- Excellent sound and picture performance
- A wealth of features
- Easy to setup and use
- Plasticky speaker casing
- Passive sub
- Review Price: £628.99
- 3D Blu-ray playback
- DLNA streaming
- Viera Connect with Skype
- Premium audio components
- 3D Cinema Surround
Despite its range topping status, the BTT590 is a fairly straightforward proposition. For starters, it’s a 5.1-channel system, not 7.1 like Samsung’s HT-E6750W, its most obvious rival, and there are no wireless rear speakers in the box or space-hogging tower speakers (as found on the SC-BTT490). What you get are four tabletop satellites, a horizontal centre speaker and a passive subwoofer. These are driven by the 1000W digital amplifier inside the main unit, which also boasts a 3D-compatible Blu-ray player.
This main unit is shaped and styled just like Panasonic’s standalone players. The slim 40mm height is impressive for an all-in-one system given the extra electronics shoehorned into it – testament to the space-saving benefits of digital amplifiers. The glossy black finish and silver trim makes it effortlessly classy and a sympathetic match for most other TVs and set-top boxes. There’s a pleasing weightiness about its bodywork and the dappled finish on top is another nice touch that sets it apart from Panasonic’s cheaper systems.
The front panel drops down and behind it you’ll find an SD card slot, a USB port and two buttons (play and stop), with volume, power and tray open/close buttons on top. The flap and low button count keep everything nice and minimal. The right hand side of the front is given over to an iPod/iPhone dock, which pops out on a drawer and provides a convenient direct digital connection – one of this system’s many alluring features.
The satellite speakers look stunning in their gloss black finish and brushed silver bases. Although their 403mm height isn’t exactly compact, they’re far from imposing – these are speakers that will get noticed without getting in the way. Pleasingly, their build quality is a cut above Panasonic’s cheaper systems, but a manual inspection reveals a plastic casing that lacks the solidity and heft of a dedicated speaker system. That’s an inevitable consequence of packing so much hardware into a single box while trying to keep the price down. That goes for the subwoofer too – it looks pleasant in its gloss black finish, and its compact dimensions allow you to slot it into tight spaces without much bother, but it’s light and sounds hollow when tapped.
On the rear panel is a superb selection of connections, headlined by a 3D/ARC-compatible HDMI v1.4 output and two inputs, which allows the system to play back sound from other HD devices, as well as acting as a switcher for them. Optical digital audio and analogue stereo inputs accommodate other audio devices, while the Ethernet port enables a wired internet connection. There’s a second USB port dedicated to Panasonic’s Skype communication camera, an optional extra that’ll set you back around £100, while a digital transmitter dock is provided for the optional wireless rear speaker kit (SH-FX71) which costs around £100.
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