Panasonic DMR-BW500

The Panasonic DMR-BW500 is Australia's first Blu-ray recorder and while it isn't a bargain, it is one of the most feature complete PVRs on the market.

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Ty is a journalist with 15 years experience in writing for IT and entertainment publications. He is in charge of the home theatre category for CNET Australia and is also a PC enthusiast. He likes indie music and plays several instruments. Twitter: @tpendlebury

For the DMR-BW500, Panasonic has retreated from the airlock-styled designs of the DMP-BD10 and DMP-BD30 and gone with something more utilitarian. But that's not to say this is an ugly box because it's kinda curvy — it's just more discreet. The chassis comes in an attractive black finish and is quite compact considering the amount of features stuffed into it.

It's not obvious at first glance, but then it slowly dawns on you — the front doesn't have any buttons on it! Instead, the play controls and several ports are hidden behind a very VCR-like flap. Also unusual is that the eject button is on the opposite side of the player to the disc tray, and the power button is directly above the tray — talk about unintuitive.

The remote is typical Panasonic fare and it's comfortable to hold in the hand. However, some of the buttons are a little confusingly named: for example, Menu is called "Direct Navigator". Some of the buttons also don't work how you want — the Drive Select button sometimes won't let you select "BD" when you want to switch from TV. Plus, there's also no eject button.

If you're looking for a full-featured recorder then the DMR-BW500 is pretty much a one-stop shop — only a media centre PC boasts more features. You get a Blu-ray player and recorder, dual HD tuners and a 500GB hard drive to keep your shows on.

The hard drive can also be used to rip MP3s from CDs and the Panasonic has an on-board Gracenote database of 350,000 titles. However, as the machine also carries an Ethernet port, it will seek out any discs it can't find on-board from the interwebs.

We were hopeful that this little port meant that the device would support BD-Live, but unfortunately it's only BD Profile 1.1 and not upgradeable to Profile 2.0. You could argue that there is a dearth of internet content available on Blu-ray so far, but it hasn't stopped Disney from announcing all its future titles will feature BD-Live content.

If you have a compatible camcorder, the DMR-BW500 supports AVCHD and SD cards which makes it simpler to transfer your camera footage. The remote control will also let you communicate with HDMI-enabled camcorders (only Panasonic at this stage) for playback control.

Inputs include HDMI, component and two SCART connectors. Though this device will accept video-in, unfortunately it's only in the form of S-Video or composite.

It's hard to know where to start with a device like this because it does so many different things. But we'll begin with recording HD, as this is what people buying the box will want to do with it.

Firstly, whether you're watching live FTA or pre-recorded vision on the HDD, the video quality is excellent. Jaggies and compression artefacts are not to be seen and the colour and detail the Panasonic extracts from off-air is very good.

The DMR-BW500 supports the seven-day EPG where we were able to browse through the following week and even sort by genre — movies, sport etc — which made recording even simpler. One of the devices we saw last year — the Beyonwiz DP-S1 was unable to walk and chew gum at the same time (translation: record TV and play movies simultaneously) but the Panasonic managed this with ease.

Playback on other devices isn't guaranteed, however — particularly if you own a PlayStation 3. Regardless of which media we used, we were able to see a menu of the recordings we made within the XMB but as soon as we clicked on one we got a message saying "This video cannot be played (80029945)". Apparently, this issue also affected early versions of BD burning programs for PC but it was fixed with later patches. Hopefully a future Panasonic firmware update will fix this.

As a comparison, we also tried playing the disc in a PC using Sony's BWU-200S Blu-ray burner and while it worked the video was very choppy. Retail movies worked fine in the same system so it's hard to say which player is at fault here.

Despite some recording niggles, the DMR-BW500 is a very good device. It supports advanced audio formats Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio and so sound quality is top notch.

But vision hasn't been forgotten either, and in addition to great recording quality, the Panasonic is able to playback commercial Blu-rays with all the fidelity of its brethren.

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"Questionable Review"

pleonexus posted a comment   
United States

This review provided no detail about the functional capabilities of this item and I find it suspect.


oops posted a comment   

I messed up my earlier entry! One sentence was meant to go like this;

Admittedly most of the features that i enjoy using on this machine are probably available on much cheaper hard disk drive recorders.

Ryan Dee Why

Ryan Dee Why posted a review   

The Good:You can do so much with it!

The Bad:Yeah blank blueray disks are expensive!!

I got a DMR-BW500 from Myer $1580, late july09.My TV and HD camcorder are panasonic also. They all work together really well! This blueray recorder is THE BEST THING I HAVE EVER BOUGHT!!! Admittedly most of the features that i enjoy using on this machine are probably disk drive recorders.
With the DMR-BW500, pretty much, you could avoid ever having to watch another commercial. Here's an example of one thing you can do with it; start recording a movie at 8:30pm start playing that same movie (whilst it's recording) at say 8:50pm and you can be fast forwarding the annoying ads, brilliant! Chase play i think it's called. If you go through the EPG (electronic program guide) and schedule some interesting shows or movies to record, then you will have something good to watch every time you sit down in front of the idiot box. You can edit out or fast forward the ads. Never have to go to the video store again, no late fees etc. It's all good baby, I'm a fan. posted a comment   

I came very close to purchasing this usint last week from Harvey Norman. As usual, the sales guys were unhelpful as to the devices total capabilities but after doing some research I would steer clear for now.

A PC based machine could all of this, AND ALOT more for less $$.

I was mostly disappointed that the LAN input could not scan my network drives for other media and use the interface to play them. When a similar component based device comes out with this feature I'm in!


Jenko posted a review   

I was excited to hear that a compnat has finally got a blu ray player with HDD and twin tuners, but after reading the comments and the cost, I might hold off a bit. Disappointed but I can wait.


abc123 posted a review   

The Good:twin tuner

The Bad:timer recording doesn't work reliably

have had this recorder for some time and since new it has had a bug where it fails to record timer scheduled programmes. It just keeps blinking. After many calls to panasonic they have finally admitted its a fault but wont do anything to fix it.


Walpurgishnacht posted a review   

Was going to buy today but after reading of compatibility issues and no Profile 2.0 (not even upgradeable) FORGET IT.

Will wait till the next model where these issues are fixed is release.


Henry posted a review   

The Good:Top quality, twin HD tuners, massive hard drive.

The Bad:Not profile 2.0-BD Live. This machine COULD become obsolete as a BD player.
Cost of recordable BD discs obscene.

May pay to purchase the non BD version, DMR-XW300 or wait until this machine is BD Live.

Wow, no BD Live, that is a huge Fopar.
New BR movies are now profile 2.0, aka BD Live. This machine can NOT access those features, and as previously mentioned, compatibility issues may arise between profile 1.1 players and profile 2.0 discs meaning the risk is there that any non profile 2.0 BD player could potentially become obsolete in the future.
To become profile 2.0 would presumably be a simple process as this machine has an Ethernet port, yet it remains an obsolete profile?!!!
Come on Panasonic, lift your game, this machine carries a huge price premium, so how about making this machine profile 2.0, it should be a very simple process considering all the required hard ware is in place.


NothappyJan posted a review   

The Good:Twin HD recorders

The Bad:No BD live@$2200

$2200 and it doesn't have BD live!!
Are they kidding, you cant access BD extra features and downloadable content with this machine and as a consequence, it is not future proof. Possibly some discs may not play at all, what a rip off!!


george posted a review   

The Good:great Quality and user ffriendly

The Bad:Can not play edited video in High def.

With this Unit I can not Save Hi defenition Video that has been edited in my computer Onto the Dmr- bw500 hard drive. And it wont Read mp3 files in the card reader

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User Reviews / Comments  Panasonic DMR-BW500

  • pleonexus


    "This review provided no detail about the functional capabilities of this item and I find it suspect."

  • oops


    "I messed up my earlier entry! One sentence was meant to go like this;

    Admittedly most of the features that i enjoy using on this machine are probably available on much cheaper hard d..."

  • Ryan Dee Why

    Ryan Dee Why


    "I got a DMR-BW500 from Myer $1580, late july09.My TV and HD camcorder are panasonic also. They all work together really well! This blueray recorder is THE BEST THING I HAVE EVER BOUGHT!!! Admittedl..."

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