Simple but effective
IntroductionPanasonic has been knocking out excellent Blu-ray players since the advent of the format and has more recently been embracing the Smart TV revolution with some relish. These days, it’s no longer enough to produce players capable of simply providing pristine high definition pictures, they need to do more to compete. The Panasonic DMP-BDT230 is toward the bottom of the Company’s pecking order but does, nevertheless, possess a handsome sounding set of features so let’s find out if it can tick all the necessary boxes.
Design and Connections
The BDT230 features sloped-in edges to give it a touch of distinction in a market chock-a-block with black, rectangular devices. It’s still black, mind, and pretty sleek, with a depth of just 18cm but that doesn’t stop it from feeling well built. The front left of the facia conceals a tray loading disc mechanism which, while being a bit noisy when popping out, is reasonably quite during playback. The front panel also has a drop-down flap concealing a couple of USB ports and an SD Card slot and on the top are push button controls for Play/Pause, Stop, Eject and Power.
Around the back there are HDMI and S/PDIF digital audio out and inputs and a LAN port but there’s built in Wi-Fi too, which is a plus in a couple of respects; it allows easy access to Panasonic’s online content and it allows one to use the remote app for iOS and Android. The remote control will be familiar to anyone who has owned a Panasonic Blu-ray player in the last few years and despite being made of black plastic, it does feel very solid and is comfortable to hold, making it easy to operate with one hand. The buttons are sensibly laid out and include all the usual controls plus some dedicated ones such as 3D, Internet (VIERA Connect) and Netflix; although the dedicated Skype button has been dropped in favour of a Miracast button.
Dedicated Netflix Button
Menus & SetupThe Panasonic DMP-BDT230 uses the same central HOME page as the rest of the range that allows a degree of customisation for up to four users: including selecting the wallpaper, an icon and a user name, as well as registering your smartphone as a remote control. Once in the HOME page you can either move up to enter the networked features, down to watch video, left to look at pictures and right to listen to music; if you press the enter button you access the Setup menus. The video, photos and music can be accessed from whichever storage media they're held on whilst the network option allows the user to access Panasonic's VIERA Connect internet portal or their media server.
In Setup, there are the Player Settings submenus, the first of which contains all the Picture options, including the Picture Mode and the Picture Adjustment controls, although these can only be accessed in the User picture mode. Other controls within the Picture submenu include Chroma Process, which delivers chroma upsampling to a compatible TV. The Detail Clarity and Super Resolution controls are both essentially sharpness features which we left off because once again we want the player to output the 1080p signal from a Blu-ray without any unwanted processing. The HDMI Output option allows you to select the HDMI Video Format (resolution), the 24p Output, the HDMI Colour Mode, the Deep Colour Output and Contents Type Flag. There are also controls for NTSC Contents Output, Still Mode and Seamless Play.
The INTERNET button on the remote brings the user to Panasonic’s DIGA branded internet platform which is essentially the same as the VIERA Connect platform found in the TVs , including a Web Browser but we would recommend leaving that alone as you’ll have numerous devices better suited to that discipline. There are a good number of applications,including the BBC iPlayer, Twitter and Facebook. In addition you get Netflix, YouTube, Acetrax, Dailymotion, Euronews, Picasa and the ShoutCast and Aupeo radio apps. Netflix has even managed to negotiate themselves a dedicated button on the remote control but its latest update to include multiple user profiles seems to have caused some glitches with the BDT230 and we encountered frequent lock-ups from the home screen necessitating a hard reset (plug out/plug in)
Some app mishaps
Another addition is the slimmed down VIERA Connect Market, where users can download additional apps and games, although there is no payment feature. As well as being able to access your home network, and any media server on it, the Panasonic can also act as DLNA renderer in its own right. We were disappointed that the DMP-BBT01 features a similar bug to the players we’ve reviewed in the past, in that when accessing our own media servers it couldn’t go deep enough in to the folder structure to make it of much use and it would have required moving our media files up several levels to make it viable.
Disc Load TimesThe BDT230 took 28 seconds to get to the home page with the Quick Start feature off but this could be improved to 22 seconds by turning the start-up banner off. We'd certainly recommended doing this because not only does it make start-up faster but it also saves you from having to look at forced adverts. With Quick Start on the start-up time improves to 13 seconds with the start-up banner on and 8 seconds with it off. These times aren't bad but they're not the best we've seen, although we doubt most people are going to worry about a few seconds here or there. The time it took to actually load a Blu-ray disc and reach the copyright notice ranged from 20 - 30 seconds depending on the studio and for DVDs it was around 10 seconds, which is about average.
3D and 1080p PlaybackAs is always the case, every player should be able to output the content on a Blu-ray disc equally as well over HDMI because it is a digital signal. The same is true with digital audio and since the BDT230 is essentially a digital transport with no analogue options, we would expect a flawless performance with both audio and video. As a result the overall 3D performance of the BDT230 was excellent with the all the content we tried playing flawlessly. With recent purchases like Life of Pi and Oz the Great and Powerful we encountered no firmware issues, added crosstalk or any other unwanted artefacts affecting picture quality.
As with the 3D performance, the digital nature of the content means that any Blu-ray player capable of outputting 1080p24 should essentially be identical to any other when using the HDMI output. That is of course as long as the manufacturers don't mess with the output by adding picture mode options rather than just maintaining the integrity of the output on their players. Thankfully, in the Normal Picture Mode, the BDT230 showed no signs of unwanted manipulation and output the video without any issues. All the Blu-rays we watched showed plenty of fine detail and appeared free from any undue judder or other possible artefacts. We weren't in a position to test the 4K upscaling but its inclusion is little more than a marketing gimmick.
We weren't in a position to test the 4K upscaling but its inclusion is little more than a marketing gimmick.
1080i PlaybackDeinterlacing was clean with barely anything in the way of jaggies with rotating bars patterns and the cadence detection for film shot, progressive material was also excellent. Stevie Wonder’s concert from London’s O2 arena, on Blu-ray, looked decidedly wonderful and the BDT330 also handled the edge adaptive deinterlacing and cadence detection duties very well, with fine details largely retained under movement. The player was able to lock on to both the PAL 2:2 film cadence and the NTSC 2:3 film cadence. We did notice some minor tearing on the mixed film and video text test and whilst it's unlikely to be an issue it did surprise us as we have never had any issues on this test with Panasonic players in the past.
Standard Definition PlaybackThis is another area where the player itself can actually add value and overall we liked the BDT230's video processing with standard definition content. In actual testing we found there wasn't any detail being taken away from the image and well transferred material looked very nice indeed. The BDT230 again had no problems with both PAL and NTSC discs and again it was able to correctly detect both 2:2 and 2:3 cadence. So if you still watch a lot of DVDs, then the DMP-BDT330 will get the best out of your standard definition collection.
Even DVD's looked lovely
- Effecive, faithful playback
- Decent smart features
- The price is right
- Can be a bit noisy
- Netflix app a bit slow
Panasonic DMP-BDT230 (BDT230) Blu-ray Player ReviewThe prismatic styling of the BDT230 somewhat sets it apart, looks wise, from the competition but it is still, at heart, just another black box. Connectivity options should be sufficient for most with a single HDMI, digital audio out plus USB and Wi-Fi built-in, and the included remote is both easy to use and comfortable in the hand. The Menu systems are certainly attractive enough but a bit of an acquired taste, in terms of how they are navigated, and we wish Panasonic would do away with the unnecessary Picture Modes accessible from the Options button.
Speaking of superfluous, the included Web Browser is the undoubted lowlight of the BDT230’s feature set with the rest mostly performing very well. There’s a good amount of Video on Demand services available, including BBC iPlayer and Netflix, although the latter was subject to lock-ups from its Home screen. Still, in a box inhabiting this price sector, there’s a more than decent set of apps, well executed.
Provided one makes sure the DMP-BDT230 is set to the default picture mode, which provides an uncoloured signal, it can handle everything thrown at it superbly. Naturally we’d expect the all-digital nature of Blu-ray to mean there’s little scope for going wrong – which the BDT230 never did – but standard definition signals are also scaled very cleanly and solid cadence detection means your old DVD’s will look their best too.
The DMP-BDT230 is another fine player to emerge from Panasonic’s stables. It plays everything flawlessly, includes a very good set of well-maintained apps and it certainly won’t break the bank. Recommended.
Ease Of Use6
Value For Money8
Our Review Ethos
To comment on what you've read here, click the Discussion tab and post a reply.