- Superb picture quality
- Versatile mounting options
- Generous features
- Clumsy touchpad remote
- Finding DLNA tracks difficult
- Viera Connect’s clunky interface
- Review Price: £279.99
- 3D Blu-ray playback
- Compact design with four mounting options
- Viera Connect
- DLNA support
- Built-in Wi-Fi
We all know what a Blu-ray player looks like, right? Big black box about 40cm wide? Wrong.
With the DMP-BBT01, Panasonic is ripping up the rulebook with a cute compact design that’s ideal for the bedroom and other places where space is tight. But practicality is only half the story – it’s also uniquely stylish thanks to a versatile tabletop stand that allows you to place it vertically, horizontally or floating off the table.
The player itself measures 179mm wide – about half the size of a regular Blu-ray player – and it’s remarkably slim to boot. The weighty square-shaped unit is more solid than Womack and Womack and luxuriously styled with mirrored panels around the sides and the same black dappled top panel that graced the DMP-BDT320.
You can place the unit horizontally on a flat surface as it is, but for added panache you can attach the supplied plastic stand in three different ways, locking it sturdily into the relevant holes on the player. The quirkiest is horizontal diagonal placement, which points the player upwards at an angle, while the more OCD among you can place it square-on to the stand. The vertical option involves disconnecting the two parts of the stand and using one of them as a cradle.
On the front of this cute little box is a disc slot, one of many funky aesthetic features, joined on the front right corner by touch-sensitive power and eject controls. The right side panel is a flap that drops down to uncover a row of LEDs in place of a full display panel (these shine through tiny holes in the flap when closed) plus an SD card and a USB port – exactly the same line-up of auxiliary connections you’ll find on Panasonic’s full-size players.
Inevitably though, the player’s size means the amount of other connections has taken a hit. Naturally there’s an HDMI output, which is fully geared up for high-bandwidth 3D output, alongside an Ethernet port and optical digital audio output – but that’s all.
The DMP-BBT01’s dimensions might be small but the amount of features certainly isn’t. Basically, it offers all of the same tricks as the DMP-BDT320, including internet content on tap and DLNA network streaming – all of which can be accessed using the built-in Wi-Fi connection or the Ethernet port.
Having access to Viera Connect is always a good thing. Making its debut on Panasonic’s Blu-ray range this year, the upgraded service now includes BBC iPlayer, putting the Beeb’s wealth of top-notch programmes (and The Voice UK) at your disposal. Meanwhile Netflix lets you stream movies and whole series of TV shows directly to your TV for a reasonable £5.99 per month. Skype is another key feature, allowing you to make video calls using the optional communication camera.
YouTube provides your fix of ranting idiots and performing animals, plus there’s a range of other less exciting sites like Acetrax movie streaming, Picasa photo viewing and Dailymotion. It’s all accessed from a slightly clunky interface that shuffles from page to page, instead of putting everything on a single screen. You can add new services when available through the Market on the home page.
Elsewhere you can stream music, video and photos from Windows 7 devices on your home network, and access them from your smartphone or tablet (using the Panasonic as a renderer). You don’t even have to use your router as it supports Wi-Fi Direct. But for any non-DLNA devices on your network, use the separate Network Drive feature, which supports a wider range of file formats than those handled by Windows 7. If you own a DLNA-compatible Panasonic recorder, the player can stream recordings from that too. There’s even an Apple/Android remote app that lets you control the unit in place of the supplied remote.
USB devices can be connected to the side-mounted port for playback of DivX HD, MKV, MP4, MPEG-2, JPEG, MPO, FLAC, MP3 and WAV. The SD card slot, meanwhile, supports AVCHD, AVCHD 3D, MP4, MPEG-2, JPEG and MPO.
The player also comes equipped with a range of picture presets and 3D settings, sound modes like Digital Tube Sound and High Clarity Sound Plus, which shuts down non-essential circuitry for cleaner audio playback. Dolby True HD and DTS HD Master Audio tracks can be passed to AV receivers as bitstream or PCM.
To control the DMP-BBT01, Panasonic has supplied one of its new touchpad remotes, the same one that accompanies the DMP-BDT320. This is designed to make controlling the player feel all modern and iPhone-esque, allowing you to navigate menus by swiping and tapping. But by introducing this remote Panasonic has broken one of life’s cardinal rules – if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. Panasonic’s remotes were always super-simple to use, yet this new zapper feels like a bit of a step backwards.
While it’s not a complete disaster, it certainly has its idiosyncrasies. For example, it very often mistakes a swipe for a tap, which means you have to be very careful and definite about how you swipe. That can get frustrating, particularly when entering text into a box – I ended up with something like ‘danntyphillkips’ as the first part of my e-mail address on more than one occasion.
Also, the system relies on onscreen keypad menus to access Blu-ray playback controls (pause, scan, stop etc) which feels more long-winded than having them physically on the remote. You may have more luck with it, but if not then the easy-to-use (and very cool) iPad remote app could be the way to go.
On a more positive note, the onscreen displays are simply brilliant. The Home menu, with its gorgeous-looking graphics, uses a one-touch (or one-swipe) navigation system, which rules out the need to hit ‘OK’ for every selection. All of the setup menus are easy to follow – aided by helpful wizards here and there – plus the Multi-User mode lets different people customise the layout to their needs.
In general the DLNA feature works well, finding our laptop immediately and playing tracks without problems, although scrolling through 17,000 songs to find the one we wanted got a bit difficult with no search tool to help us, plus the blocky grey/yellow menu layout could do with a revamp next year.
However there are absolutely no complaints with the deck’s performance, which is every bit as assured as the DMP-BDT320. Whether you’re watching 2D or 3D discs, the images it conjures up are clean as a whistle, and packed from corner to corner with razor-sharp detail. Panasonic’s PHL-powered picture tech guards against nasty artefacts, while Adaptive Chroma Processing helps keep colours looking eminently natural and subtle, yet vivid and powerful when they need to be.
A run-through of the Batman Begins Blu-ray demonstrates these strengths and more – the image is effortlessly cinematic, with deep yet nuanced blacks within Batman’s suit and smooth judder-free movement on a 24Hz TV. Skin tones are natural, edges are crisp and the scary features of Scarecrow’s mask look more lucid than ever.
There’s nothing to dislike about its sound quality via HDMI either. Upbeat tracks have an fast, snappy sound with a nice balance across the frequency range, clear vocal reproduction and solid detail handling. Digital Tube Sound is an acquired taste but the results are more enjoyable than many so-called sound ‘enhancements’.
Finally, disc loading is fairly fast, with Terminator Salvation firing up 43 seconds after slipping it into the slot.
If you’re looking for a quirky, stylish Blu-ray player that takes up a lot less room than the usual black boxes, then the DMP-BBT01 is a top choice. Its design will certainly turn heads, particularly with four installation options to show it off. The best part is that you don’t have to compromise on features to get a player this small and chic – it’s packed with all the stuff that makes its range-topping full-size players so impressive, including built-in Wi-Fi, Viera Connect, DLNA support, 3D, USB media playback and more.
If Panasonic had kept faith with its original button-based zapper, then this cute little player’s copybook would be blot-free, yet the often inaccurate touchpad makes certain functions feel clumsy and long-winded. Our advice? Download the iPad remote app.
It’s also fairly expensive compared with full-size decks like the Samsung BD-E6100 or Panasonic’s own DMP-BDT220, but if you have the cash then the BBT01’s cute design and impressive picture quality just about make it worth the expense.
Score in detail
|BD Player Profile||2.0|
|DTS Master Audio||Yes|
|Dolby Digital 5.1||Yes|
|Bitstream Audio Out||Yes|
|Digital Audio Out||Yes|
|Analogue Audio Out||No|
|SD Memory Card Slot||Yes|
|DivX / DivX HD||Yes|
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