Panasonic DMR-HWT260GN

Review: Panasonic DMR-HWT260

This is my review of the Panasonic DMR-HWT260.  When I went to buy one, there weren’t any reviews so I hope this might fill a gap if you’re looking to buy one. Keep in mind when reading this that I’ve already bought one, and people who own something are much less likely to point out flaws in something that they’ve made the decision to buy.

I must also point out that this is the New Zealand model, not the Australian one.  Features like FreeviewPlus and a number of other settings are New Zealand specific.  If you read the instructions you’ll get a feel for the differences, none of them are major.  Also I expect (but can’t confirm) that most of the features/comments here will apply to the Panasonic DMR-PWT560 as well, it’s the same looking device except with built-in Blu-Ray and a smaller (500Gb) recording capacity.

Summary

This is a great PVR.  I bought this to replace our MySky HDI box and the interface is very similar. It has a simple way to navigate around a grid of current and upcoming programs and it’s easy to select one and either record a single episode or “series-link” to record all the episodes.

It works well, is fast at all it’s primary functions (more on speed later) and the image quality is clear.

Overall Verdict: Excellent.

Unboxing

People who do “unboxings” are stupid and annoying.  If you really want to see someone taking an object out of a box you need to seriously examine your life choices. (Yes, I am nearly 40.)

Features

  • Record two shows at once using its built in Tuners
  • Can record to an external HDD as well as the internal 1TB one.
  • Play back media from a local DLNA server, or USB drives.
  • Built in Wifi, with a Wired option as well
  • Selection of Internet Apps, including Netflix, Quikflix, TuneIn Radio, Youtube
  • Undocumented “Chromecast” abilities.

Review Details

This review was done with v1.00 of the firmware.  There haven’t been an updates or patches since we’ve had the box, but we’ve only had it 3 weeks.  I’m approaching this review from the point of view of comparing it to MySky HDi which we’ve had for a number of years – I suspect that’s why a lot of people will be looking at a PVR like this.

Good Things

  1. Records TV just fine.
  2. Nice clear picture, HD quality is excellent.
  3. User interface is pretty good!  It’s easy to see what’s coming up, easy to schedule something to be recorded and the “keyword” feature looks quite good, with the below caveat about how annoying not having a proper keyboard is.
  4. Built in WiFi works well, though I’ve since connected it to the wired network.  I’m a firm believer if something can be plugged in vs WiFi it should be!
  5. Lots of options to compress recordings (as they’re being recorded, or after the fact) to save Disc space.  Though a 1TB will probably take a little while to fill up!
  6. DLNA playback is great, we have a big media library on a server and the ability to play pretty much anything from it is handy.  Want to watch a movie? A few clicks (in fact a couple too many for my liking) and it’s on.
  7. It has built in “Chromecast” support for some apps.  I can be watching something on Youtube on my Android phone then “Cast it” to the Panasonic.  The Youtube app loads up and the video in question plays.  Very handy. Note: This is not screen mirroring, this is the Android phone telling the Panasonic “Load your Youtube app up and start playing this clip” – This seems to be an undocumented feature (it’s not the same as Miracast)
  8. The Netflix app works well.  Again as above you can select the movie on your Android phone and then “cast it” onto the Panasonic.  If you have an Apple TV or some other “better” dedicated Netflix box then I think you’ll find you use that rather than the Panasonic, but if you haven’t got a Netflix device already then this works fantastically.
  9. The remote control has the ability to also function as your TV’s remote control, so you can turn on/off the TV and change its inputs & volume using a single remote.
  10. It’s quite small and lightweight.

Bad Things

The followings things are things about the device that have annoyed me to some degree:

  1. Pausing or Rewinding Live TV takes a few seconds, during which time you think nothing is happening.  It’s very slow and is a very confusing thing!  And then when you’ve paused it, you’re now in this new “mode” where certain limitations apply.  This means you often get the message “You must return to Live TV to do X/Y/Z”.  Which is easy enough, you just press stop.  But compared to the seamlessness of SkyTV’s MySky box, it’s quite clunky.
  2. Entering text into fields to login (Like TVNZ’s Freeview service or the “keyword” PVR feature) is a pain in the butt.  It’d be nice if there was a way to pair a Bluetooth Keyboard with the device, or plug one in.  But it doesn’t support that (Note: I have not tried plugging a USB Keyboard in)
  3. You can’t keep watching something using the DLNA service when a program is being recorded.  This means it’ll “kick you out” of a DLNA session to start a timed recording.  Annoying when the kids are watching Peppa Pig but something I want recorded comes on.  Seeing as the box states “Watch Netflix while recording Live TV!” I find this limitation bizarre and hope it can be removed in a Firmware Update.
  4. The Internet/Net applications are pretty slow to start. You’ll press the TVNZ On Demand button and wait ~5 seconds or something to happen.  This is to be expected really, the box doesn’t sell itself majorly on its Internet features, apart from Netflix.  But some indication it’s received your input and is doing something would be nice.
  5. Freeview Plus pops up a slide out menu every time you change channel to one supported by Freeview Plus.  This is useful maybe the first 3 times and from then on just pisses you off.  No way to turn it off without disabling Freeview Plus (entirely) in the settings, which thankfully is a setting.  The Freeview Plus menu/guide is also confusing for people: Is this the same guide? What does “starring” something do, does that mean it records it (Answer: No).  It’s basically a second, differently laid out, guide.  Very confusing.  Apparently all Freeview Plus enabled boxes are like this though.
  6. Sometimes the “Exit” button is confusing.  Do you press Exit? Or the Return arrow? Or do you press stop?  Depending on what function you’re in, it can have different consequences.  To stop watching something in DLNA and return to the Media Menu, you have to press stop.  Otherwise you exit out of the DLNA service back to Tuner.
  7. No volume control on the Panasonic remote.  Yes, I know having separate volume controls is silly (people end up turning the sound RIGHT UP on the amp and then using the input box’s volume control) but it’s a handy feature, saving you having to have multiple remotes to control things.  This is especially annoying for us as we don’t use the TV’s volume for the sound, we have a dedicated amplifier.
  8. Occasional 1 second picture flicker (goes black then comes back), like a HDMI negotiation issue.  Sometimes happens a few times in a 10 minute interval, sometimes we can go all night and not see one.  2 other people who own this have reported it as well.  Only seems to happen when viewing Live TV, haven’t seen it with DLNA or when using menus etc.  Someone has suggested turning off the FreeviewPlus feature also fixes the issue, but I haven’t confirmed this yet.

Some of the items in “Bad Things” (especially point 8) could easily be addressed in future firmware updates and I hope they are.  It’s a great box with a few minor niggles, none of which really get in the way.

Final Thoughts

It has a hilarious little “app store” built in where you can download a tiny smattering of extra media applications, most of which look terrible.  It has a clunky web browser built in, given the feedback above about no keyboard you can imagine how fun it is to use.  That said, it does render things very well.  But why would you?

It’d be nice to have a way to quickly jump to the DLNA server folder that you use all the time, at the moment it’s ~7 button presses to get there every time.  A favourites menu would be god here.  There’s a lot of places where a little bit more thought could have been put into how people are really going to use this device.  Some settings are tucked away in the main settings, while some are accessed by pressing the “Option” button while watching TV. The core functions are great and are well thought out, it’s all the add-on bits that are a little bit rougher around the edges.

Overall a really good box that works well.  There’s certainly some areas for improvement, but none of them I’d consider defects, just things that can annoy you a bit.  There are cheaper boxes on the market that have the same capabilities (Especially the DishTV aerialBox T2200) but it they seem to be plagued with major firmware issues.

31 thoughts on “Review: Panasonic DMR-HWT260

  1. Yvonne Goold

    Hi Tim
    Thanks for your review, very helpful since I haven’t found any others.

    Have you tested out the “Smartphone Apps TV Anywhere – Remote Viewing ” feature which is meant to be accessing the eguide from your smartphone or via the internet, e.g. when travelling or not at home, to setup new programs or presumably change recording of existing Programs times/dates etc.
    regards
    Yvonne

    Reply
    1. Tim H Post author

      Hi Yvonne,
      I haven’t tested it I’m sorry. I looked at the reviews for the app on the Android app store and they all are pretty “this app is terrible, it never connects, it’s slow” etc, so I certainly wouldn’t make a decision to purchase based on this advertised feature.

      Reply
  2. Brent

    Hi Tim I was following the thread on geekzone which led me here. I have a 560 which is doing the black screen thing. Did you get it sorted and if so how?
    I’m still waiting a reply from Panasonic

    Thanks
    Brent

    Reply
    1. Tim H Post author

      No, haven’t heard back from Panasonic. It seems lots of people are affected though. Post a comment on that Geekzone thread and then we can ask Panasonic to have a look at it. It’s kind of annoying isn’t it! If it gets bad, rebooting the unit helps a lot.

      Reply
    2. Tim H Post author

      Hello Again Brent.
      Turns out Panasonic have been quite active and are looking into this. Can you send me your email address via the contact form and I’ll loop you into the debug effort.

      Thanks,
      Tim

      Reply
  3. IAN CARLISLE

    I Tim

    I have had the unit for 3 weeks and have only started noticing the black screen this week but it is a real deal breaker for me.

    it would be good to hear your latest from panasonic so I don’t feel i have to return it?

    thanks

    Reply
    1. Tim H Post author

      Hi Ian,
      Can you please send me (via the contact form on this site) your email address?
      I’ll see if I can get you in touch with Panasonic.
      No resolution as yet – they are working to figure out the issue.

      Reply
      1. Russell Wilson

        Hi Tim, I have purchased one of these units after giving back our MySky finally, and reading your review convinced me. I have had it in use about one month, and have just started getting the black screen when watching live TV. It is very, very annoying, and can only be fixed by turning off unit, and restarting.
        Have you heard anything further from Panasonic on this issue yet? My email is rjw1@ihug.co.nz and would be very appreciative if you could let me know where you are with it.
        Many thanks in anticipation.
        Cheers Russell

        Reply
        1. Tim H Post author

          HI Russell,

          The current fix most people are talking about is turning off the Freeview Plus in the menu. This apparently fixes the issue. Panasonic appear to have given up on helping here, all their commentary seems to suggest that it’s a problem with people’s signal, even though it can easily be proven it’s not (rewinding when you’ve seen a blank screen and replaying shows a perfect picture)

          I hope they address it, having to turn off Freeview Plus is quite an annoying hack (and I haven’t tested myself if it works)

          Also, not sure if the v1.02 firmware fixes it or not.

          Reply
          1. Russell Wilson

            Hi Tim, thanks for the reply. This may be a silly question, but do you know how to turn off Freeview Plus?

          2. Russell Wilson

            Hi Tim, the black screen business has been getting so frequent and annoying lately, that I had to contact Panasonic Customer Service. They advised that it is a Freeview Plus issue, not their machine, and gave me instructions on how to turn it off.
            I turned Freeview Plus off a week ago, and touch wood, the black screen issue has not happened since. I don’t know whose problem it is, but it shouldn’t be necessary to do this.
            Anyway, fixed for now.

          3. Tim H Post author

            Thank Russell.
            I find it hard to believe that the fault rests solely with Freeview. This is because when the issue is really bad, rebooting the unit fixes it. That said I don’t fully understand the interaction between FV+ and the Panasonic, so maybe this really is the cause. We use Freeview+ on a regular basis, so not something we’re willing to turn off.

            Thanks for the update! Here’s hoping for a final proper fix.

  4. Mike

    Hi
    Just got one of these boxes. For the most part pretty happy with the unit, pic quality fantastic, keyword recording serviceable, UI and simplicity of the box a bit to be desired but I can live with the latter after returning a dud humax. The one thing that I can’t figure out is padding time. From what I can see you can’t manually change this, rather the recordings are set in line with the guide. Am I going mad or am I missing something starring me in the face? I have used many boxes all with this function, could Panasonic not have this when every other pvr I have ever encountered does, I doubt it…….
    Can someone help me out here, sick of the end of my recordings being cut off

    Cheers

    Reply
    1. Tim H Post author

      Hi Mike,
      This is pretty easy, when selecting something to be recorded you can adjust both the start and the end time.
      You press the button to view, then “Single Timer Rec” then the screen that pops up after that you’re able to move around to adjust the start and finish times.

      Does that help? It’s pretty straightforward.

      You do have to do it for each recording (though a series link counts as one recording) so I guess it’s a bit of a pain, you can’t set a “padding” option.

      Reply
  5. Mike

    Hi Tim
    Yes it does help
    but, I still dont understand how you can do it on a series link.
    As I understand it there is the keyword record and then a record option to record at say 9pm every monday.
    In the first option there is no padding time, in the second there is but if the time of the program changes your out of luck.
    Is this correct?
    Thanks for the prompt response Tim

    Reply
  6. Pete

    Not happy, and here’s why. Why type of recorder in this day and age only has a RF input? I’ve got a satellite Freeview decoder and wanted a simple cheap HDD recorder to record from my decoder….just like my old VHS recorder would. But nope, it has zero inputs apart from the RF and it doesn’t pick up the RF output from my decoder…..probably because it’s not a digital signal any more.

    I just don’t get it, even 25 years ago VHS recorders had other inputs. If someone wants to save their home movies to this recorder, they can’t unless using a computer to put on USB first. I understand the unit has been made to serve a purpose, but it seems no thought has been put into other possible applications for an HDD recorder.

    Reply
  7. Will

    I have one of these machines. It records TV very well and the smartphone remote is great. One HUGE problem is that you cannot transfer recorded programs to a USB stick or even a USB Hard Drive to use with your PC or Mac. So you CANNOT keep a video on your PC or Mac from something recorded on this unit.

    Reply
    1. Tim H Post author

      Hi Will,
      That’s a valid point – I think this not the unit’s fault though but rather something that the content providers etc require. Otherwise it enables “easy” piracy.
      I’m sure we both realise this does nothing to actually stop piracy and serves only to annoy people, but I believe that is why the unit is crippled in such a way.

      Reply
  8. Spong

    Has the 1.02 firmware update, or perhaps changes to Freeview+ fixed the problem with intermittent screen blanking?

    Reply
    1. Tim H Post author

      Afraid it has not. The only fix at the moment is to disable Freeview Plus. Or reboot the unit, which seems to clear the issue for a while.

      Reply
  9. G Jackson

    Tim,you said about no volume button,you continued to say “people turn the amp right up “What do you meen??where is the amp ??,please explane ,thanks,G.

    Reply
    1. Tim H Post author

      All I meant was that you can’t change the volume up/down using the Panasonic itself. It outputs a single, constant volume. So if you want to change volume, you need to adjust it some other way, i.e. by turning up/down the volume on the TV itself, or if like us you have your audio coming from an AMP (well, a soundbar) then we need to have the soundbar remote control as well.

      That’s all I meant. It’s not a problem.

      Reply
  10. Peter Haigh

    I bought this unit to replace my Tivo which will be effectively obsolete come October (the over the air EPG will no longer be supplied). the unit seems to do most things OK, but there are several annoying things I have found;
    a) The remote seems poorly laid out and the buttons need to be pushed all the way down, which often leads to “did I push that properly” questions.
    b) To turn on live pause/rewind you must turn on automatic power off (which is quite bizarre). I split the signal line prior to input to the unit, and when the unit turns off automatically my other device (Tivo) fails to record cleanly.
    c) Compared to Tivo the interface is very dated and clunky, especially the mode it seems to go into when in live pause.
    It would seem that even though the Tivo itself is a bit dated and is about to be not supported anymore, there is little in the way of quality replacements, as this seems like a big step backwards.

    Reply
    1. Tim H Post author

      I’ve never used a TIVO, so I can’t comment on what it’s interface is like vs a TIVO.

      I agree the buttons on the remote are laid out badly, I am often hitting the “Guide” button when I am trying to press the down button in Netflix. It drops you back to the guide which is very frustrating, you have to press the Netflix button again and wait for it to load.

      Reply
  11. Jenny

    I also bought one of this to replace my TIVO. Any idea how to set the timer to record first run of the program only instead of recording all the repeats every time.

    Reply
  12. Steve J

    I had one of these for 2 days and ended up taking it back for a refund. The main problem I had was pausing live TV. No matter how many times I pushed the pause button nothing happened.
    The pause only worked when I eventually pushed the rewind live tv button. Then when it was paused none of the other functions on the remote control worked and you were stuck in there until I pushed stop and exited out of live pause. I rang panasonic as I thought it may have been faulty to be told that all pvr’s do that and it was impossible to do it how tivo or sky does it and that i had to just wear it. that was a big turnoff in itself !
    I found this really weird as the other 2 pvrs I have used were SkyTV and Tivo. You didn’t have to do any of that with them. When you pushed pause it paused straight away and everything else worked at the same time and you could change to the other tuner and the 30min buffer was waiting there as well.
    This was a deal breaker for me as quite often I go to make a drink, go to the toilet, answer the phone, talk to visitors etc etc. I normally just pause then start it up again when I come back or change channels and take advantage of the other 30 min buffer on the other channel.
    If you didn’t have to pause It would be ok I guess as the other functions seemed to be ok.

    Reply
    1. Tim H Post author

      Very strange!
      Pause works for us, though I agree it does take a few seconds before it actually works. You have to press pause and it seems like nothing happens for ~5 seconds, then it pauses. Not a great experience and not at all on par with Sky etc, which pause instantly.

      But it’s a small wart and we’ve just gotten used to it.

      Reply
      1. Steve J

        This was on the latest DMR-BWT760 with the latest firmware. I thought it was strange as well as I also had to say OK to start live pause as well. It may have been an error but thats how panasonic told me to do it as well. He kept on saying “go and read page 22 of the manual”

        Reply
  13. Gavin Greenwood

    Hello
    We have noticed a huge spike in internet data usage using, say, youtube, and would like to turn the streaming rate down. Cant seem to find any setting that will turn off 4K streaming.
    ANy thoughts?

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *