All-in-one systems are all about simplicity and user-friendliness, and the SC-BTT590 excels in both areas. Setup is easy, thanks to the colour-coded cables and terminals, and there’s no need to screw any speaker parts together as it’s all assembled in the box. Obviously things get a little more involved if you want to wall mount the speakers – the stands come off and there are keyhole fixings on the back of each one.
Panasonic SC-BTT590When you delve into the onscreen menus, the layout is highly impressive. Your starting point is the Home menu, which uses a grid of nine square icons. The graphics and fonts are gorgeous, with cute pastel colours keeping everything bright and breezy, and the yellow cursor moves from box to box with alacrity. Sadly it lacks the one-press operation of Panasonic’s Blu-ray players – there are too many options in the grid for that to work – but hitting enter is no great hardship. Like all of Panasonic’s 2012 Blu-ray gear there’s a Multi-User mode that lets you customise the look.
A handy Options menu lets you change a wide range of settings during playback without interrupting your movie. Other displays, like the music/video playback and setup menus, are more utilitarian, dressed in Panasonic’s customary yellow and grey colour scheme, which is starting to look a little tired. But we can’t fault the simplicity of the layout or the speed at which it responds to commands.Setting up the DLNA functionality is a breeze thanks to the Easy Network Setting wizard, and tweaking the speakers from the setup menu is easy, allowing you to alter the level and delay for each channel, but the lack of automatic calibration is surprising and would have simplified the process further.
Panasonic SC-BTT590Controlling the system with the supplied remote poses no problems – the exemplary button layout, its ergonomic shape, the chunky rubber keys and no-nonsense labelling make operation feel intuitive and natural. There’s no touch pad as found on some of Panasonic’s Blu-ray player remotes, but if you want to bring things into the 21st century then there’s an iPhone/iPad/Android app that lets you control the unit with your mobile device. We downloaded the free app on our iPad and it’s brilliant.
There are three screens – Controller, which mimics the real remote; Keypad for entering text; and Dial/Sound, which is dominated by a huge virtual volume dial that can be changed to a search wheel, a media selection dial or a multi-directional pad. It’s surrounded by various surround sound options and an animation showing you how each mode will affect the sound. But the really snazzy part comes when you tip the iPad horizontally – up pops a series of three retro displays, mimicking the look of hi-fi equipment from yesteryear, complete with metal switches and knobs.