We aren't expecting a symphony of sympathetic violins here, but there are times when reviewing consumer electronics is hard. Take, for example, a really great product like the Panasonic DMR-BW880. It's a Blu-ray recorder, with twin Freeview HD tuners and a 500GB hard drive for recording up 130 hours of HD TV. It's the perfect PVR, surely? Well, yes, apart from one thing: the price.
At £800, the DMR-BW880 is more expensive than most 42-inch TVs. In fact, it's more expensive than a lot of things. It's more expensive than an iPhone 4, higher-priced than most laptops and more costly than some diamond rings. Does that make it a bad product? No it does not, but it's certainly going to affect the number of people that can afford it.
Ignoring the price though, there's everything here you could need for a happy AV life. You've got a Blu-ray player for watching movies, and a recorder for archiving your favourite recordings from the built-in 500GB hard drive. Panasonic has also included DLNA network media support. But rather than the usual PC connectivity, this box can talk to another Panasonic player and allow you to stream TV shows around your home. The trouble is, you'll have to own two of them, compounding the cost issue further.
We’re also pleased to see that Panasonic has gone for a twin tuner in this PVR. We've criticised it in the past for only having single tuners, and the company seems to have listened. As always, we do question the Blu-ray archiving, after all, with a 500GB hard drive you're not likely to run out of storage all that quickly, and Blu-ray discs are still extraordinarily expensive.
VieraCast is also included, which allows you to access certain Internet services via your TV. Unlike Sony and Samsung, Panasonic doesn't yet have video from BBC iPlayer or LoveFilm available. We're determined to keep moaning about this until the company makes it happen. We're amazed it hasn't sorted it already.
The DMR-BW880 is available now, for around £800. Recordable 25GB Blu-ray discs go for around £2.50 each, should you want to archive recordings to the format.
We're off to test this product fully and will have a full review with our final score on the site next week.