The Panasonic SC-BTT182 does not come with built-in Wi-Fi – to get it you need to purchase a Panasonic wireless LAN adapter, which plugs into the USB port on the back. If you don’t, you can still access the online features by connecting the Ethernet port to your router, but it’s nowhere near as convenient. It’s worth connecting somehow though, as there’s plenty of content to explore.
Panasonic’s entire 2012 Blu-ray range now features Viera Connect as opposed to Viera Cast, which is decidedly a good thing. You can now access BBC iPlayer and Netflix as well as the usual YouTube, Acetrax, Facebook and Twitter apps. The selection still isn’t as good as Sony or Samsung’s web portals, but the mere presence of iPlayer should be enough to attract your attention. And don’t forget that you also get Skype video calling into the bargain, which is a terrific feature, but could involve a bit of USB jiggery pokery if you want to use it wirelessly (the LAN adapter will need to be relocated to the front).
And while online, you can also use the Panasonic SC-BTT182 to stream your media from Windows 7 PCs and other networked devices – including Panasonic’s DIGA recorders – thanks to its DLNA certification. Supported formats include MP3, JPEG, DivX, MKV, FLAC, WAV and MPO, although the list widens when you use the network drive feature, which enables playback from non-DLNA drives. The above formats can also be played back from USB devices, while AVCHD, MP4, MPEG 2, JPEG and MPO can be played back from SD/SDHC/SDXC cards.
Smartphone owners can use their device as a Digital Media Controller, accessing content from a server using the SC-BTT182 as a renderer. And with Panasonic’s snazzy new remote app installed on your iPad or iPhone, you can use it to control the system instead of the supplied remote.
There’s tons more to talk about. The Blu-ray player supports 3D and converts 2D discs to 3D, plus there’s a wide range of picture adjustments including five presets and a User mode that allows you to set levels of contrast, brightness, sharpness, colour, gamma, 3D and integrated noise reduction. Chroma Process, Detail Clarity and Super Resolution further enhance the picture, plus there’s also a dedicated set of 3D picture adjustments that allow you to find the most comfortable image for your eyes.
The audio highlight is 2.1ch Cinema Surround Plus, which is claimed to add 20 virtual speakers to the real 2.1 channels in order to muster a more enveloping sound in the horizontal and vertical planes – tenuously described as a match for the 3D pictures on screen. An equaliser with four presets, subwoofer level adjustments, H.Bass and Whisper Mode Surround let you tweak the sound further.
Getting the system ready for action is a piece of cake. Pre-attached plugs on the end of the supplied cables match up to the terminals on the back of the main unit – connect the other ends to the speaker springclips and away you go. The Easy Setting feature runs through all the key options from boot up, and with a LAN adapter connected network setup is a cinch thanks to the helpful onscreen guides. Calibration is a matter of tweaking the left/right balance and the subwoofer volume (conducted using the front display panel, not onscreen).
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From then on, operating the system is consistently easy. The main menu lacks the one-touch navigation of Panasonic’s Blu-ray players due to the greater number of icons it needs to pack in – therefore you have to select the option you want and hit enter in the traditional way. This Home menu is gorgeous to look at with crisp HD graphics and friendly colours.
The Options menu is a very helpful tool, allowing you to make changes to pictures and sound while a disc is playing – avoiding the annoyance of losing your place in the film. Looking like the scaled-down setup menu, it’s broken down into Operation, Personal Taste, Picture and Sound menus, and the layout is easy to follow.
The remote is pretty much the same as last year’s. The clear layout and labelling of the large rubbery buttons makes is a godsend, plus it’s peppered with useful keys that take you straight to often-used features including Internet, Netflix and Skype. Three buttons at the bottom provide convenient audio adjustments, while the playback keys are helpfully highlighted in blue.