Panasonic DMR-E55

Panasonic's least-expensive DVD recorder is a good choice for basic TV and video archiving.

User Rating

View more from Panasonic »

Now that DVD recorders have reached the brink of mass affordability, everyone is starting to make one. Panasonic was on the scene before just about everyone, however, and its entry-level fifth-generation model -- the DMR-E55 -- delivers some refinements that set it apart from the Lite-Ons of the world. First on the list: DVD-RAM allows the E55 to perform DVR-like tricks, such as pausing live TV. If you don't need this kind of functionality, if you already own a DVR, or if you find it hard to program a VCR you should probably go for a different deck. If, on the other hand, you want the most features for your buck, the Panasonic DMR-E55 is a winner.

The Panasonic DMR-E55 stands taller than almost every regular DVD player out there, and its chunky-looking face is less stylish than most. Its central, animated display is well organised, especially the recording information: one glance at the cool-looking spinning-disc icon gives you the status.

Unlike some players we've seen, the DMR-E55 doesn't make recording dummy-proof. There's no dedicated recording menu like the one we saw on the the Lite-On LVW-5005, so we found ourselves sometimes making basic mistakes -- such as recording via the wrong input. Beginners may have to resort to the dense manual to get started on a recording. Bottom line: If the intended user finds operating a VCR difficult, the DMR-E55 isn't for him or her.

In its favour, Panasonic has added a sort of metamenu to make things a bit easier. Pressing the cryptic Function button with a home-brewed DVD in the tray brings up an onscreen display that leads to options such as Direct Navigator, a menu of thumbnails that correspond to different recordings on a disc; Timer Recording, for setting up timers or entering VCR Plus numbers; Flexible Recording (see Features); and Player and Disc Setup menus. Also new for this year's model, finalised discs have a top menu that includes thumbnail icons for each program.

The remote is cluttered with buttons below the cursor control that allow direct access to the more advanced functions, but most users will prefer to use the onscreen menus. The medium-size clicker is otherwise easy to use.

As we mentioned in the intro, the DVD-RAM format gives the Panasonic DMR-E55 some of the functionality of a hard-disk -- although, unlike its sibling the DMR-E85H, it does not contain a hard disk. While a DVD-RAM recording is in progress on the DMR-E55, you can watch it from the beginning or play back something else. Basic editing, such as shortening segments (read: removing commercials) and dividing one program into two, is also available, although you're better off performing advanced video editing on a PC.

The four recording modes give you 1- to 6-hour discs; the picture quality decreases as the length increases. There's also a convenient Flexible Recording mode that lets you fill the remainder of a disc with an exact amount of video, say, 2 hours and 35 minutes.

DVD-RAM is much less compatible than -RW or +RW formats, so you'll want to use the rewritable discs for those expendable TV recording sessions. Highly compatible write-once DVD-Rs are best for archive-worthy video that will play back on virtually any DVD player.

The Panasonic DMR-E55 includes VCR Plus, but the recorder's inability to control a cable or satellite box limits its real-world usefulness for TV recording. (For example, you'll have to set your tuner box to the correct channel beforehand for timer recordings.) To get that kind of control, you'll need to step up to the DMR-E65 or another recorder that has an IR blaster.

The back panels each have two A/V inputs with S-Video, and there's another behind a flip-down door on the front. Also on the rear are an RF input and output for cable or an antenna (just like on a VCR), a pair of A/V outs with S-Video, a progressive-scan component-video output, and an optical digital output. The only missing item is FireWire, which is available on the step-up models.

As we expected, the Panasonic DMR-E55 delivered video quality superior to VHS and on a par with that of other DVD recorders we've tested. Even in the 4-hour EP mode, recordings looked stable and had well-saturated colours, although blocky MPEG noise tinged the images. The 2-hour SP mode nearly eliminated that problem in the backgrounds, and the 1-hour mode's smooth picture was almost indistinguishable from the original.

A serious difference in resolution separates the SP and EP modes: SP measured 450 lines, while EP came in at barely 230. You should avoid the 6-hour LP mode; it was significantly softer than EP, tended to introduce stutter in pans, and managed barely 200 lines of resolution.

After recording, we checked out a finalised DVD-R disc and noted that it played in eight newer players and one older one in our test facility but not on another old player. The DMR-E55 itself played back most of the test discs in our compatibility suite, although it couldn't handle DVDs with MP3 files, CDs with JPEG files, or a pair of older DVD-RW discs. Progressive-scan video playback was fine.

Previous Story

JVC previews Blu-ray DVD combo

Home Cinema
Next Story

Hitachi DV-RX7000A

Add Your Review 21

* Below fields optional

Post comment as

"Very please with Panasonic DMR-E55. Have owned for about 6 years."

hp7965 posted a review   
United States

The Good:This is my family's primary DVD player. I've successfully recorded probably about 100 DVD's from old Video 8, VHS-C and newer Mini DV cassetes. I primarily use JVC DVD-R 1-8 SPEED discs, but have successfully used IMATION DVD-R 8X discs as well. This machine has served my family well for years, with only a periodic need for cleaning the lens with a DVD cleaner.

The Bad:I haven't had problems recording like others who have reviewed this item. Perhaps they are trying to record to discs which are designed for faster recorders. I finalized my discs and have had no problem playing them on my other DVD players which are JVC branded.

I'm sorry for those who have had trouble with this device, but I can only say good things about it. It has served our family's needs well in backing up old cassette media.


rawish posted a review   

The Good:none

The Bad:slow , noisy junk

Rubbish , a firmware upgrade, a visit to the Warranty centre and still pixalation city on new recorded discs- Panasonic you have lost my brand belief

Gordon Pilcher

Gordon Pilcher posted a review   

The Good:easy to use

The Bad:had to return one that had problem 4 hour recording but work great at 6 hours

Works great, can't see why anyone would have a problem with it, LoveIt


SHELLBACK posted a review   

The Good:NONE




cvchandran posted a review   

It was working fine until last week now it does not support 16x DVDs for recording. Only old version 8x DVDs are compitable, Even the Panasonic service centre failed to fix this problem


"what a great piece of mech"

vinni posted a review   

mine wont finalize
finalized failed why ?


"DVD-RAM: Panasonic set the standard."

Dr.White posted a review   

The Good:You can record one programme onto the disc while watching a separate recording (or the on you're recording) at the same time. The recorder actually starts recording the instant you push the record button. Picture and sound are excellent. There is never any need to use the ultra high quality 1-hour XP mode, 2-hour mode is really very, very good even on large, detailed screens. Fantastic using DVD-RAM discs. Timer recording is simplicity to program, it's better than the included videoplus.
Puts the +RW format to shame with its hard-drive like timeslip feature and reliability, assuming you use DVD-RAM discs.

The Bad:Self-check is tedious, every time you turn the unit on or insert a disc, the check / disc read process takes too long. Does not work well with all DVD-R discs.

I've had one for over two years and honestly, I use it every day. It changes the way you watch TV. I record everything, pause the TV when I need to, go back to it, skip through the adverts, etc. Of course, I generally use DVD-RAM discs only. For archived stuff, 4x Maxell DVD-R work well. Steer clear of 8x or faster discs unless you have updated the firmware in your E55.
I wish Panasonic had included a 3 hour record mode, the picture quality is great at that setting, of course I have to enter flexible record mode to do it.
The machine started getting slow and erratic last month, then stopped working. But after cleaning the lens and spindle, it works as good as new! We are heavy smokers, there was tar and dust on the spindle.


"Worked well for a while, then crashed"

Anonymous posted a review   


"Slow and VERY Unreliable"

Anonymous posted a comment   

This recorder is a nightmare. It constantly has to do a lengthy self check every time you turn it on then takes a further minute to load a disc. Its also very loud while its doing this.

Very sensitive to discs and now my player doesnt work at all. It just says "no read" after the long wait with any disc used in it. Support is abismal so I have been forced to dispose of mine. Waste of time and money and will be staying away from Panasonic in future.


"Can You Record tivo shows?"

electronicsruleme posted a review   

This product seems like a deal if ya got $700 bones but the real question is...can I record tivo shows onto dvd via this unit? or maybe i should be inquiring...can it be programmed and behave like a dvr?
i am sure fer you folks this is a remedial question...but i am here to be educated.:0)

Sponsored Links
CNET's latest

User Reviews / Comments  Panasonic DMR-E55

  • hp7965



    "I'm sorry for those who have had trouble with this device, but I can only say good things about it. It has served our family's needs well in backing up old cassette media."

  • rawish



    "Rubbish , a firmware upgrade, a visit to the Warranty centre and still pixalation city on new recorded discs- Panasonic you have lost my brand belief"

  • Gordon Pilcher

    Gordon Pilcher


    "Works great, can't see why anyone would have a problem with it, LoveIt"

CNET Speedtest

Recently Viewed Products