The DMP-BDT310 is pretty much plug ‘n’ play. Once you’ve connected the cables and slotted it into place, it boots up quickly and operates with pleasing speed. Much of the credit for its exceptional ease of use must go to the newly revamped operating system. The main menu uses a control mechanism so brilliantly simple it’s surprising no-one’s done it before – the available options (setup, DLNA, play Blu-ray etc) are represented by icons laid out in a cross, corresponding to the up, down, left, right keys on the remote. One press takes you to that menu – piece of cake. The next screen appears without hesitation, making navigation much quicker than on previous Panasonic players.
In fact, all of the menus are beautifully presented, but never at the expense of clarity and logic. Browsing up content from networked PCs is easy enough thanks to the sensibly structured lists, although some sort of search feature would help when trying to find a particular album or video.
Viera Cast looks virtually the same as before, using a group of thumbnails spaciously arranged around the screen – you can move to the next page of sites using the arrows in the middle. The big, bubbly icons and bright colours used by the Skype interface makes it extremely simple to make calls. Entering passwords is as time-consuming as ever using the virtual keyboard and remote, but that’s only to be expected.
The Settings menu poses no problems, especially when it comes to network setup. That’s all thanks to the Network Easy Settings wizard, which takes you through the process step by step. And it may be a minor point but the Wi-Fi range is impressive, locking onto the signal from a garden office through several brick walls. It dropped out a few times, but that it connected at all is a bonus.
Panasonic’s remote is as good as ever, boasting the same foolproof layout and clear labelling as before. Helpfully all of the key features, such as Viera Cast, 3D settings, Skype and, er, picture-in-picture are given dedicated buttons, arranged in a row towards the top. Just one slight niggle – the Home button is parked dangerously close to the menu control key, which caused a few unintentional visits to the main menu.
Disc loading isn’t quite down to DVD speed but getting there – it fires up Terminator Salvation in around 40 seconds but less stubborn discs can take around 30 seconds.