One of the biggest benefits of paying the £70 premium for the SC-BTT362 is that you get built-in Wi-Fi. That means you don’t need to connect a cumbersome Ethernet cable or faff about with expensive USB adapters – simply hook up with your wireless router using the quick access point search and you can stream media from PCs, download BD Live extras and access Panasonic’s Viera Cast web portal.
Viera Cast provides access to a group of Internet applications, including YouTube, Picasa, Dailymotion, Bloomberg and Twitter. Not a great selection when compared to Sony or Samsung’s latest web widgets (roll on Viera Connect) but Viera Cast’s worth has been considerably boosted by the addition of Skype video-calling. It’s a lot of fun to play with and presented in a series of lively, simple menus.
As well as chatting with other Skype users anywhere in the world, the system will also play an answering message when you’re not there and allow people to leave messages on an SD card (although the firmware will need updating for that). On the downside, you need to buy Panasonic’s TY-CC10W communication camera to use the feature, which could set you back around £120.
You can also use the BTT362 to stream media from networked Windows 7 PCs, as well as remotely accessing programmes stored on the HDD of a Panasonic DIGA recorder. The system supports DivX HD, MKV, MP3, JPEG and MPO formats from USB devices, plus MPEG-2, AVCHD, JPEG and MPO from SD/SDHC/SDXC cards.
Elsewhere you get all the other features that we’ve already checked out on Panasonic’s other systems and players, such as Digital Tube Sound, High Clarity Sound and a range of DSP modes including H.Bass, Subwoofer Level and 7.1-channel Virtual Surround. And as expected it’ll decode Dolby TrueHD and DTS HD Master Audio (even though you don’t get the full 7.1-channel benefits), while the Clear Sound Digital Amplifier musters 520W of power (2 x 160W for the fronts and 200W from the sub).
Last but not least the system will also convert 2D movies into 3D, and there’s a range of adjustments for 3D viewing, including depth, screen type and screen frame settings. The latter adds a diffused border around the picture, supposedly making it easier to watch, but we find it a little distracting.
Installation is over in a matter of minutes thanks to the colour-coded speaker cables, although you do have to screw the stands onto the front speakers. Panasonic’s new onscreen menu design makes the SC-BTT362 a dream to use. The graphics are stunning, showing a grid of hi-res icons that make it easy to find any of the system’s functions. The BTT362’s main menu lacks the one-touch simplicity of Panasonic’s standalone players because there are too many functions to make it work. So you have to select what you want and hit enter, but it works so slickly that it’s really not a problem.
In fact, we really can’t fault any of the displays or the remote, as Panasonic’s tried and trusted formula of chunky buttons, large lettering and an intuitive layout has been deployed to great effect once again.