The SC-BTT400 feature list is similar to that of the SC-BTT500, except for a few omissions to keep the price down. The main casualty is built-in Wi-Fi, but you also miss out on the dock/USB connection for iPods and iPhone 5 as well as the HDMI inputs. But even without these there’s still plenty to get your teeth into.
As per usual there’s a plethora of Panasonic sound modes to play with. For movies, there’s 3D Cinema Surround, which adds 25 virtual speakers to the five real ones in a bid to expand the soundstage both vertically and horizontally. It’s joined by 7.1ch Virtual Surround and Dolby Pro Logic II for turning stereo sources into surround sound.
Elsewhere H.Bass boosts low frequencies, there are four Equalizer modes (Flat, Heavy, Clear and Soft) and Centre Focus attempts makes dialogue sound like it’s coming from the TV screen. There are four subwoofer settings (1-4) but we recommend not going any higher than 2 unless you want boomy bass.
You can also spruce up music with Digital Tube Sound (available in six different flavours) and Re-master, which offers a brighter, crisper sound. The system’s newly-designed Lincs-D digital amplifier rustles up a decent-sounding 1000W of power (160W per channel and 200W from the sub).
The built-in Blu-ray player does everything you’d expect – 3D playback, 1080p upscaling, HD audio decoding and bitstream output. It’ll also play a decent range of formats from USB devices, including AVCHD, AVI, Xvid, MP3, JPEG, MKV, FLAC, WAV and MPO.
Hook the system up to your router and you can stream files from DLNA-compliant servers on your home network. Supported formats include AVCHD, WMV, MP4, JPEG, MP3, AAC and FLAC, but not MKV, WAV or MPO and there’s no support for DivX at all. You can play AVCHD, MP4, MPEG-2, JPEG and MPO from SD/SDHC/SDXC cards.
Finally there’s Viera Connect, Panasonic’s internet content portal. Among the apps are BBC iPlayer, YouTube, Netflix, Facebook, Twitter, iConcerts, CNBC, Dailymotion, SHOUTcast, AUPEO! and Euronews. No doubt something here will pique your interest, but the selection isn’t a patch on Samsung’s Smart Hub, which adds ITV Player, 4oD, Demand Five and LoveFilm.
Using the Panasonic SC-BTT400 is a piece of cake for two main reasons – the simple yet attractive onscreen presentation and the thoughtfully-designed remote. Starting with the former, the ‘Home’ menu arranges options into a grid of panels, each one identified by a jazzy icon.
This screen lets you jump straight to music, movies or photos on any connected device or visit the setup menu. Subsequent submenus follow the same layout, segueing into each other by fading into the background. It’s blissfully simple and satisfyingly responsive. You can customise this menu for different users by changing the wallpaper and uploading an icon for each user.
Elsewhere an Options menu lets you investigate different settings while you’re enjoying movies or music – here you can activate the sound modes listed earlier and tweak the picture.
Among the picture presets (Normal, Fine, Soft, Cinema, Cartoon) is a User mode that lets you adjust brightness, contrast, sharpness, colour, gamma and noise reduction manually. Panasonic’s picture enhancements – Super Resolution, Detail Clarity and Chroma Process – are also found here.
The media playback menus are easy on the eye and the brain, although the blocky lists and basic colour palettes don’t always scream 21st century sophistication. Viera Connect could also do with a makeover given that its multi-page layout can be cumbersome to navigate.
On the remote, different groups of buttons are clearly demarcated – playback controls are coloured blue, for example, while the direction pad and related functions are nicely spaced out. Clear button labelling leaves no room for doubt and there are useful direct-access keys for Netflix, Viera Connect and Skype. All-in-all, an excellent remote.