Don’t you just love getting all the latest TV and on demand services for free, without having to pay a monthly subscription? Don’t you just hate skipping through all those channels you don’t use, knowing that you are paying a premium ‘package’ price? We are totally with you! This is why we want to talk Freeview! And one box in particular. The advent of the Freeview box was a game-changer in the industry. No longer being confined to 5 terrestrial channels, with this technology, you paid a one-off price. Then, you had a wealth of wonderful channels to peruse. Today, more features have been added, making the simple Freeview box a little ancient. Today, we review the Panasonic DMR-HWT130EB!
Not only does this device allow you to view a wealth of channels and on demand services, it is also a personal video recorder (PVR) that allows pause and rewind of live TV. Yes, you can record your favourite shows, and it all on the 500GB hard drive. Join us as we deep dive into this Panasonic model. How does the DMR function? What are features that make this anything but a regular Freeview box? Plus, what additional apps and inclusions make this a great option at an accessible price point.
What can the Panasonic DMR-HWT130EB do?
As we know by now, this is anything but a standard box allowing you to click and play your favourite TV channels. Yes, the Panasonic DMR-HWT130EB in this review also allows you to record your favourite content and stream digital content from a variety of apps and VOD platforms. And all packaged up within a sleek and un-intrusive design. Measuring 30 x 17.88 x 5.18 cm and weighing 1.2 Kilograms, this has been built to fit seamlessly into any home set-up. One set up, easily navigate via the on screen menus and search your favourite apps and channels in one place.
With the inclusion of the 500GB HDD under the hood, you can save a fair bit of content. Record up to 258 hours of your favourite films and shows in standard mode (720p), or 129 hours in HD (1080p). That is a lot of HD recording for your budget! Additionally, you have the power to manage everything from your smart phone or tablet, whether you are in or out of the house! The DIGA Player App allows you to set record commands and manage your recorded content all in one place. And with a programme guide that shows 8 days of programming, you can finalise your strategic planning way ahead of time.
This PVR is wi fi ready, but it does require a dongle or network cable to connect. While this may seem like a caveat, you can purchase an optional device that will convert it to a wireless system. Meaning it doesn’t need to be connected physically to your router. Once connected, you are in charge of some pretty smart home networking via your DLNA devices. Yes, your smartphone, laptop, PS3, anything with bluetooth capability or wifi connection, can be linked. Meaning you can stream content around the home! So long as it is compatible with HDCP standards.
This box certainly can satisfy many people at once, all in one home! The twin Freeview and HD tuners gives you expanded possibility. Watch one channel while recording another or record two programmes at the same time. No more worrying about overlapping shows, just let the box do the rest of the work for you. And if you want to view a recorded program whilst recording two other channels, no problem!
And if you’re recording a whole show to binge it later, you will find them in order, in one place thanks to the automatic file archiving setup. This item is also finely tuned into schedule changes. So even if the content you want to record moves, there will be no disruption. And while you record your TV shows, you can be surfing the web in a world of VOD content.
This Panasonic feature is a user interface allowing customers access to a host of online video content in realms such as health and fitness, social media, shopping, music and online games. And this is available to all Viera Connect enabled HDTVs. Gaming is surprisingly good, with a wealth of different options updated semi-regularly. In fact, its gaming capacity is actually the best on any smart television out there!
It is true the content provided via Viera Connect is not as varied as other makes and models. However apps and channels are added intermittently. On demand services like Netflix, Prime Video, and Hulu also feature. Plus, the online store is available to access, so you can add additional apps if required. Skype video and voice calling is also accessible through the Viera service too. Meaning so long as you have a webcam, your TV can really become an extension of your phone and laptop!
Whilst the interface is user friendly and fairly intuitive, it can sometimes feel a little clumsy. Still, the overall quality is very good, giving you access to a lot of content, including foreign language channels. And that is not all, the VIERA® Remote App also allows you to send and store content such as images and video from your phone to your TV screen.
Another great feature of this device is the viewing capabilities. Using 2D to 3D conversion, your recorded content can be seen in 3D! If you have a 3D compatible TV and glasses, you can unlock a more immersive experience for the whole family.
While the connectivity on this box isn’t amazing, it does come with some handy USB and SD slots. Record content and move it over to an external hard drive or SD card, making more room for the content you love.
The remote control has a fair few buttons which some might find confusing. However once settled in, it becomes fairly easy to use, and is very responsive. This remote also works in conjunction with a host of Panasonic devices. So if you have bought a range of Panasonic items for your home cinema system, this is a great option for you!
Overall, the system functions really well. Both the remote and the box itself have some pretty decent response times, within the range of one to two seconds when navigating through the electronic programming guide (EPG). It is also incredibly quick to wake up once switched it on. But can our review of the Panasonic DMR-HWT130EB show that it stands up to other devices?
Is the Panasonic DMR-HWT130EB the best out there?
Whilst this is a great product for the price, there are a couple of drawbacks. Whilst you can pause and rewind live television, it only records 1.5 hours. So, if you are pausing or rewinding, you only have this window to navigate through. As we have already addressed, Viera connect doest have the most extensive range of VOD apps and additional channels, though the collection of foreign language channels are good, if that is something you enjoy. the variety and quality of electronic games, however, are very good. Additionally, the box no longer supports the VOD service AceTrax.
Another thing to note, albeit not a deal breaker, is that it does not come with a HDMI cable! Whilst a power cable is supplied, any other connecting cables and devices must be supplied at extra cost. Whilst easy to find, it is best to be forewarned to avoid annoying delays in setup.
It is true that there are some new models in the Panasonic range, and these offer a few more features and have higher customer ratings. Both the HWT150 and 250 also offer Freeview Play, a feature allowing streaming of a vast array of on demand services, streaming platforms and television channels.
However, as we know the Panasonic DMR-HWT130EB in this review does already include Freeview. Whilst it is not as extensive, it does have a fantastic range of channels and a number of on demand platforms and VOD services. If you are an avid television watcher, perhaps this is not the device for you. But if you are looking for something versatile and functional at a very good price, this could well be a winner.
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Is the Panasonic DMR-HWT130EB worth buying?
The honest answer is that the Panasonic DMR-HWT130EB in this review is good for the price point. It does not come out on top, lacking the bells and whistles some other makes and models might bring you. Other later makes have the capacity for 4K recording. Whereas this model allows you to record up to 129 hours of HD content in either standard or HD modes.
However, for its ability to save two shows at once, its user friendly interface and 8 day programme guide, it is a great device to have in your home. Remote recording allows you to save your favourite TV programmes from your smart device, and these are easily accessible, stored all in one place. It lacks a few features of the later Panasonic models, but for a family who want a multi-room set-up, this is a great option. It has the capacity please a fair few people at once. Whilst not having the most up to date content, Viera connect has a wealth of VOD content, social media services and great gaming capacity that will keep the whole house entertained. And it is features like this that make this model a great purchase.
The twin free view and HD tuner will make your life easier and increase your viewing pleasure. No longer will you argue over what to watch. Without worrying about shows overlapping. It is a budget device with a variety of functions to entertain, and delivers great standard or HD picture quality. But you do get what you pay for. So if aren’t interested in having all the latest tech, give this a go! For a home of simple pleasures, this would be a real asset. A Freeview recorder with the ability to stream from your smart devices, as well as select programming straight from the box, you don’t need much more than that!