The second USB port (at the rear) is provided for the optional DY-WL10 wireless LAN adapter, which will set you back about £80. Invest in one, and you’ll be able to download BD Live content and explore the system’s networking features without a wire in sight. These include Viera Cast – a range of online apps such as YouTube, Picasa and Bloomberg – and MP3, DivX and JPEG streaming from DLNA-certified devices. You can even stream recordings from networked Panasonic recorders elsewhere in the house.
Although the inclusion of Viera Cast is always welcome, its limited content could be an issue for true entertainment junkies. It simply pales in comparison to the abundance of quality content on Sony’s BRAVIA Internet Video or Samsung’s Internet@TV, and the lack of BBC iPlayer will be a turn-off for many.
The multimedia support doesn’t stop there. You can also play DivX HD, MP3 and JPEG files from USB as well as AVCHD, JPEG and MPEG-2 (SD Video) from SD, SDHC and SDXC cards. Additionally, an integrated iPod/iPhone dock situated just above the front panel gives you another audio source to play with, and the beauty is that you can control it using the system’s remote.
Elsewhere, there’s plenty more to discover. If you’re feeling flush you can purchase the SH-FX71 wireless kit for the rear speakers and take a few cables out of the equation, but this will make your wallet another £100 lighter.
A new feature on this year’s systems is the Audio Return Channel, which allows the system to receive sound from your TV via HDMI without having to rig up a separate cable, but it requires an ARC-compatible TV. This suggests the HDMI chipset is v1.4 but there’s no mention of any future 3D compatibility. The system also decodes the full gamut of HD audio formats, while a range of DSP modes (such as H.Bass, Centre Focus and four EQ presets) allows you to spice up the sound further.
Unsurprisingly this system is extremely easy to set up thanks to the sensibly colour-coded cables and the Easy Setup onscreen wizard – we had it rigged up in under 10 minutes. There is, however, no auto calibration, so sonic fine-tuning is down to you and your ears. Each channel is individually adjustable and built-in test tones help to judge the settings.
Everything else, including the potentially tricky network setup, is straightforward, with the friendly, logical onscreen menus making everything easy to find and explaining things that you may not understand straight away. You also get one of Panasonic’s typically no-nonsense remotes, with large buttons, intuitive layout and excellent labelling.