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485 posts

Ultimate Geek
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Topic # 48525 15-Nov-2009 12:11
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I have been reading the reviews and user comments about the various Freeview compatible video recorders, and most people seem to discuss a lot of technical issues, such as how efficient the Electronic Programme Guide is etc. But few people seem to focus on what I regard as the main issue, which is, how good the recorded picture quality is, in comparison to other video recorders on the market.

However, in a review of the Panasonic BW850, I found this sentence:

 “I found the picture to be much better than other DVRs, and way better than what I can get on my HTPC with DVB-T.”

http://www.geekzone.co.nz/content.asp?contentid=8482

Overseas reviews of the Panasonic BW850 also suggest that its picture quality is excellent, and it also has the added advantage of being able to record content to blu-ray DVDs. In addition, it doesn’t have to be connected to internet and you can get the best possible movie video quality by playing blu-ray movies, which can now be hired quite cheaply and their range is growing fast. With Sky movies, the latest “On Demand” movies are not broadcast in HD, and TiVo downloadable movies (ex Telecom) are apparently not in high definition, but only at 576p.

But the main disadvantage of the Panasonic BW850 is that it is very expensive, with a list price of just under $2,000. However, I phoned a few places and asked what the best cash price is, and I got answers between $1700 and $1800, so it seems that the price is dropping, which is good for consumers.

So, my question is, if you can afford the Panasonic BW850, and want the best possible video quality, are there any compelling reasons why you should buy one of the competing Freeview compatible video recorders, such as MyskyHDi, TiVo, Magic, Zinwell, etc?

Regards

Fred

 

 

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BDFL - Memuneh
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  Reply # 273189 15-Nov-2009 12:22
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There are lots of things to consider... For example how easy to watch your own content?

The Panasonic allows you to plug a USB drive or a SD card and watch your own stuff from there. Other recorders may or may not offer this. The Panasonic can be connected to your LAN but it won't see anything except YouTube and Picasa - what about the 4TB of content I have on my home server with faimly videos, pictures and music? So that's a let down on a $2000 machine.

I am trying the TiVo and it will get some content from your PC at home, but it's obviously aiming at people with little to no other sources than a PC. It's really hard - almost impossible - to get some content on the box and the fact that you have to download the content instead of just playing from a PC/server is a let down, so I won't be getting a TiVo.

If you don't mind not having MHEG5 than the Panasonic is the best box out there. Full of features Freeview boxes don't have. If you do want MHEG5 then you will need a Freeview box or TiVo.

If you have lots of contents on your LAN then you will want a HTPC with Media Center or another similar software...





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  Reply # 273192 15-Nov-2009 12:46
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The difference in picture quality between various devices comes down solely to the quality of the output hardware and more importantly the ability to output in the native resolution of the broadcast rather than scaling the image.

Virtually every device that is Freeview|HD capable and also most PC based software will be dumping the raw TS (transport stream) to it's HDD. There is no transcoding of any sort occuring - you get a virtually identical digital copy of the broadcast. This differs from the days of DVD/HDD recorders where they were typically MPEG2 based and had to have a encoder to convert the analogue input to a digital format.

Many devices however can mess with the native resolution/format of the recording and force the output in a different format. This happens with some devices that attempt to upscale TV1 and TV2's 720p output to 1080i which means interlacing content that's purposely been broadcast as progressive scan. Your TV then has to reverse this process and deinterlace a signal again which can mean a drop in picture quality. IMHO one of the most important features with any device whether it be a STB or PVR is the ability to be able to select AUTO mode and not have this post processing occur.

 
 
 
 




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Ultimate Geek
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  Reply # 273227 15-Nov-2009 14:35
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sbiddle: The difference in picture quality between various devices comes down solely to the quality of the output hardware and more importantly the ability to output in the native resolution of the broadcast rather than scaling the image.

Virtually every device that is Freeview|HD capable and also most PC based software will be dumping the raw TS (transport stream) to it's HDD. There is no transcoding of any sort occuring - you get a virtually identical digital copy of the broadcast. This differs from the days of DVD/HDD recorders where they were typically MPEG2 based and had to have a encoder to convert the analogue input to a digital format.

Many devices however can mess with the native resolution/format of the recording and force the output in a different format. This happens with some devices that attempt to upscale TV1 and TV2's 720p output to 1080i which means interlacing content that's purposely been broadcast as progressive scan. Your TV then has to reverse this process and deinterlace a signal again which can mean a drop in picture quality. IMHO one of the most important features with any device whether it be a STB or PVR is the ability to be able to select AUTO mode and not have this post processing occur.


Thanks very much for your replies. With regard to the Panasonic BW850 not having MHEG-5, is it possible that this could be implemented by Panasonic with a firmware update at some time in the future?

I guess I'm used to having video equipment with major brand names, such as Sony and Panasonic, so there is the expectation that the video quality from such brands may be (a little?) better than lesser known brands, and this seems to be the case with the reviews that I have read so far about Freeview video recorders. It's a pity that Sony blu-ray recorders haven't been released here yet.

One advantage of MyskyHDi is that you can get selected sports broadcasts in high definition. It's a pity that Sky has a monopoly on many of the major sports broadcasts and that Freeview doesn't have a dedicated HD sports channel. Do you think Freeview will ever get the rights to broadcast major sports events, or would the cost of this be prohibitive?

Regards
Fred

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  Reply # 273228 15-Nov-2009 14:37
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I don't know of any plans to have MHEG5 added. Actually I didn't see Panasonic as too keen on this...




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  Reply # 273237 15-Nov-2009 15:12
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It seems like Panasonic are doing things on the cheap and in some ways simply dumping a product in the NZ market.

This product is also available in Australia who despite having had digital TV for some time have actually just relaunched it with Freeview branding. One of the requirements for the Freeview certification is H.264 support even though they have no H.264 broadcasts yet. MHEG5 is also being used for the EPG but due to the large number of existing devices EIT will continue to be used for many years to come and MHEG5 is not a requirement for their Freeview certification.

I simply would not support a company buy buying a product that doesn't have an MHEG5 support for an EPG. Once you realise how great an EPG is you simply can't go back.

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  Reply # 273242 15-Nov-2009 15:46
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sbiddle: It seems like Panasonic are doing things on the cheap and in some ways simply dumping a product in the NZ market.

This product is also available in Australia who despite having had digital TV for some time have actually just relaunched it with Freeview branding. One of the requirements for the Freeview certification is H.264 support even though they have no H.264 broadcasts yet. MHEG5 is also being used for the EPG but due to the large number of existing devices EIT will continue to be used for many years to come and MHEG5 is not a requirement for their Freeview certification.


I simply would not support a company buy buying a product that doesn't have an MHEG5 support for an EPG. Once you realise how great an EPG is you simply can't go back.


What Steve says.

MHEG5 makes the operating easy and 'granny proof',
Set and forget

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  Reply # 273275 15-Nov-2009 17:59
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The point of a PVR is that you have an EPG and "series link" fuctionality. There fault on both sides - freeviews and Panasonic. If freeview made the EIT info available over DVB-T like it does over DVB-S then it would be better for everyone but there's still paranoia from the content providers about people recording HD content and recording it to DVD / Blu Ray.

It makes no sense the way that the content providers insist on "controlling" everything (like that'll work). One would have thought that they would want as many options for consumers as possible to drive uptake on digital transmission. Equally it's crap that Panasonic charge a premium for a product which is crippled.

Plenty of blame alll round really and the consumer misses out.

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  Reply # 273282 15-Nov-2009 19:05
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Handle9: The point of a PVR is that you have an EPG and "series link" fuctionality. There fault on both sides - freeviews and Panasonic. If freeview made the EIT info available over DVB-T like it does over DVB-S then it would be better for everyone but there's still paranoia from the content providers about people recording HD content and recording it to DVD / Blu Ray.

It makes no sense the way that the content providers insist on "controlling" everything (like that'll work). One would have thought that they would want as many options for consumers as possible to drive uptake on digital transmission. Equally it's crap that Panasonic charge a premium for a product which is crippled.

Plenty of blame alll round really and the consumer misses out.


There is no sence in repeating the whole saga of the pros and cons of MHEG5 again because it's not going to change anything. MHEG5 is here to stay and is being deployed as a middleware and EPG solution by numerous broadcasters around the world. Freeview aren't going to deploy EIT over DVB-T. MHEG5 is a standard and the code is freely available with products such as Media Portal and MythTV having already implimented basic support.

Panasonic happily incorporate MHEG5 into their TV's presumably but obviously the development costs to include MHEG5 in the firmware simply don't stack up on a $2000 Blu Ray player. I don't see it so much as a case of the consumer missing out - it's really Panasonic missing out because very few people will buy their product.

IMHO you're far better off spending $1000 less and buying a Tivo and using the extra money for HDD storage if you want to backup your recordings. The cost of recordable Blu Ray discs makes their use as a permanent archive very costly anyway.





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  Reply # 273299 15-Nov-2009 20:05
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sbiddle:
Handle9: The point of a PVR is that you have an EPG and "series link" fuctionality. There fault on both sides - freeviews and Panasonic. If freeview made the EIT info available over DVB-T like it does over DVB-S then it would be better for everyone but there's still paranoia from the content providers about people recording HD content and recording it to DVD / Blu Ray.

It makes no sense the way that the content providers insist on "controlling" everything (like that'll work). One would have thought that they would want as many options for consumers as possible to drive uptake on digital transmission. Equally it's crap that Panasonic charge a premium for a product which is crippled.

Plenty of blame alll round really and the consumer misses out.


There is no sence in repeating the whole saga of the pros and cons of MHEG5 again because it's not going to change anything. MHEG5 is here to stay and is being deployed as a middleware and EPG solution by numerous broadcasters around the world. Freeview aren't going to deploy EIT over DVB-T. MHEG5 is a standard and the code is freely available with products such as Media Portal and MythTV having already implimented basic support.

Panasonic happily incorporate MHEG5 into their TV's presumably but obviously the development costs to include MHEG5 in the firmware simply don't stack up on a $2000 Blu Ray player. I don't see it so much as a case of the consumer missing out - it's really Panasonic missing out because very few people will buy their product.

IMHO you're far better off spending $1000 less and buying a Tivo and using the extra money for HDD storage if you want to backup your recordings. The cost of recordable Blu Ray discs makes their use as a permanent archive very costly anyway.




Thanks very much for your replies, and I can understand why some people would insist on MHEG5 so that they have a fully functioning electronic programme guide. However, the idea of a video recorder that can both record and play blu-ray discs is a very strong incentive to me, particularly as I take HD movies with my camcorder. I realise that you can buy a good separate blu-ray DVD player for less than $500, but it's great to have your blu-ray DVD player and blu-ray recorder and dual Freeview decoders all in the one unit.

I must admit that I don't like the idea of your video recorder automatically deleting certain recordings after a short time and not allowing you to archive your recordings to DVDs! I realise that the Panasonic BW850 doesn't download movies. However, it does allow you to play back blu-ray DVDs that have the best quality video that you can get. Also, these videos have a lot of interesting "extras" about how the film was made etc. And you can turn subtitles on and off if you wish.

Overall, I'm not too bothered about the EPG, it's pretty easy to programme any DVD recorder to record what you want, so in my case reliance on the EPG is not an important purchasing factor. As to the cost of blank blu-ray DVDs, these will come down in price fairly quickly, just as the DVD-RW discs did a few years ago. But I agree that today's cost of $29 for a 25 gig blank recordable blu-ray disc is far too high!

Regards
Fred

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