We’ve covered Panasonic’s 2011 features extensively in our other recent reviews, but if you missed them here’s a recap. All of Panasonic’s Blu-ray systems are 3D-ready and will play the few discs that exist in glorious Full HD, supplying 1080p frames to the left and right eyes. However, you’ll need a compatible 3D TV to watch them on as well as a set of active shutter glasses, which in Panasonic’s case cost around £100. All of Panasonic’s systems and players also provide a range of adjustments for tweaking the look of the 3D image, including a controversial screen frame feature that puts a diffused border around the picture. It’s supposed to make it more comfortable to watch but we found it encroached on the image too much – thankfully it’s optional. You’ll also find depth and screen type adjustments.
The new Viera Connect internet portal found on Panasonic’s latest TVs has been shunned in favour of the Viera Cast system from last year, which counts YouTube, Picasa, Bloomberg and Twitter among its limited range of sites, but its entertainment value has been boosted considerably by the addition of Skype video calling. You’ll need the pricey TY-CC10W communication camera to use it (which costs as much as £120 from some online retailers) but it’s totally worth it – not only can you talk to family and friends through your TV, but other people can record messages onto an SD card and an auto answering message responds when you’re not there. It’s exceptionally easy to use thanks to the simple menus.
These online features are made possible by the built-in Wi-Fi adapter, a hugely convenient feature that eliminates the need for a cumbersome dongle (which in turn allows you to use the rear USB exclusively for the Skype camera). Once connected you can stream media content from networked PCs, as well as recordings sitting on the hard-disks of any web-enabled Panasonic recorders around your home. The list of supported formats isn’t as comprehensive as say, Samsung or LG, but should suffice for most users. It includes DivX HD, MKV, MP3 and JPEG, and the same formats are supported from USB devices, while JPEG, AVCHD and SD Video MPEG-2 are supported from SD cards.
On the audio side, the key feature is Cinema Surround Plus, which uses acoustic trickery to generate six virtual speakers in each of the horizontal and vertical planes, resulting in 22 speakers that provide a fuller and more encompassing soundstage. Another key feature is the use of a downward-firing subwoofer (as opposed to the side-firing subs used lower down the range) which uses the floor to generate more bass oomph. Those front speakers also utilise Anti-Distortion cones with an uneven thickness on the rear surface.
Like all of this year’s Panasonic Blu-ray kit, the SC-BTT370 features a newly revamped user interface, which makes it exceptionally easy to use. The main menu is presented in warm, welcoming colours and friendly icons. Sadly the number of functions it contains means Panasonic has had to abandon the ‘one-press’ navigation system found on its standalone players but even without it this is still one of the best menu systems around.
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The settings menu contains a comprehensive array of tweaks laid out in a straightforward list format, while the more complex features are simplified by graphics-based wizards and plain English instructions. The remote certainly doesn’t make life complicated, as its big, clearly-labelled buttons and thoughtful layout almost makes it possible to navigate with your eyes closed. You don’t have long to wait for discs to load either, as Panasonic has made huge strides this year – it’s dependent on the disc of course, but expect Terminator Salvation to fire up in 40 seconds and Inception to get going in around 30 seconds.