Once again, the DMP-BDT110 features the picture technology developed by Panasonic Hollywood Labs (PHL), including Adaptive Chroma Processing, which processes colour information for every pixel in the vertical and horizontal planes to achieve more faithful reproduction than previous players. The same wizardry has been applied to 3D pictures, and as demonstrated to us at a recent briefing at Panasonic HQ, this can actually help boost the overall clarity and believability of 3D images.
You can see that as soon as a 3D image pops up on screen. Using Panasonic’s TX-P46VT20 as a test TV, our 3D Avatar disc looks absolutely sensational, an explosion of dazzling colours, pin-sharp detail and crosstalk-free layering that adds up to an effortlessly immersive viewing experience.
The whole movie is a procession of ‘wow’ moments, but a stand-out scene is the ‘First Sortie’ chapter, which shows the team flying in a helicopter and touching down in the forest. The sense of depth and perspective of the various flocks of flying creatures, coupled with the crispness and lack of blur in the image, is highly impressive. Likewise the shot of the chopper landing – the forest really does appear to reach right back from the foliage in the foreground to the distant scenery peeking through gaps in the trees.
You may be surprised by the quality of the deck’s 2D-to-3D conversion, which isn’t quite a mesmerising as ‘real’ 3D but still conjures up a sense of depth. The 2D Avatar disc comes close to the 3D version’s magic, although the deck doesn’t really impress with movies like Inception and Iron Man 2, failing to ‘lift’ objects away from the background and suffering from ghosting along edges.
Next we tried out the screen frame feature. Now, the way a 3D picture meets the edge of the screen isn’t something we’d even considered until Panasonic pointed it out, making it feel like a solution to a problem that never existed. In fact, the frame actually seems a little intrusive, eating up precious screen space in a way that’ll give movie purists the shivers. But there’s no harm in the feature being there (you don’t have to use it after all) and we applaud Panasonic for at least trying to provide a bit of extra flexibility.
2D pictures are almost as spellbinding as 3D, with a pristine pixel transfer ensuring meticulous detail reproduction and smooth, natural colours. And with the Silicon Optix HQV disc, the DMP-BDT110 has absolutely no trouble with any of the key tests, displaying them with stability and minimal artefacts.
One last thing to report on picture quality – Panasonic has tried to improve the look of compressed video from YouTube, and after watching a few clips the pictures do look a little better than usual, but not much.
What we have here is a first-rate Blu-ray deck from Panasonic, which combines a plethora of user-friendly features with a terrific new operating system and amazing picture quality.
The only things that rankle are the lack of built-in Wi-Fi, which would sort out the shared USB problem when adding a dongle and Skype camera; the lack of must-have sites on Viera Cast (too much useless European content for our liking); the fact that 2D-to-3D conversion isn’t particularly convincing with movies that weren’t shot in 3D in the first place; and the bizarre screen frame feature.
But none of these things is a deal-breaker, and with such a generous feature list you really are getting a lot for 150 quid – although bear in mind that the Skype camera and wireless adapter could add up to £200 more to the price, so you might want to weigh up whether it’s worth opting for the DMP-BDT310 instead.