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Customer Review

21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Panasonic DMR-EX99, 25 Mar. 2012
This review is from: Panasonic DMR-EX99VEBK 250GB HDD DVD/VHS Recorder with Freeview+ (Electronics)
I bought this for two reasons, firstly, because I needed a new VHS player. Secondly my grandparents had recently subscribed to SKY+hd and received a sky box with a built in hard drive recorder and I liked the idea of owning one myself. Not wanting to subscribe to sky, I decided to get this instead and kill two birds with one stone.

Firstly the VHS player:
I find that few people here are actually paying much attention to the VHS bit so I thought I'd give it a proper review to those who wanted it. Well it's not the best VHS machine ever made but it does a pretty admirable job. Having 6 heads doesn't necessarily mean the best picture and often manufacturers add 6 heads to make up for other deficiencies in the system. However, here playback is crisp vibrant and well detailed. Though I am disappointed not to see some of the more advanced VHS features like DNR (Digital Noise Reduction) or TBC (Time Bass Corrector), especially at this price. Though it is good to see full Hi-Fi sound capability and SQPB so if like me and have an S-VHS player, you can still play all your S-VHS tapes, though only in normal VHS quality. All in all it's and excellent general purpose machine that's a delight to use, fast forward and rewind are super quick and the built-in upscaler dose a fantastic job at up scaling VHS images to large TVs without much noise or distortion. Where it really comes into its own though, is copying VHS tapes onto DVD or the hard drive, (which is something I personally wont be doing but most others probably will), when I tried this out I couldn't tell the difference between the copied DVD and the original VHS, it had copied it perfectly. Personally I won't be using it as my main VHS player, I have a Panasonic NV-HS1000 for that, but it is probably the best VHS player on the market at the moment.

The DVD player:
The DVD player is a fairly standard unit; picture quality is just what you'd expect form Panasonic and the interface is quick loading. Nothing much to say here apart form it plays and records on pretty much every DVD and every format under the sun, DVD-r, DVD+r, DVD-rw, DVD+rw and even DVD-ram, it plays DivX, JPEG, WMA, MP3, SVCD and even plays video CDs. When recording, Panasonic recommends using DVD-RAMs, however I would recommend you used ordinary DVD-rw or DVD+rw as DVD-RAMs are good for storage of data but when playing them, you will find that most other DVD players wont play them, whereas with DVD-rw or DVD+rw, they will play on pretty much any other DVD player and they work just as well and in the same quality as DVD-RAMs.

Hard Drive recorder:
This is where things start to fall back a bit. The hard drive recorder is by no means bad, it's just not what I was hoping for. For a start you can't change the channel when recording into the hard drive and you can only record one thing at a time, unlike the SKY+HD box where you can record 2 things at a time and still watch any channel you like while doing it. It's not that bad if you connect it up, like I have, to a new TV with a built in digital tuner because you can record something with the recorder and then switch to ordinary TV to watch something else. But if you are planning to use this to converts an old TV to digital as I was, then it's not ideal. That said, picture quality is great and on the highest quality you can't tell the difference between the recording and broadcast TV and recording an entire series of a programme couldn't be easier. It does take a while to warm up though which can be annoying, especially if there is something you need to record quickly, but if you keep it plugged in and turn it on standby, there is a setting which makes turning it on much faster

I have to say, it's a pretty good looking machine which fits in well with my all black set up (Black TV, black TV stand, Black Blu-Ray player) so thumbs up to the designer there. The build quality is exceptional, all the buttons feel really good, the remote control is solid feels good to use and the machine is pretty heavy and is on rubber feet so it won't slide around if you have it on a glass TV stand like I do. One feature I found particularly useful is the S-video input at the front. I don't know if anyone else has noticed how most modern TV's don't have a S-Video input, but I find it really frustrating as I have several old games consoles (most notably the N64) and other equipment which I can only plug in using either composite which looks terrible, or S-video which has a very high picture quality comparable to RGB scart. Any way this machine now allows me to plug in S-video to my main TV which is fantastic. Other ins and outs include 1 HDMI output, an SD card slot, which is very useful for showing off the old holiday snaps in High Definition (if you use the HDMI output to your TV), 2 RGB scart input/outputs, 1 composite output and an optical output for connection to sound system. Unfortunately no Component output but most will be ok with the HDMI output.

Final thoughts:
In conclusion, there are better VHS players, there are better DVD recorders and there are better hard drive recorders, but I doubt there are any other machines that have all three of these features and pull it off as good as this. High end users who want the best form their old VHS tapes should look at getting an old Panasonic NV-HS1000, and those that want the absolute best hard drive recorder should look elsewhere. However, you will never tire of the build quality and it's pretty easy to use. Defiantly recommended for the casual user as it has everything you'd ever need all in one neat package. It's defiantly the best in it's class.
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Showing 1-9 of 9 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 9 Feb 2013 19:00:30 GMT
Mike S. says:
Thank you for taking the time to write a detailed and comprehensive review - it is much appreciated.

Posted on 14 May 2013 22:12:44 BDT
P says:
Hi James,

First of all thanks a lot for this detailed review. I was thinking of getting this recorder to copy some precious VHS tapes to digital format. Although copying to the HDD would be ideal, I wouldn't mind copying to DVD first if the machine records to DVD in higher quality than HDD. I would then copy the DVD to my computer. My priority is image and sound quality as these VHS tapes include important events such as weddings and birthdays.

From your review it seems that this player will copy the VHS to DVD/HDD with hardly any loss in quality, but is not the best VHS player around. I'm not too worried about the VHS playback quality - just the quality I'll be getting when I convert to digital format as henceforth I'll be using the digital files to watch these videos. Would you recommend this player for this purpose? I've tried looking for the Panasonic HS1000 you've recommended, but in vain - not even on eBay! What would you recommend as the best way to convert VHS to digital format (at a reasonable price)? Would you say that this is the one of the best options for me?

Many thanks,

In reply to an earlier post on 15 May 2013 01:11:35 BDT
Yeah this is probably the best thing on the market today for your needs. The DVD quality and HDD quality are identical. However, there are several quality settings so just use the highest one.

There is really only one way to get better picture quality than this and that's to buy a second-hand VCR with digital noise reduction, something like the Panasonic NV-HS1000, NV-HS950 or JVC hr-s7600 and watch it on an old CRT television with an S-VIDEO socket. Most modern HD TVs make VHS or even DVD look terrible because it has to upscale everything to be displayed on a 1080p screen which causes pixilation, ghosting and general fuzziness.

But any way, as you said your interested in converting to digital not playback. In which case, the best thing you can do is get an old VCR and a HHD recorder with and S-VIDEO input, hook the VCR up to the HHD recorder via an S-VIDEO cable and press play on the VCR and then record on the HHD recorder. However, this wouldn't really make a huge difference and is only really needed if you're converting S-VHS to digital.

Getting the Panasonic DMR-EX99 is probably the best option for you. If the recordings are important to you however, I strongly advise you not to throw away the VHS takes after you're done converting them to digital. VHS is a very durable format and good for archiving. If you keep the original you'll always be able to make another copy down the line if you loose the digital file.

In reply to an earlier post on 21 May 2013 20:15:13 BDT
P says:
Thanks for the advice James! I'm buying it then. Yup I'm definitely not throwing the original tapes away. In fact, I'm going to try make other VHS to VHs copies too for the sake of archiving. I'll try to use my dad's VCR (an LG VCR DVD combi player) and hook it to this one to see if I can make a VHS-to-VHS copy. Would this preserve all the details of the original tapes? I doubt the tapes are S-VHS as most are from 1987-1990.

Btw, would it make a difference if I make the duplicate to S VHS instead of VHS even if the source file is VHS?

In reply to an earlier post on 21 May 2013 23:26:42 BDT
Last edited by the author on 21 May 2013 23:27:07 BDT
A VHS-to-VHS copy won't look very good, it will be a second generation copy (Look up VHS Generation loss), using S VHS will help though. With analogue technology, the copy will always be worse than the original.

Here is a good example of generation loss.

A 2nd, 3rd or 4th generation copy it's not too bad but it's still a marked step down in quality. There is no point really, unless you wanted to make a viewing copy that you can use all the time if you're worried about wearing out the original through over use.

In reply to an earlier post on 25 May 2013 20:58:46 BDT
P says:
Yup I've often noticed during my past attempts to copy the tapes that the copy was not of good quality and thought it was due to the older VCRs I was using when making copies. According to this link, digital VCR precludes generation loss:
Do you reckon digital VCR would be better than copying to HDD/DVD?

Also, I've noticed that some of the VHS tapes are now dusty. Apart from opening the tape (as I've seen online), is there any way of cleaning a VHS tape (I once saw a device at a friend's place where you could put a VHS tape in and it would clean it. I haven't been able to find it online though)?

In reply to an earlier post on 26 May 2013 14:03:21 BDT
I don't think the quality of a D-VHS copy will be any better than copping on to a HDD or DVD. They are both digital and will produce similar results. The big factor in copy quality is the VHS that plays the tape.

If you really want the apposite best quality and don't mind paying for it then get the Panasonic NV-HS950 that's on eBay at the moment and any HDD/DVD recorder of your choice (make sure it has an S-VIDEO input though) plug the VCR into the recorder (with an S-VIDEO cable) pres play on the VCR and record to the recorder. You may also want to take the new VCR for a service first to be cleaned to ensure optimum picture quality, there are still a few shops around that do this sort of thing, can cost up to £50 to have it done though.

With this method however, you will see only a slight difference in the picture quality, unless the recording is unstable (that is the picture jumps up and down or has other similar problems). If it's unstable then the HV-HS950 will take care of all that because it had a built in TBC function. The DNR function will also help make the picture less fussy.

You've got to decide whether the extra money is worth the gain in quality.

As for dusty VHS tapes, I wouldn't worry about it. It's difficult for dust to get on the actual tape because it's wound up. Just dust the outside casing before you put it into any VHS players.

Posted on 2 Nov 2013 19:37:33 GMT
Bill says:
I'm thinking of buying this after spending some time tracking one down (now that's it's discontinued, they're very difficult to find). Do you happen to know whether it's possible to watch one programme whilst recording another IF you have an additional Freeview set-top box? Thanks.

In reply to an earlier post on 5 Nov 2013 23:03:19 GMT
P says:
Hi there,

My uncle was impressed by the player and wanted one too - but it turns out that it is no longer available on amazon! In fact, I can't find it anywhere on the web. I've therefore been looking at alternatives and have come up with these 2:

Toshiba RDXV60 3-in-1 DVD, HDD and VHS Recorder

Do you know how the quality of copies from VHS to digital format would compare to the one we have? Just like me, my uncle wants the best possible VHS copies at a reasonable cost (up to £400). The ebay seller for the Panasonic player also mentions that it has time base corrector for VHS tapes - would it actually be useful or just a marketing gimmick?

Amazon is also selling a similar player to ours, but without the HDD:
Panasonic DMR-EZ49vEBK Super Multi Format Combi Recorder with Freeview

Would the quality of copies from VHS to DVD from the last player be inferior to that of VHS to HDD from our player?

Many thanks,
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