Review Price £499.99
In terms of internet content and networking functionality, the feature list is pretty much identical to that of the DMP-BDT320 standalone player. Using the system’s built-in Wi-Fi you can access Viera Connect and its selection of web applications, including BBC iPlayer, Netflix, YouTube, Picasa, Eurosport, Acetrax, Facebook and Twitter. It’s a decent selection, with iPlayer being the clear headline-grabber, but it could do with a couple more catch-up TV services like it. You do get Skype however, which is a worthwhile venture if you have any budget left for the optional camera.
As for network functionality, you can stream music, videos and photos from Windows 7 PCs and devices with other operating systems (such as NAS drives) through the separate Network Drive Connection menu. File compatibility is good, with FLAC, DivX HD, AVCHD, WMV and MKV among the list of supported formats. If you have Panasonic DIGA HDD recorders elsewhere in the house you can stream recordings to this system.
Smartphone or tablet owners are also in for a treat. Not only can you use your device to access media from a DLNA server using the SC-BTT590 as a renderer, but you can also install Panasonic’s 2012 remote app and control every aspect of the system’s functionality (see ‘Operation’ for more on that).
These features are joined by the usual suspects – 3D compatibility with manual image adjustments and 2D-to-3D conversion, which works with any content including online videos, plus media playback from flash drives and external HDDs via the front USB port. AVCHD, JPEG, MPEG-2 and MPO are supported from SD, SDHC and SDXC cards. There’s also an FM radio on board.
There’s plenty to talk about on the audio side too. Inside the front and rear speakers are a film capacitor, which cuts low frequencies from the tweeter to enhance high frequency reproduction. The 80mm woofer cone is fashioned from Bamboo Charcoal PP (polypropylene), which it says offers a faster, clearer sound than the all-bamboo cones used in past Panasonic systems. They also use an Anti-Distortion Structure with an uneven thickness for the rear surface of the cone, which is said to suppress resonance, while the Double Motion Damper improves the long-stroke performance of the speaker unit.
The crossover between the subwoofer and sats has been lowered to 100Hz and the Anti-Jitter Digital Amplifier aims to improve music performance over the HDMI output (based on the MASH noise shaping technology of Panasonic and Technics products of yesteryear) by correcting inaccuracies in the source and amplifier clocks.
And as ever the system is packed with the usual wide range of sound modes. Chief among these is the 3D Cinema Surround, the updated version of last year’s Cinema Surround Plus, which adds 25 virtual speakers to the real 5.1 channels (up from last year’s 17). It’s joined by Digital Tube Sound – Panasonic’s stab at recreating the warm sound of a vacuum tube amplifier – and High Clarity Sound Plus, which shuts down unnecessary circuitry when playing back music.
Other tweaks include equaliser presets, H.Bass, Whisper Mode Surround and Centre Focus, which makes dialogue it sound like it’s coming from the middle of the screen. Naturally the system decodes Dolby True HD and DTS HD Master Audio, and will expand stereo sources using Dolby Pro Logic II. There are plenty of picture modes to experiment with too, including user adjustments and presets, noise reduction, Chroma Process, Detail Clarity and Super Resolution.