Using the system is simple thanks to the straightforward onscreen menus, which use a similar design to the BD60 and BD80 players with a few tweaks. You even get the same playback information window found on the BD80. Everything is bright, colourful and pared down to the basics so that Blu-ray newbies can find their feet quickly. The remote benefits from Panasonic’s typically clever button layout, and as a result requires no brain power to use.
Pulling the strings at the heart of the Blu-ray player is the UniPhier chip and all its associated wizardry – P4HD and PHL Reference Chroma Plus – and yet again it does a superb job. Its handling of ”The Dark Knight” is simply spellbinding, with the player’s processing teasing out the most miniscule of picture detail such as pockmarks on skin, strands of hair and the fibres on The Scarecrow’s sack mask.
But almost as impressive is the depth and richness of the picture, which gives the movie’s gloomy visuals the cinematic gravitas they deserve, while the perfectly judged colour balance never lets skin tones look anything other than smooth and natural. The system also walks the Silicon Optix HQV tests – diagonal lines are smooth and free from jaggies, the pan across the stadium on the Film Resolution Loss test is composed and flicker-free, while noise reduction is second to none.
As for sound, this is one of the best performances we’ve heard from a Panasonic one-box system. It’s able to muster the required grunt for raucous action scenes and shows impressive agility from the front and surround speakers, which results in a fast, exciting listen.
High frequencies in ”The Dark Knight’s” Dolby TrueHD track are clean and crisp, and unlike many all-in-ones it manages to avoid making loud bangs and crashes during the car chase scene sound harsh or uncomfortable. Dialogue is competently handled too, giving Batman’s growly tones the requisite clarity.
Despite its modest appearance, that sub delivers chunky, fulsome bass – in fact, you’ll need to dial it down from the default settings to give the other speakers a chance to be heard such is its overbearing presence. It’s a tad flabby at times, and could do with a bit more punch and speed for sudden thumps, but on the whole it does a decent job.
The SC-BT205 is a vast improvement on the SC-BT100. Sound quality is excellent by one-box standards and pictures are blessed with the same ultra-sharp quality that makes Panasonic’s standalone players so special. When you take this fine performance and extensive feature list into account (which includes an iPod dock and Viera Cast) then that price tag seems fairly reasonable – although at this price we would have expected better build quality and support for DivX HD and WMA.
Score in detail