Panasonic DMP-BDT220 3D Blu-ray Player Review

Panasonic launch their new range of Smart Network 3D Blu-ray Players and AVForums takes a look

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Panasonic DMP-BDT220 3D Blu-ray Player Review
SRP: £249.00

Introduction

Every year it seems that the manufacturers somehow manage to cram more features into their Blu-ray players whilst at the same time making the chassis ever smaller. Panasonic's latest range of Blu-ray players continue this trend, with more features than you can shake a stick at, all wrapped up in a surprisingly small package. The DMP-BDT220 is one of Panasonic's new Smart Network 3D Blu-ray Players and, as the name suggests, the emphasis is on providing Smart Viera capabilities such as Viera Connect, built-in WiFi, DLNA compliance and Smartphone remote control. Of course it also includes 3D capability, as well as some useful features such as adaptive chroma processing. This particular BDT220 was provided for review by TPS and as such it has had a few modifications made, which we will discuss in the main section of this review. So let's whip out the IQ test and see just how smart the BDT220 is.

Styling/Build/Connectivity

Elegant simplicity would be the best way to describe the BDT220, with the front facia showing nothing but the Panasonic logo in the middle and the Blu-ray logo on the left hand side. The display can be seen through the facia which is actually a flip down cover that extends across the entire front of the player. The only controls are the on/off button on the top left hand corner and the eject button on the top right hand corner, all the other controls are behind the front panel. The panel flips down when the eject button is pressed but it can also be flipped down manually, not that there are actually many controls behind it. All you will find is the disc tray, the aforementioned display which isn't especially informative but at least can be dimmed or switched off, a SD card slot, a USB port and the play and stop buttons.

That's a fairly minimal selection of controls on the player itself, so it would be best not to misplace the remote control. Speaking of which, just to the left of centre there is an IR senor and just to the left of that is Call LED which lights up when the player receives an incoming call via Skype. As we mentioned in the introduction, the dimensions of the BDT220 are svelte in the extreme and it seems incredible that Panasonic can include so many features and still find room for the disc tray. The actual dimensions are only 430 x 38 x 179mm and whilst the width of 430mm is typical of an AV product, a depth of 179mm is about half the average, so you might struggle to position the BDT220 between two other products on your equipment shelf. At only 1.6kg in weight, the BDT220 has a rather cheap and plastic feel to and it lacks the kind of solidity found on higher end players and as such it is a little noisy in operation. To be fair it is mainly the disc tray opening and closing that makes the most noise and when actually playing discs the BDT220 is reasonably quiet. However, some additional solidity would have been appreciated because frankly we own Blu-ray box sets that weigh more than the BDT220.

Panasonic DMP-BDT220

The connections are bundled together at the middle rear of the player and are fairly basic, consisting of a single HDMI output, along with a LAN socket, a composite video out using an RCA connector and stereo analogue out, also using RCA connectors. There is an optical digital output and a connection for a communication camera (TY-CC20W or TY-CC10W) for use with Skype. However you don't get component video outputs or 7.1 audio outputs. Finally, at the rear and to the left of the connections, is the two pin connector for the mains power lead.

The supplied 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 very 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), Skype and Netflix, the latter one giving you a good idea of just how big that video on demand service is in the US. There are also some basic controls for your TV, which can be set up for your specific make and model by entering a unique code listed in the manual.

Setup/Menus

As with last year's Panasonic Blu-ray players the BDT220 uses a central HOME page that allows you to access other menus or content from there. The is an option to customise the HOME page 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.

Panasonic DMP-BDT220
Panasonic DMP-BDT220

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. We used the User mode with the Picture Adjustment settings left untouched, which appeared to be delivering a unmolested image, which is all we really want from a player. The controls available in Picture Adjustment are Contrast, Brightness, Sharpness, Colour, Gamma, 3D NR and Integrated NR. These are the same controls you'll find in your display, which is where you should be making any adjustments, so leave the controls on the BDT220 alone.

Other controls within the Picture submenu include Chroma Process, which delivers chroma upsampling to a compatible TV and whilst we couldn't see a huge difference there appeared to be slightly less colour banding in some scenes so we left it on. 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.

Panasonic DMP-BDT220
Panasonic DMP-BDT220

The next submenu relates to Sound and includes options for setting the Sound Effects, Dialogue and Dynamic Range Compression, all of which are best left off. Then there is Digital Audio Output where you can select which audio signal to output, the BD-Video Secondary Audio and the HDMI Audio Output. You can choose to send your Dolby/DTS/MPEG audio as either Bitstream or PCM but note that setting BD-Video Secondary Audio to 'On' and sending your lossless audio bitstreamed will result in it being sent in its lossy format. Next we have the PCM Down Conversion, which allows you to output audio at 192kHz or 96kHz as 48kHz if necessary. Then there is Downmix for multi-channel to 2-channel stereo, Audio Delay and 7.1 Audio Reformatting which will play 6.1 and 5.1 surround encoded audio at 7.1 when set to auto. Finally there is High Clarity Sound, which is not normally available on the BDT220 but was enabled thanks to the TPS modifications. This feature is supposed to improve the sound quality over HDMI by turning off the video output during audio playback.

Panasonic DMP-BDT220
Panasonic DMP-BDT220

The 3D submenu allows the user to setup 3D BD-Video Playback, 3D AVCHD Output, the 3D Type (side by side, frame sequential etc.) and the 3D Playback Message (best left hidden or it gets annoying). There is also a control for manual settings such as Distance, Screen Type, Frame Width and Frame Colour, which shouldn't be used if the 3D content has been encoded correctly. Finally, there is a control called Graphic Display Level which adjusts the position of the Option menu etc. The Language submenu, as the name suggests, allows for the selection of the language used for Soundtrack Preference, Subtitle Preference, Menu Preference and the On-Screen Language.

Panasonic DMP-BDT220
Panasonic DMP-BDT220

The Network submenu includes an option for Easy Network Settings, which helps you set up the built-in WiFi but there is also a more detailed option called Network Settings. Setting up the wireless connection is very easy and the BDT220 includes WiFi Direct (WiDi) which means it can connect with similar devices without the need to go through a router. In here you can select between LAN or Wireless connections, set up the IP Address/DNS Settings, Proxy Server Settings, the Network Service Settings (VIERA Connect), Network Dive Connection (DLNA), Remote Device Operation (needs to be on for smartphone control) and BD-Live Internet Access.

Panasonic DMP-BDT220
Panasonic DMP-BDT220

After Network, there is another submenu called Ratings which given the limited number of options could probably have been included with the Network submenu. In the Ratings submenu there are options for setting the DVD and BD ratings, as well as the Network Service Lock. The final submenu is System which includes all the controls for Easy Settings (basic setup), TV Settings (Aspect Ratio, TV System, Screen Saver, On-Screen Messages, VIERA Link), Unit Settings (Front Panel Display can be set to Auto which dims the display during playback which is handy), Quick Start, Remote Control, Firmware Update, System Information, DivX Registration and Default Settings.

Features

The BDT220 comes with WiFi built-in, so you can connect directly to your wireless network but if you don't have one then you can connect to your router or network using a LAN cable. Once you have set up your network connection, you can then begin using the BDT220's internet capabilities, which Panasonic call VIERA Connect. The platform that Panasonic use on their BD players is essentially the same as last year's TV platform. Whilst this is an improvement on last year's BD players it does mean that some features found on this year's TVs, like the Web Browser, are missing. However there are still a decent number of applications including the ubiquitous BBC iPlayer, Skype (although you'll need the previously mentioned camera attachment to use it), as well as Twitter and Facebook. In addition you get BBC News, Euro Sport, YouTube, AceTrax, CineTrailer, Dailymotion, Euronews and new additions like Netflix, where you can watch movies and TV shows on demand. Another addition is the VIERA Connect Market, where you can buy and download additional apps and games, although there is no payment feature.

Panasonic DMP-BDT220
Panasonic DMP-BDT220

Besides having a wide choice of apps, the other important elements of an internet platform are that it is easy to access and responsive. In this sense VIERA Connect was a success because it was simple to launch, you just press the Internet button on the remote, and whilst it was reasonably responsive, it isn't as fast as Panasonic's latest TVs. Our only complaint about Panasonic's internet platform is that in order to move from one page to the next, you have to select MORE or BACK, rather than just going directly to the next page but this is a minor quibble. We downloaded the BD Remote app and found it was easy to connect and simple to use, providing an effective way of controlling and communicating with the BDT220. Certainly if your current TV doesn't have any smart features, the BDT220 is an effective way of upping its IQ without the expense of a new TV.

As far as connectivity goes, the BDT220 is fully DLNA certified which means it can connect with other such devices and stream content over your home network and you can also access content via disc, USB or SD card. In terms of file support the BDT220 is a big improvement on last year and can handle a greater range, including AVCHD, MPEG, DivX HD, MKV, MOV, MP3, MP4, AVI, FLAC, JPEG and MPO. We had no problems playing back any of the above files using a USB drive, SD card or disc media (CD, DVD, BD), as well as AVC HD, MOV, MP3 and FLAC files wirelessly over our network.

As we mentioned previously, the BDT220 provided for review by TPS had been modified and as a result it was capable of multi-region playback. The default setting is Region B for Blu-ray and Region 2 for DVD but it is easy to change it by entering a specific code on the remote. The mod allows you to mix and match, so for example you could have BD Region A and DVD Region 2 by pressing 1 and 2 after entering the code. If you want to go to BD Region B and DVD Region 3, you just enter the same code and then press 2 and 3. Although in reality the region code verification for DVDs has been disabled, so the BDT320 should play any region DVD regardless of what is set. It would be sensible to leave the DVD region set to 1, just in case you have ant RCE discs. We tested the BDT320 with Region A and B Blu-rays, as well as Region 1,2 and 3 DVDs and they all played without any problems. The modification also has other advantages, it deactivates the UOP (User Operation Prohibition) for DVDs to allow you to skip forced trailers etc. and it also deactivates PUO (Protected User Operation) on Blu-rays which also allows you to skip any forced content.

3D Playback

Given the digital nature of a 3D Blu-ray, as long as the player is behaving itself the results over HDMI should be the same regardless of the price of that player. Since we were reviewing the Panasonic P50GT50 at the same time, the BDT220 certainly had plenty of opportunity to show its 3D colours during the review process and we're happy to report the Blu-ray player did a very capable job with 3D Blu-ray, resulting in no undue artefacting.

1080p Playback

As with 3D, any player should be capable of an equally impressive performance when delivering 1080p24 over HDMI and needless to say, the BDT220 displayed 1080p24 encoded Blu-rays without introducing any issues. The player also had no problems handling 720p Blu-rays encoded at 50Hz or 60Hz. As long as you selected the Cinema picture mode, there appeared to be no unwanted processing going on with 1080p content and as a result, the suitably unadulterated 1080p output looked great.

1080i Playback

There is greater opportunity for a player to add value when it comes to 1080i content and the BDT220 handled both the edge and source adaptive deinterlacing tests from the Spears and Munsil and the HQV discs with great aplomb. The player handled both the edge adaptive deinterlacing and cadence detection duties very well, which is an improvement on last year. Fine details were largely retained under movement and the player was able to lock on to both the PAL 2:2 film cadence and the NTSC 2:3 film cadence, which is good news if your purchase a player that has been modified for multi-region playback.

480i/576i Playback

This is another area where the player itself can actually improve image quality and overall we liked the BDT220's scaling engine. Whilst it might not be quite as good as the likes of Sony and Samsung, 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 BDT220 had no problems with both PAL and NTSC discs and again it was able to correctly detect the 2:2 and 2:3 which is good news if you intend to watch a lot of DVDs on the player and take advantage of any regional coding modifications.

Subjective Audio Tests

Unlike the video performance which can be measured using a series of established tests and viewed on a calibrated reference monitor, things are a little more subjective when it comes to the audio performance. Using the HDMI output of the BDT220, we tried a number of different audio formats including multichannel PCM, Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD MA soundtracks from Blu-rays and Dolby Digital and DTS soundtracks from DVDs. We tried different methods of connecting the BDT220 to our reference receiver, including HDMI, optical and 2-channel stereo via the analogue outputs. The result of all these permutations was that overall the BDT220 performed very well in the digital realm but it could hardly be classed an audiophile product, so if analogue sound is a priority there are better players to look at. Our review sample was provided by TPS, who had enabled the High Clarity Sound feature normally only found on the BDT320. This feature turns off the video DAC in the chipset for playback over HDMI and turns off the video output completely for audio playback. Panasonic claim this will reduce electrical interference and thus improve the audio over HDMI but considering it's a digital signal we were sceptical. Needless to say in A/B tests comparing the audio with the feature turned on and off, we could hear no difference in the sound quality.

Disc Load Times

The BDT220 includes Panasonic's Quick Start feature and when this is enabled, the load times are very fast. It was only 1 second from pressing the eject button in standby to the disc tray being open but it was an almost equally nippy 3 seconds even without Quick Start enabled. The time it took to actually load a disc and reach the copyright notice ranged from 20 to 30 seconds depending on the disc. However, getting to the actual menu page could often take much longer, although in fairness this is the fault of the studios and not the BDT220.

Energy Consumption

In line with all of Panasonic's products this year, the BDT220 comes with some fairly serious green credentials and the energy consumption numbers were incredibly small. In standby without Quick Start enabled the BDT220 measured zero on our meter which means the energy consumption was lower than 0.5W but with Quick Start enabled it was a little higher at 6W. However, even when in operation and actually playing a disc, the BDT220 was only using a measly 9W, so Panasonic appear to be delivering on their promise of energy efficient products.

Verdict

8
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

Pros

  • Impressive video playback
  • Fast load times
  • Built-in WiFi
  • Viera Connect
  • Extensive file support
  • Good networking capabilities
  • Responsive menus
  • Excellent energy efficiency
  • Multi-region modification

Cons

  • Could be quieter in operation
  • Build quality could be better
  • Connections are quite basic

Panasonic DMP-BDT220 3D Blu-ray Player Review

The Panasonic DMP-BDT220 sits above the entry level BDT120 and below the BDT320 and the audiophile grade BDT500 in the hierarchy. As such the build quality could be better and the slim chassis is rather lightweight which gives the player a slightly budget feel. As a result of this lack of mass, the player was a little noisy, especially when the disc tray was opening and closing but during actual playback it wasn't too bad. The minimalist front facia is attractive enough but there is a slightly 'plastic' feel to the rest of the chassis and the rear connections are fairly basic. The remote is the same basic design and is well laid out and comfortable to hold. Among the usual control buttons there are now buttons for directly accessing the internet (VIERA Connect), Skype and Netflix. The menu system is based around a central home page and is reasonably intuitive, allowing for simple setup and easy operation.

Setup was relatively straight forward and the inclusion of built-in WiFi means that connecting the BDT220 to the internet and your home network is very easy. The BDT220 also includes WiFi Direct (WiDi) so that you can connect directly to similarly capable devices without going through your router. Unlike last year, the BDT220 includes VIERA Connect which allows access to a host of applications, including new additions like Netflix, as well as the VIERA Connect Market, where you can download additional apps and games. As far as connectivity goes, the BDT220 is fully DLNA certified which means it can connect with other such devices and stream content over your home network and you can also access content via disc, USB or SD card. In terms of file support the BDT220 is a big improvement on last year and can handle all the most common file types.

The BDT220 offered some fairly nifty load times, especially in Quick Start mode and the energy efficiency was excellent with the player only drawing 9W in playback. Actual playback over HDMI was excellent and with 2D high definition content the BDT220 delivered excellent images that remained free of any unwanted processing. The same was true of 3D content and the resulting images were equally as good and free of any noticeable artefacts. When it came to standard definition content the BDT220 was just as assured, delivering nicely scaled images without blurring or ringing. The audio performance over HDMI was also very good but anyone looking for an audiophile product should consider the BDT500 instead. Our review sample had been modified to play Blu-rays and DVDs from multiple regions and it was easy to change between regions by entering a simple code. We tested a number of Blu-rays and DVDs from different regions and the modification worked flawlessly.

The Panasonic DMP-BDT220 is a great all-round Blu-ray player that offers an accurate playback coupled with more features than a Swiss army knife. We would certainly recommend that you add it to your list if you're thinking of buying a Blu-ray player this year or want to put some Smart into your current TV.

Recommended

Scores

Picture Quality

.
.
8

Sound Quality

.
.
8

Features

.
.
8

Ease Of Use

.
9

Build Quality

.
.
.
.
.
5

Value For Money

.
9

Verdict

.
.
8
8
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

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