PROS / This device allows you to transfer VHS tapes to DVDs in the simplest manner possible.
CONS / It lacks progressive scan technology, which is the sole omission on this device.
VERDICT / This product stands head and shoulders above comparable products in the field.
Editor’s Note: This product has been removed from viewing as part of this site because it is no longer available. You can still read our original review below, but TopTenREVIEWS is no longer updating this product’s information.
For those of us who never knew a world that didn't rely on VHS tapes, it's sometimes difficult to imagine that this once-prominent technology has become antiquated. DVDs have only been playing our movies for about a decade, and they are also on the decline. However, there is still a wealth of VHS tapes and DVDs in our lives, but fewer and fewer means with which to play them.
The Panasonic DVD Recorder DMR-EZ 48VK is one of the best choices available for keeping your old media library from falling into obsolescence. This DVD recorder has an unequaled array of features that make it uniquely capable, and it offers superb recording and playback of both DVDs and VHS tapes, thus earning it our TopTenREVIEWS Silver Award for our DVD/VCR combo player review.
The first question many people have when purchasing a DVD/VCR combo player is, "Will it work with my HDTV?" The short answer to this question is yes. The Panasonic DVD Recorder has a few features that bridge the technological gap between old media and the new high-definition contraptions in our homes today.
The most important bridge features on this unit are 1080p upconversion. 1080p upconversion takes a standard-definition image stored on a VHS tape or DVD and transforms it into an HD signal that takes full advantage of every pixel on your HDTV. Upconversion also eliminates much of the visual artifact and motion blur that occurs when a player stretches a standard-definition image to fit an HD screen.
In addition to providing an excellent picture, the Panasonic DVD Recorder also offers great sound quality. This comes in the form of Dolby Digital sound. Hollywood studios and other professional videographers have used this six-channel sound technology for decades. The inclusion of Dolby Digital sound in the Panasonic DVD Recorder means that you will enjoy the rich sound that the movie or video was shot in.
The Panasonic DVD Recorder also plays and records to most rewriteable disc media, including DVD-R/+R and DVD-RW/+RW, but it can take advantage of the more versatile but less common DVD-RAM format. This format allows the Panasonic unit to offer some limited DVR capabilities called Chasing Playback, which allows you to play an already-recorded portion of a DVD while the remaining content continues to be recorded on another section of the disc.
For most users, the most critical feature on a DVD/VCR combo is the ability to transfer VHS content to DVD. This feature achieves several goals; the chief among these is transferring valued recorded content to a digital medium. Therefore, your VHS library will survive well into the 21st century. We have to face the reality that it won’t be long before finding a VHS player will be nearly impossible when the ones we currently own become unusable. This combo unit makes copying tapes to DVDs about as easy as you could hope for because it literally requires you to touch just two buttons.
The Panasonic DVD Recorder has four recording modes for transferring VHS content to DVD. The best quality – the XP setting – records an hour of content on a single-layer DVD. The SP mode will record two hours to the same-sized DVD and, frankly, there is no practical difference in the recording quality between the two settings. The LP setting records four hours of content to a single disc, and eight hours of recording are available in EP mode. However, be forewarned that quality suffers drastically if you use the latter modes. The recording lengths for each setting double with a dual-layer disc.
The most useful feature of all may be the device's Auto Record feature that allows the player to optimize the recording speed based on the length of the program on the VHS tape. The only downside to the process is that you must enter a predetermined start and stop time. For example, if you record a two-hour-and-fifteen-minute movie, the recorder must be aware of that length. The unit will then make use of the entire DVD to record that specified content length, essentially allowing for non-standard record speeds while optimizing quality.
VHS tapes record at three different speeds, and therefore three quality settings, including SP, EP and VP, with SP being the best. As with DVDs, the Auto Record mode is available on the VHS player and we strongly recommend that you use it to make the best recordings possible with the available tape length. This feature is a nice addition, but most users will never use this function since no company has manufactured blank VHS tapes in years.
The connectivity array on the back panel of the Panasonic DVD Recorder has every connection option we looked for when we evaluated DVD/VCR combo units.
The unit contains both front- and back-panel S-Video and component video connections for connecting other home-entertainment devices. Furthermore, there’s a slot for an SD/SDHC card and a port for a USB flash drive on the front panel that allow you to display JPEG images or play MP3 audio content. Even DivX video files play from the USB or SD inputs, and from DVDs or CDs.
The Panasonic DVD recorder contains an integrated digital tuner that allows the device to receive digital over-the-air broadcast signals. Additionally, it allows you to directly record programs on cable, satellite or broadcast TV.
To connect the device to HDTVs or other contemporary audio-video equipment, it has an HDMI connection. Using this port allows for DVD upconversion to 1080p, giving you the potential for higher-quality playback than was ever envisioned when standard-definition recording was initially created. For connecting to older equipment, there are component video outputs, but even these connectors can facilitate upconverted playback as high as 1080i for homemade DVDs, although you will be limited to 480p for conventional, factory-recorded DVDs.
The Panasonic DVD Recorder DMR-EZ 48VK is an exceptional device for consumers who need to bridge the gap between VHS cassettes and digital media. It allows you to make the absolute most of legacy content, and it even provides improved performance for standard DVDs compared with many stand-alone DVD players. With the exception of progressive scan, it has every single feature we looked for when we created our side-by-side comparison chart. This DVD recorder is truly an excellent machine, even by today's tech standards.