The big talking point from an operational point of view is the revolutionary new remote, designed to appeal to the iPad generation. It strips the physical button count down to just a few and plonks a touch pad in the middle. Sweeping your finger over the pad in various directions controls whichever menu is onscreen at the time, and tapping the middle takes the place of the enter key. There are no playback keys on the remote – just a series of onscreen context menus and virtual keypads. Alternatively, the ‘quick playback control’ method allows you to simply sweep your digit along the edges of the pad instead.
It takes a while to get used to, but once you do it’s fairly intuitive. Crucially the onscreen menus respond instantly to the touch pad, and for certain things navigation seems a little quicker than a traditional remote. On the downside, it’s very easy to hit enter by mistake when you intended to sweep your finger across the pad – we lost count of the times we selected the wrong menu option or messed up a password.
Above and below the touch pad are buttons giving direct access to Netflix, Skype and Viera Connect, plus a Keys button that calls up the onscreen controls. You can scroll through three menus, containing alphanumeric, menu control and playback buttons. It sometimes feels a tad long-winded calling up these menus to access a function that would have been a single press on a normal remote.
The onscreen displays are first class, particularly the Home menu. Not only is it easy on the eye, but works with rare ease and intuitiveness. As with the DMP-BDT310, the icons are laid out in a cross, and a single finger swipe on the pad takes you to the desired option, without hitting enter. We also like the Options menu, a scaled down version of the setup menu that can be accessed during playback.
Colourful graphics and comprehensible onscreen text makes this a deck that beginners can get to grips with immediately – even setting up things like Wi-Fi and browsing networked devices – plus the Viera Connect interface looks great (below), using large thumbnails for each app. It’s not as intuitive as Samsung’s Smart Hub though, which fits everything into one screen – these apps are spread over three pages and feels sluggish when moving between them.
Meanwhile, the new Multi User Mode allows up to four different people to store their own player preferences. Adjustable settings include the user icon (you can take a picture with the communication camera or upload from storage media), the home menu wallpaper (ditto), picture/sound settings and smartphone registration.
Finally, there’s an app that lets you control the BDT320 with smartphones (Android/iPhone/iPad), and use its keypad to enter text, which is quite long-winded when using the remote.