Thanks to technology developed at Panasonic Hollywood Labs (PHL), the company’s Blu-ray players consistently deliver top-drawer picture quality. And the DMP-BDT320 certainly doesn’t buck the trend. Its 1080p image quality is sensational, achieving the levels of depth, sharpness and lucidity that home cinephiles long for.
It has absolutely no trouble teasing out the subtle detail from Rise of the Planet of the Apes, from the wrinkles and creases of Caesar’s scarily realistic face to the leaves and branches of his playground at Muir Woods. Strands of fur are easily distinguishable, while clothing has a remarkably life-like texture.
But it’s the deck’s colour handling that really gives it the edge over its rivals. The Adaptive Chroma Processing handles the vertical and horizontal colour data – increasing the amount of vertical data by 1.5 times compared with the 2010 players – resulting in colours that not only look faithful and natural, but effortlessly deep and vibrant when the scene demands it. The finest textures and details are cleanly and accurately presented with no obvious aliasing artefacts, while tonal gradations and delicate shading are beautifully rendered. We’ve rarely seen this disc look better.
What’s more, the apes’ movement is fluid and judder free, likewise camera pans across tricky buildings, and try though we might we couldn’t spot any jaggies or edge noise. This stellar 2D movie performance is backed up by a near flawless run-through of the Silicon Optix HQV disc. Every test pattern was smoothly and confidently displayed, apart from the Film Resolution SMPTE pattern, which suffered some slight flickering – but its handling of the camera pan across Raymond James stadium is exceptionally smooth.
We were also blown away by its 3D performance, which benefits from absorbing depth and exceptional clarity. Even through dimmed glasses, bright colours have irresistible punch and detail remains razor sharp.
Sadly Panasonic hasn’t quite made the great strides in disc loading time we hoped for – Terminator Salvation still takes 44 seconds to load up, although Apes swung onto the screen in just 24 seconds.
The DMP-BDT320 is also a safe pair of hands with music, offering a well-balanced, rhythmic and detailed presentation of Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue, keeping the trumpet solos smooth and not too bright. We may be in the minority but we quite like the extra depth afforded by Digital Tube Sound processing.
As expected the DMP-BDT320 is yet another wonderful Blu-ray player from Panasonic, ironing out some of the niggles from last year’s models and adding enough new features to keep punters interested. The new exterior design gets the thumbs up, and the upgrade to Viera Connect makes Panasonic’s internet offering more essential than ever. We’re also blown away by its picture quality and the super-intuitive onscreen design.
The jury’s still out on the new touch pad remote though, which can sometimes frustrate, plus the usual grumble about Panasonic’s pricey communication camera applies, which might stop you taking advantage of the brilliant Skype feature. And although they work well, the DLNA music menus and Viera Connect are a touch slower to navigate than they should be. But despite that, the DMP-BDT320 is still a premier league player with performance and features that will no doubt put most of its 2012 rivals to shame.