Much like its predecessor, the BDT310 produces 3D images of the highest order. Of course it helps when you watch them on one of Panasonic’s excellent plasmas (in this case, the TX-P46VT20) – when you do, the kaleidoscopic Pandoran landscapes on the 3D version of Avatar come to life in the most breathtaking way possible.
Scenes such as Jake’s ‘First Sortie’ into the jungle are a showcase for everything that’s great about 3D – creatures glide past the camera so closely you can almost touch them without seeming blurred or distorted, and as the chopper dips over the waterfall the sense of depth is so convincing you can feel vertigo taking over.
Later, the Battle for Pandora scene is equally jaw-dropping, with the TV and player reproducing the onslaught of fast-moving objects with effortless composure and no blur or crosstalk to speak of. What this Panasonic partnership also brings to the party are deep, punchy blacks and rich, vibrant colours, not to mention meticulously rendered detail, making everything from the delicate textures of plant life to close-up facial shots look scintillatingly sharp.
We had a play around with the 3D settings, and the jury’s still out on the Screen Frame feature. If you’re bothered by the 3D picture stopping abruptly where it meets the bezel, then you’ll love they way it diffuses and softens the sides of the picture. You can even change the width and the colour. But we never found this to be a problem and with the frame activated it eats up too much of the picture, which can be distracting. If you agree, simply don’t use it.
Switch to 2D discs and the images are equally impressive. The deck makes movies look clean and crisp, plus none of the test patterns on Silicon Optix’s HQV disc troubles its video processors. When converting 2D to 3D, the results are mixed. Some movies, such as the 2D version of Avatar, look great thanks to their more obvious visual cues, but the deck struggles to bring extra depth to Inception, not helped by some distracting ghosting in the picture. It only convinces when the buildings start to explode on the Paris street – shards of stone and glass have a clearer sense of depth and layering.
Thanks to those added audio features, the DMP-BDT310 makes a terrific music player. Through the HDMI port and analogue outputs, CDs sound clean, well-balanced and free from obvious distortion. We tried out Digital Tube Sound and given that DSP modes like this are often a waste of time we were pleasantly surprised by the results, which appear to give CD playback greater depth and richness.
If you’re sold on the idea of 3D and have a fairly sizeable budget, the DMP-BDT310 is one of the best players you can buy. The main attraction is the extensive feature list, which has been enhanced this year by the inclusion of Skype (if you can stretch to the pricey camera), iPhone control and 2D-to-3D conversion – alongside all the other features that made its predecessor such a success. We’re also big fans of the new onscreen menus, the external design and the sumptuous, immersive 3D images.
On the downside, 2D conversion isn’t quite the killer feature you’d expect, and Viera Cast could still do with a few more sites to turn it into an essential feature – roll on Viera Connect. But this molehill of negatives is dwarfed by the mountain of positives, and for that reason the DMP-BDT310 gets an unequivocal thumbs up.