I bought a DMR-ES45V from Costco to replace a Liteon LVC-9016G.
The Liteon has been great but it seems that about 10% of the movies I record run just a little longer than the Liteon can record in SP. So I had to chose between lower quality (LP) or the extra work and DVDs to split the movie onto 2 DVDs.
The Panasonic appeared to have two possible solutions to that problem: (1) it will burn DLs and (2) it has FR mode that compresses just enough to fit on a DVD. My hope was that FR mode would be a lot better quality than LP mode for content that was just slightly over 2 hours.
I have to say the Panasonic was a disapointment in those areas.
First, the DL support does NOT allow continuous recording from one layer to the next. Frankly, that makes the DL support next to useless except for people who don't have the space to store two SLs
As for the FR mode, I didn't really bother to test its picture quality because other shortcomings made it moot for my purposes. It seems the Panasonic will record no more than exactly 2 hours in SP mode. The Liteon records nearly 2 hours and 5 minutes on the various medias I have used. Since another 10% or so of the things I record run between 2 hours and 2 hours 5 minutes, the Panasonic actually increases the number of things I can't record in SP mode.
Like most Panasonics, this one records with a proptietary hybrid VBR mode. Unlike some Panasonics, this model doesn't appear to have any way to turn off Hybrid VBR. This isn't a problem if you never edit DVDs created on the Panasonic with your PC. Unfortunately, I do.
I sometimes record half hour TV programs to DVD+RW, collect 4 or 5 episodes, edit out comercials on the PC and reburn onto a single DVD. Since the Panasonic DVD content is not "standard" because of the Hybrid VBR, software such as NeroVision and others that normally don't have to, are forced to re-encode the content. That turns a 15 minute job that retains full picture quality into a 2 hour job that reduces quality.
If you never edit DVDs created on your set-top and rarely record anything just over 2 hours in length, the Panasonic may be a good choice. In theory the Hybrid VBR could result in a better picture. I made back to back recordings in SP mode from the same Dish DVR copy of a movie with the Panasonic and the Liteon and could not see any difference when played on the TV (480P) or on a 21" monitor on the PC. That isn't very scientific though, so YMMV. Since the Panasonic isn't acceptable for my needs I did not do the other test I planned which was to see if a 1.5 hour movie looked better when recorded in FR mode than in SP mode.
I have to say I really liked the Panasonic screen for title editing. And its ability to pick a frame for the menu thumbnails. The Liteon has separate screens for capital letters and lower case and a third one for special characters. The Panasonic has all on one screen. I'm not sure how the panasonic screen would look on a low-res small screen TV but its very nice to not have to keep switching screens. Same for being able to pick the frame used for menu thumbnails. The Liteon just takes the first frame. Since recodings usually start at a blank screen imediately before the content, all my menu thumbnails are black. LOL
A last note: I have been involved with user interface design and found the Liteon to be slightly better. Probably not too significant except for people who have a hard time with new gadgets.
Now I'm off to return the DMR-ES45VS.