As we discovered with the BDT310 and BDT110, Panasonic’s new operating system is a revelation. The changes are small but significant – on the main menu, instead of making you move the cursor to an option then hitting OK, you simply hit the button on the remote that corresponds to the virtual button onscreen and it goes there instantly, cutting the time it takes to get to the function you want. The graphics are gorgeous and the whole thing operates with a slickness missing from many Blu-ray players.
The settings menu is similarly easy to use, laying out its options in a straightforward list with a sensible submenu structure. Potentially complicated features are demystified by onscreen animations and wizards, while the folder-based menus for media streaming and USB playback are simple enough – although wading through thousands of tracks with the remote can be a chore.
Talking of which, the remote is up to Panasonic’s usual user-friendly standards, with the large, rubbery buttons laid out in a spacious arrangement, all of which are clearly labelled. It’s not backlit but otherwise you can’t really ask for more from a remote.
Unsurprisingly the DMP-BDT210’s Blu-ray pictures look every bit as good as that of the BDT310 and BDT110, as it uses the same PHL-developed image tech – including the Adaptive Chroma Processing that makes such a difference to the faithfulness of colours and textures. That pays dividends when viewing the gorgeous visuals of Avatar, which is reproduced with dazzling clarity and depth. The pictures are beautifully nuanced and teeming with detail, which really helps during shots of Pandora’s creatures and rainforest landscapes – the textures and patterns look crisper and clearer than ever.
Switch over to the 3D version of the movie and it’s even more jaw-dropping, with the BDT210’s composed layering creating a deep, immersive picture. Shots of forests and floating mountains boast a believable sense of distance, and as ever there’s very little crosstalk or motion blur when viewed on one of Panasonic’s 3D plasmas. The deck also does a great job at turning the 2D version of Avatar into 3D, but it fails to convince with other discs not primarily designed to be viewed in 3D. Only one or two moments in Inception look pretty good – the shattering buildings scene for example – but the rest of it looks fairly flat.
We’re also impressed by the quality of the deck’s DVD upscaling, thanks to the on-board P4HD processing. And from an audio perspective, this deck boasts all the same sound modes found on the DMP-BDT310. The best is Digital Tube Sound, designed to add extra warmth to music playback, while High Clarity Sound shuts down analogue video circuitry for cleaner audio reproduction.
If you want 3D and HD audio but your AV receiver lacks HDMI v1.4 inputs, then the flagship DMP-BDT310’s dual HDMI outputs will be a godsend. But if your receiver is 3D-ready then why not save yourself some cash and pick up the BDT210 instead. The second HDMI may be missing but all of the other features are left intact, such as Skype, iPhone control, 2D-to-3D conversion and DLNA networking – making it excellent value for money. We’re also enamoured by its gorgeous picture quality, which dazzles whether you load a 2D or 3D disc.
It’s not perfect though. Viera Connect can’t come to the Blu-ray range soon enough, the 2D conversion feature isn’t firing on all cylinders yet and you’ll need deep pockets to take advantage of the Skype feature. But that aside this is yet another top-notch Blu-ray deck from the Panasonic stable.