The SC-BTT560 boasts a superb home cinema spec. It plays 3D Blu-ray discs, decodes Dolby True HD and DTS HD Master Audio soundtracks and kicks out a (claimed) power output of 1,000W courtesy of the jitter-reducing LincsD-Amp.
It’s also loaded with Panasonic’s usual line-up of network features, including the Viera Connect content portal. Its selection of apps includes BBC iPlayer, Netflix, YouTube, Skype, Facebook and Twitter, which is a decent selection but is no match for Samsung’s line up, which also throws in ITV Player, 4OD, Demand 5 and LoveFilm. Hopefully Panasonic will add some or all of these to next year’s systems.
Lower-profile apps, games and other fun stuff can be downloaded from the Viera Market section and added to the main Viera Connect screen. You can also buy hardware such as 3D glasses and Skype cameras here.
When hooked up to a network you can stream files from DLNA-compatible devices around the home, such as PCs, tablets and phones. Video-wise it’ll stream AVCHD, XviD, AVI, WMV and MP4 but not DivX or MKV (the latter is only supported via USB or disc). On the music side you can stream MP3, FLAC and WAV but not WMA or AAC, while JPEG and MPO photos can also be viewed.
Alternatively, all of the above files can be played from USB drives, plus AVCHD, MPEG-2, MP4, JPEG and MPO are supported from SD, SDHC and SDXC cards.
As ever there are lots of sound modes to play with, including Panasonic’s 3D Cinema Surround, which expands the perceived width and height of the soundstage using 25 virtual speakers. 7.1 Virtual Surround creates phantom surround back channels while Dolby Pro Logic II is on hand to convert stereo sources to 5.1.
These are complemented by a range of Equalizer modes (Flat, Heavy, Clear, Soft), four Subwoofer settings, H.Bass, Whisper Mode Surround and Centre Focus. For music playback Re-master adds brightness to the sound while Digital Tube Sound adds warmth.
SEE ALSO: More surround sound system reviews
All-in-one systems are all about simplicity, and thankfully the SC-BTT560 is as user-friendly as they come. Installation is more time consuming than some Panasonic systems because you need to screw the three-part front speakers together, but everything else is a breeze – speaker cables are colour-coded, rear sockets are well-labelled and the compact surround and centre speakers can simply be placed on any flat surface.
This blissful simplicity continues when you first fire it up. A setup wizard guides you through all the key settings like aspect ratio and speaker configuration, but anything else easily be tweaked in the straightforward yet thorough setup menu.
Onscreen presentation is attractive for the most part, particularly the Home menu and its warming pastel shades, crisp graphics and large lettering. The options are laid out in a grid of nine tiles, each one whisking you off to another submenu until you reach your desired function. It’s not the one-touch system employed by the DMP-BDT330 – there are too many options for that to work – but it’s still very easy to use.
Not all of the menus are laid out with such sophistication. iPod and USB playback menus revert to a blocky menu with basic colour schemes, while Viera Connect’s multi-page layout is slow and cumbersome to use – but on the whole presentation is impressive.
During movie playback, the Options button on the remote lets you adjust settings on the fly, rather than having to stop the movie and visit the setup menu. It provides access to all the sound modes listed earlier, plus 3D settings, playback modes and a range of picture presets. Select ‘User’ and you can adjust individual picture parameters yourself. Also on offer are Chroma Process, Detail Clarity and Super Resolution enhancements.
Panasonic hasn’t greatly changed its all-in-one system remote for a long time, which is testament to the quality of its design.
The rubber buttons are large and clearly labelled, while the clever layout means you can mostly navigate without looking – although it’s quite easy to accidentally press the ‘Home’ button instead of the Up key, which is massively annoying.
Alternatively, users of Android or Apple phones and tablets can download Panasonic’s free app and control the SC-BTT560 with the device.