We’ve been absolutely bombarded by Panasonic products recently, testament to the breadth of its home cinema range and the proactiveness of its PR team. The latest product we’re having a gander at is the Panasonic SC-BTT190, the entry-level 5.1-channel Blu-ray system which combines a 1000W Blu-ray receiver with five compact satellites and a passive subwoofer. Think of it as the 2.1-channel SC-BTT182 expanded to a full 5.1 system.
As an entry-level system it lacks some of the embellishments found on the step-up SC-BTT290, but if you can live without them you save yourself £49, which you can spend on a couple of Blu-ray discs. And even with those omissions, the Panasonic SC-BTT190 is still a solid one-box system that gets you all the home entertainment basics in one go at a much lower price than separates.
The Panasonic SC-BTT190 brings nothing new to the table aesthetically, but won’t let your living room down either. The gloss-black finish of the Blu-ray receiver’s fascia gleams nicely in the light and looks neutral enough not to clash with other black components in your system, while the 47mm height keeps it nice and slim. The aluminium bodywork elsewhere is pleasing, bringing a sense of solidity to the back end, yet up-close that fascia has an element of cheapness about it, which isn’t the case on systems higher up Panasonic’s range.
For starters, there’s no flap – the USB port and SD card slot are exposed the whole time – and unlike the Panasonic SC-BTT290, there’s no integrated iPod dock, which leaves a large blank space where it would have been. Instead, the USB port provides a direct connection for Apple devices, and these can be controlled onscreen. There are a few buttons dotted along the top, while an LED display gives pertinent information in large digits.
The rear panel houses a limited line-up of sockets, again reflecting this system’s entry-level position. Most telling is the lack of HDMI inputs, which makes it more difficult to run other components like digital TV boxes and games consoles through the system. You do get optical digital and analogue stereo inputs, but you’ll have to connect the video separately, which is less convenient than hooking up a single HDMI cable. Of course, there is an HDMI v1.4 output, which supports Full HD 3D pictures, an Ethernet port and aerial input for the FM radio.
You also get a second USB port, which has to be shared between the wireless LAN dongle and Skype communication camera (both optional extras) as Wi-Fi isn’t built in. Working out what goes where might get a bit tricky – if you want to use Skype via Wi-Fi, the camera has to go in the front port – so if you don’t like faffing about then this might be a compelling reason to upgrade to the model-up SC-BTT290.
The speakers are incredibly compact, each one measuring just 139mm high. That’s great news if you want to place them around the lounge without impinging on your living space. The gloss black finish is also very alluring, likewise the circle surrounding the 6.5mm full range driver. The centre speaker is longer and horizontally configured to fit in front of your TV, with a Piezo type super tweeter to accompany its full range driver.
But on a more negative note they also feel light and hollow, lacking the heft you’d get from a dedicated speaker package, but that’s par for the course.