recordings" menu item that has a thumbnail interface with motion. To watch your recordings on a standard DVD player the disc needs to be finalized which can take up to fifteen minutes. Something to consider when playing back a widescreen recording on the DMR-EZ47VK is the image is displayed in the proper aspect ratio. But when you play it back on another upconverting DVD player the image is squished to a 4:3 aspect ratio. You would then need to adjust your TVs settings to stretch the picture back to 16:9.

Video quality is is a function of the recording mode. In the longest playing mode (EP) the quality is quite degraded as compared to XP mode. Recorded HD looked OK but it was easy to see that the picture was not HD. If you are used to watching HD you will see a definite quality loss in what you are used to watching. But with that said, the digital picture was better than any SD picture we could come up with. Dubbed VHS tapes looked as good as they could considering the source.

Other Considerations
The player has a SD slot but its only good for viewing pictures. The DVD player supports DIVX. From the Panasonic Website: Official DivX Certified product. Plays all versions of DivX video (including DivX6) with standard playback of DivX media files. The player will also playback CD Audio and mp3s. And finally, the unit supports EZ Sync HDAVI Control so you can connect your DVD player to your Panasonic components and control them with one touch of your remote control. The last thing we want to cover is the menu system and remote control. The Menu system is a bit complex and not intuitive to traverse. The remote had allot of buttons and you really had to search for the buttons you needed. But its understandable when you consider how many functions this product does. We just wanted to point out that you will need to spend some time with the player to familiarize yourself with it to get the most out of it.

What we liked:

  • ATSC tuner
  • Upconversion to 1080p via HDMI
  • One touch dubbing of old VHS tapes
  • Supports just about any type of DVD recordable media


What we disliked:

  • ATSC tuner does not pass HD signals
  • No EPG guide
  • Widescreen recorded programs are recorded as 4:3 (when played back on other upconverting DVD players)
  • Complex Menu and remote control


Conclusion:
The Panasonic DMR-EZ47VK is the Swiss Army knife of DVD players. When you consider all the functions that it performs, the $330 price tag is well worth it.

Posted by The HT Guys, May 3, 2007 10:51 AM

More in Category: Upconverting DVD Players

About The HT Guys

The HT Guys, Ara Derderian and Braden Russell, are Engineers who formerly worked for the Advanced Digital Systems Group (ADSG) of Sony Pictures Entertainment. ADSG was the R&D unit of the sound department producing products for movie theaters and movie studios.

Two of the products they worked on include the DCP-1000 and DADR-5000. The DCP is a digital cinema processor used in movie theaters around the world. The DADR-5000 is a disk-based audio dubber used on Hollywood sound stages.

ADSG was awarded a Technical Academy Award by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 2000 for the development of the DADR-5000. Ara holds three patents for his development work in Digital Cinema and Digital Audio Recording.

Every week they put together a podcast about High Definition TV and Home Theater. Each episode brings news from the A/V world, helpful product reviews and insights and help in demystifying and simplifying HDTV and home theater.