Many of the DMP-BDT310’s features were explored in our DMP-BDT110 review so we’ll only touch upon them here, but this model adds several other features that go some way towards justifying the £70 premium over the BDT110. The dual HDMIs, Touch-Free Sensor and built-in Wi-Fi are just three of them.
Another feature peculiar to the BDT310 is Digital Tube Sound, which aims to replicate the warm sound associated with vacuum tube amplifiers, primarily intended for music playback. It’s joined by High Clarity Sound, which turns off all of the analogue video circuitry in order to reduce interference and therefore deliver a clearer, cleaner sound. The final addition is the Playback Information Window, an onscreen display that shows you every last detail about the disc you’re watching and your current settings.
As for the other features, the DMP-BDT310 is DLNA certified and can stream video, music and photos from Windows 7 PCs and NAS drives on your home network, as well as programmes stored on Panasonic DIGA recorders with similar streaming functionality in other rooms.
Also on board is the Viera Cast internet portal, a ring-fenced collection of websites including YouTube, Picasa, Bloomberg, Twitter and a host of European sites that will be of little interest to most UK users. It’s a reasonable selection, but the service needs a few more catch-up TV and social networking services like BBC iPlayer and Facebook to compete with Sony’s Bravia Internet Video or Samsung’s Smart Hub. For that reason, it’s a shame that the new Viera Connect system hasn’t yet found its way onto this year’s Blu-ray decks.
However, Skype is a very welcome addition to the Viera Cast roster. With the optional communication camera/microphone attached (which will set you back around £120) you can make video calls to other Skype users, which is quite an appealing thing to do from the comfort of your armchair. If someone rings while you’re watching a movie, you’ll hear a ringtone and see the ‘Call’ sign light up on the front panel. If you’re not there, an auto answering message will play, and from April an update will be available that will allow callers to record video messages on an SD card. It’s a superb feature, the sort of thing more manufacturers would do well to embrace.
iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch owners can also download a free app that enables control of the DMP-BDT310 from their device, performing some functions that the supplied remote can’t. It works with Gesture and Scrub and as an added bonus you can also access content on a network from an Apple device.
Next we come to the new 3D features, chief among which is 2D-to-3D conversion, which attempts to add extra depth perception to 2D Blu-ray discs or DVDs. There’s also a selection of 3D Effect controls, allowing you to change the depth (‘distance’) of the image and change the screen type (Flat or Round) to eliminate discomfort at the sides of the screen where it meets the bezel. The most bonkers setting, however, is Screen Frame, which adds a border all the way around the image in a bid to make it more comfortable to watch, but it ends up being more distracting than helpful.
So many features, so little space, but in brief you’ll also find Dolby TrueHD and DTS HD Master Audio decoding, a series of picture enhancements and presets, and support for DivX HD, MKV, MP3, JPEG, WMV and AVCHD from USB (plus MPEG-2, JPEG, MPO and AVCHD from SD cards). There’s no built-in memory for BD Live downloads, so you’ll need to insert a 1GB SD card for that.