Despite the drop in price, the Panasonic DMP-BDT220 retains built-in Wi-Fi, which is essential with so many internet-dependent features to explore. Chief among these is Viera Connect, the updated version of Viera Cast, which now brings an even more enticing range of internet content to your TV with the addition of BBC iPlayer and Netflix. Panasonic’s Blu-ray products have been crying out for iPlayer and its appearance finally makes Viera Connect a killer feature.
These new sites join Acetrax, YouTube, Picasa, Dailymotion, Facebook, Twitter and a whole host of lesser-known European services, while Skype allows you to make video calls through your TV with the optional communication camera (£120 approx). Another advantage Viera Connect has over Viera Cast is that you can add new apps using the Market feature, just as you can on Samsung's and LG’s equivalent services.
The Wi-Fi connection also allows you to stream content from DLNA media servers running Windows 7 on your home network – as well as recordings stored on networked Panasonic DIGA recorders. Compatibility is limited to the file formats supported by Windows Media Player (including MP3, JPEG, DivX, AVCHD, MKV, WAV and FLAC) when using DLNA, but the Panasonic DMP-BDT220 also lets you connect to non-DLNA NAS drives and play a wider range of formats.
Other network related functions include smartphone/tablet control and the ability to play media content on your smartphone from networked DLNA devices, using the DMP-BDT220 as the middleman. The BDT220 is also compatible with Wi-Fi Direct, lets you connect devices to the BDT220 without getting a router involved.
If you prefer a more local form of media playback, then the USB port allows you to play DivX, MKV, MP4, MPEG, JPEG, MPO, MP3, FLAC and WAV from storage devices up to 2TB in capacity. From SD (SDHC, SDXC) cards you can play AVCHD, AVCHD 3D, MP4, MPEG2, JPEG and MPO.
The Panasonic BDT220 is 3D-ready, with a range of adjustments that let you find the perfect 3D effect – including a feathered frame that diffuses the image at the edges and makes it more comfortable to watch. The deck can also turn 2D material into pseudo 3D, not only for DVDs but internet content too.
And like the BDT320 you get a range of picture enhancement modes, including Chroma Process, Detail Clarity, Super Resolution and two types of noise reduction. For audio, you’ll also find Night Surround, Re-Master and Dialogue Enhancer, but some of the sound modes found on the BDT320 are missing, including Digital Tube Sound and High Clarity Sound, making the BDT320 a better option for music lovers.
Thankfully the DMP-BDT220 is every bit as easy to use as its step-up sibling, with one major difference – it opts for a traditional all-button remote as opposed to the BDT320’s touch-pad zapper. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Innovative and intuitive as the touch pad is, we did find it easy to make mistakes and the reliance on virtual keypads felt long-winded at times. Here, it’s all controlled using hard keys with fewer margins for error. This is a classic Panasonic handset, using large rubber keys, clear labelling and a thoughtful layout.
Hats off to Panasonic for the onscreen menus, too. They’re crisp and shiny, doused in tasteful, welcoming colours and, most importantly of all, operate with the sort of intuitiveness that puts manual writers out of business. The main menu system, for instance, lays out its icons in a cross formation and one press of the direction pad takes you straight to that option. We saw it on last year’s players, but it’s still impressive.
Most of the other displays share this level of clarity and slickness, particularly the all-important Setup and Options menus (the latter allowing you to make tweaks as your disc plays). On the downside, Viera Connect is a touch on the sluggish side, but far from infuriating, and although the DLNA media menus are nicely laid out, it can be tricky to find particular tracks if your library is large.
One nice touch introduced this year is the Multi User Mode, which lets you personalise the onscreen layout for up to four different users. You can customise icons, wallpaper, picture and sound settings, plus you can link a smartphone to a particular user. But if you’re looking for the BDT320’s Smart Eco Sensor you’re out of luck – another casualty of the lower price.