Panasonic DMR-HS2 DVD-R Reviewed

Panasonic DMR-HS2 DVD-R Reviewed

In the no-one-wins format war of recordable DVD, there's the "-" camp, the "+" camp, and Panasonic as the almost sole entry into the DVD-RAM camp. What makes the DMR-HS2 so brilliant, though, is the inclusion of a 40 gigabyte hard drive.

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Panasonic was one of the first companies to bring out consumer DVD recording devices, and has been a champion of the DVD-RAM format. Panasonic has pushed the envelope on the computer front, as well as the standalone player front, and its DMR-E20 recorder was one of the first "affordable" standalone DVD recorders.

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They have now pushed the envelope a bit further by bringing out the new DMR-HS2 which is not only a DVD recorder, but also has a 40 GB hard drive (HDD) for recording (just like in a TiVo or Replay unit) at a retail price of $999. The addition of this hard drive is nothing short of brilliant, as it has the potential to not only revolutionize the way we perform television and camcorder recording, but also to change the way we use the new wave of DVD-recordable devices.

Unique Features
The DMR-HS2 follows Panasonic's new principle of "thinner is better." In fact, I found it absolutely amazing that they managed to put everything in such a small package. My enthusiasm was somewhat dampened by the discovery of the large fan unit that projects off the back of the unit, necessary for cooling as the small chassis leaves little room for ventilation or cooling fans. The noise that this fan made could be heard as a high pitched whine up-close, but I did not hear it when the player was in the audio cabinet. The front of this player has a very nice silver mirrored finish, which is a great way to have a color other than black (silver is extremely fashionable in the home theater world these days), and still allow for the component to blend in well. The disc tray is in the top center, and the LED display is just underneath. Flanking the LED display are buttons for activating the DVD and HDD sections. On the left side of the player is the power button, flip down panel for front place composite, S-Video, analog audio, and Firewire jacks. Above this panel is a slot for PC Cards. These are the memory flash cards found in many digital cameras. This card can be placed in an adapter and inserted into the player, allowing you to display your vacation pictures on your television. Very snazzy, indeed. The right side of the player has player controls, and a flip down door with chapter skip and recording buttons.

The remote is silver, has buttons which are not very well grouped, and is not backlit. The HDD and DVD buttons are prominent, and it is set up to also control many televisions. One of the most annoying aspects of this remote is the placement of certain buttons under the slide door at the bottom of the remote. The door is flimsy, difficult to open and not smooth. Under it lies such important buttons as chapter skip and CM skip. Why this little slide door was necessary is beyond me, and the flimsiness of it was really out of place on an otherwise well built unit.

The Panasonic is a progressive scan player, and the back panel has component outs, S-video out and in, composite out and in, and analog audio out and in. The DMR-HS2 only has a Toslink digital audio out. Unfortunately, there is no component input like the Philips 985 I reviewed in issue 2.

Installation/Setup/Ease of Use
The setup was fairly straightforward. Panasonic
players always seem to have reasonably well put together menus. The player functions almost as two separate devices that have similar functions, and can also exchange information with each other. You can record multiple times on the DVD-RAM and the HDD and edit programs on both. You can transfer information from DVD-RAM to the HDD and vice versa. You cannot transfer information from a write once DVD-R to the HDD, although you can go from HDD to DVD-R. You cannot dub any copy-protected DVD to the HDD (piracy is technologically restricted here). You can download from a camcorder onto the HDD, edit your material on the HDD, and then record to a DVD-R for distribution to your friends.

Read more about the DMR-HS2 on Page 2.
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Budding camera jockeys and film-makers may very well have found
their DVD recording machine. In this way, computer type editing with a
hard drive has been brought to a standalone player. One glitch I did
encounter was when I tried to dub a program I had recorded on the HDD
to DVD-RAM. No matter what I did I could not stop the player in the
middle of the dubbing process. This was one determined dubbing machine.
I chalk this up to the first production model of this player--even the
manual had "Tentative" stamped on the front of it!

Final Take
The editing functions are in some ways more robust than the Philips DVD
recorder, but still not as easy as I would like. You can shorten
segments, divide programs, and enter titles by going into an editing
program. And you can also create a playlist which plays specific parts
of a program, that will then allow you to copy the edited program from
HDD to DVD-RAM or DVD-R. To perform these functions, you enter into a
computer-like program window and use the controls to designate where
you want a piece of footage to start and stop. It would be so much
easier to have a marker button that you can simply hit while watching,
and have the player edit out all of the marked areas when you are
finished. Unlike the Philips, there is no ability to create a
pictographic title screen, just a text one. The Time Slip feature
allows you to check already recorded parts of a program being recorded.
It presents the playback in a small picture in picture but,
unfortunately, does not do it in progressive mode.

The picture quality of recorded DVD and HDD playback are very
similar to each other, and also to that of the Philips 985. Depending
on the speed, you can record 1, 2, 3, or 6 hours on a DVD-RAM disc or
on a DVD-R disc. The first three are realistic choices, but the 6 hour
mode picture quality is not very good at all. Finalization of a DVD-R
to play on other machines can take some time (up to fifteen minutes),
which is one of the limitations of the DVD-R format. The DVD-RAM disc
is in a cartridge, but Type 2 DVD-RAM discs (which are now very common)
allow you to remove the disc from the cartridge and play it on DVD-RAM
compatible playback machines, such as the Panasonic RP91. DVD-RAM's
draw as a recordable format is the ability to actually gain the space
from a segment that's deleted, unlike the DVD+RW in the Philips. Thus,
the format acts more like a hard disk drive.

Recording television can be done on either DVD or HDD. It is done
just like a VCR by either hitting the record button or setting the
timer with the relevant information or VCR Plus code. Menu driven
recording such as TiVo or Replay is not yet available, to my great
disappointment, although like Philips, Panasonic is considering it for
the future.

Pre-recorded DVD playback is just good, not great, and not as good
as that of the Philips 985. There is considerably more grain and noise
than the Philips unit, although this was tempered quite a bit by the
introduction of a new component cable into the system. During this
player's time with me I was trying a component cable from a company
that supplies professional products to broadcast studios and the like.
I then received Silver Serpent Component cables from BetterCables.com,
and I was actually quite surprised how much better the picture quality
was, and how much picture noise was eliminated. A worthy upgrade to any
system, in my opinion.

Overall, Panasonic has done a fine job of squeezing an enormous
amount of goodness into a little box. The DMR-HS2 works well, and
provides multiple recording options. It is a logical development to the
DVD-recordable format, and Panasonic should be congratulated not only
for bringing it to market, but also for smoothly integrating these
technologies. The DMR-HS2 is an impressive achievement, and heralds a
bright future for home recording.

Suggested Retail Price
$999.00

Additional Resources
• Read more source component reviews from HomeTheaterReview.com.
• Find a receiver to pair with this source.
• See more about the audiophile world at AudiophileReview.com.
• Discuss all kinds of gear at hometheaterequipment.com.

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