The SC-BT222 lacks most of the headline features of Panasonic’s pricier systems. It’s worth stating up front that the SC-BT222 is a Profile 1.1 machine, which means you can’t access BD Live content on compatible discs – only BonusView. The lack of Ethernet port also means that there’s no Viera Cast or DLNA networking.
The system will play DivX HD, MP3 and JPEG, which is useful but a fairly poor showing compared with systems from the likes of Samsung and LG, which seem to play every format under the sun. Some may find consolation in the AVCHD, SD Video and JPEG playback from SD, SDHC and SDXC cards.
The system doesn’t do 3D but does support the Audio Return Channel feature, which allows you to transfer sound signals from a compatible TV into the system via HDMI, without having to hook up a separate audio cable.
The system decodes multichannel Dolby TrueHD and DTS HD Master Audio soundtracks, but to account for the lack of rear speakers, Panasonic has included a 7.1-channel Virtual Surround mode, which optimistically hopes to replicate a 7.1 system through its two speakers. It’s joined by a selection of EQ modes (Flat, Heavy, Clear, Soft), the H.Bass bottom-end booster and Whisper Mode Surround, which enhances surround effects at low volumes.
There are some other useful features in the ‘Display’ banner, which pops up at the top of the screen during playback. There’s a selection of picture presets – Soft, Fine, Cinema, Normal – and a three-stage detail booster. Further audio settings include Re-master (for boosting high-frequencies) and a Dialog Enhancer. Elsewhere the individual speaker levels can be adjusted using the front panel display, plus there are four subwoofer level settings.
The SC-BT222 uses the same onscreen menus found on Panasonic’s other current systems, which is a blessing. The ‘Start’ menu uses a bright, vibrant colour scheme and clear, legible text, and elsewhere everything is clear and user-friendly, particularly the setup menu. The remote is one of Panasonic’s usual chunky-buttoned affairs, using colours to separate the keys into different sections while clear labelling keeps confusion at bay.