Panasonic DMP-BDT310 3D Blu-ray Player Review

AVForums runs Panasonic's top-end Blu-ray player through its paces.

by hodg100
Home AV Review

12

Recommended
Panasonic DMP-BDT310 3D Blu-ray Player Review
SRP: £260.00

Introduction

The Panasonic DMP-BDT310 is the Japanese Manufacturer's flagship Blu-ray player this year and, as such, comes loaded with features such as built-in wi-fi, access to Panasonic's older Vierra Cast internet portal, Skype compatibility and, of course, 3D playback. Terming a product as 'flagship' when it can be had for £200 somehow doesn't seem quite right but such is the way of things these days. The DMP-BDT310 has two very similar stablemates in the DMP-BDT210 and DMP-BDT110 with it's biggest major difference being the boasting of twin HDMI outputs over the 210; and that plus built-in wi-fi over the 110. Otherwise the specs look very similar and we'd expect them to offer a similar experience, bar the obvious. It's a crowded market so let's see how the BDT310 justifies its place.

Styling and Connections

Panasonic DMP-BDT310

The Panasonic DMP-BDT310 keeps it simple in terms of design and we've absolutely no problem with that although compared to its predecessor, the BDT300, it's a somewhat less grandiose looking piece of kit. That's largely thanks to the fact that Panasonic's flagship player, this year, no longer supports 7.1 analogue audio outputs and is thus a far slimmer spinner. For audio options, owners will now need to look at one of the two rear located HDMI ports - with the 'sub' HDMI intended to carry audio to non 3D enabled receivers, the digital optical SPDIF connection or the stereo jacks. For those that prefer to keep their HD audio more in the analogue domain, players do still exist but they start at around double the cost of the 310.

Panasonic DMP-BDT310

In addition to the connections already mentioned, to the rear we have a LAN port, a USB slot for connection to the optional Skype Camera/Mic accessory, AC in for the detachable figure of eight power cord and a composite video output. Quite why anyone would be using that particular connection escapes us, guess there's always future-proofing considerations. The top casing of the 310 is constructed of ridged metal in gloss black and features the all new 'Touch-Free' sensor for opening and closing the disc tray. In practice the sensor is pretty annoying to use, especially if you only have limited room above the top of the casing, with it frequently closing when you want it to open and vice versa. Fortunately it can be disabled in the menus and it's certainly not something we'd class as a selling feature.

The top of the chassis, to the front, houses the standby and open/close buttons under which there's a flip down panel. The panel conceals and SD card slot that's capable of displaying 3D photo MPO files in addition to standard jpg pictures and AVCHD/MPEG2 video. The USB slot swaps AVCHD playback for DivX and MKV compatibility and also adds MP3 support whilst retaining the same photo displaying capabilities. Naturally the disc tray is also behind the panel as is also the display that can be either dimmed or switched off completely. Finally, there's the most basic of transport controls in tactile Stop and Play buttons. The over all look and feel of the Panasonic DMP-BDT310 is one of mid-range quality and is about right for the price it commands.

The supplied remote control will be of a familiar look and layout to anyone that's owned a Panasonic Vierra TV in the last 5 years, basically being a slightly shrunken version. It feels very solid and is a breeze for operating one-handedly even whilst lying on the couch - we have to test these things for you! The handset has all the usual array of options as well as dedicated buttons for Skype, Vierra Cast and 3D functionalities. The remote can be programmed to give very basic control of your TV or, if you have a Panasonic TV, it will already provide operation of the on/off, input and volume functions

Menus and Features

The Home menu of the BDT-310 acts in a hub-like fashion with 5 icons providing access to the sub-menus. The icons will navigate you to the Setup menu as well as providing speedy navigation to your Photos, Video and Music files - on whichever inserted storage media they're held on. The top icon is labelled Network, which in turn connects out to Panasonic's internet portal, Vierra Cast, in addition to it being the place to access your media server. The BDT310 can also act as a video renderer to the upcoming Panasonic tablets and some of their PVRs.

Panasonic DMP-BDT310

The majority of what we are interested in is in the Player Settings sub-menu found under the Setup menu. From here there are 7 further sub-menus - Disc, Picture, Sound, Display, TV/Device Connection, Network and Others. The Disc menu has parental lock systems for Blu-ray and DVD, Soundtrack, Menu and Subtitle language preference options; there's also the option of making 3D video playback to automatic or set before play - meaning you will need to choose each time a 3D Blu-ray is in the tray and that's a good thing, we think.

Panasonic DMP-BDT310

The Picture menu has options for displaying paused content in fields or frames; enabling seamless playback will mean items in playlists will run back to back and there's an option for converting NTSC content to PAL60. The Sound menu has options for Dynamic Range Compression; PCM Down Conversion for 96kHz audio material; Downmix allows you to choose how you would like multi-channel audio to be dealt with as stereo - either as straight stereo or surround encoded and there's an option for setting Audio Delay. We also have 7.1ch Audio Reformatting which will scale 6.1, and below, surround encoded audio up to 7.1 when set at auto. Under the Digital Audio Output area you can choose to send your Dolby/DTS/MPEG audio sent Bitstream or PCM - Note: setting BD-Video Secondary audio to 'On' and sending your HD audio bitstreamed will result in them being sent as plain old Dolby Digital and DTS.

The Display menu deals with the front panel, on-screen messages, screen saver and on-screen languages as well as the option to have the LED indicating sub HDMI output. It's nice to have choices over lights being on or off - get em off, we say.

Panasonic DMP-BDT310
Panasonic DMP-BDT310

Under the TV/Device Connection options there's the 3D settings, allowing the choice of outputting as Full HD 3D or as Side-by-Side(SBS) as well as the ability to switch on or off the 3D Health Warning message being displayed when as 3D signal is detected. There are further 3D options available through the 3D button, on the remote, whilst 3D (or converted 2D) material is being displayed including an option to control the depth perception, for those struggling to enjoy comfortable viewing. From here we can also set our TV aspect ratio - choose 16:9 full for pixel mapping of 1080 sources to your 1080p display.

Panasonic DMP-BDT310

In the HDMI Connection area we can select to either send just audio or both audio and video through the HDMI sub port; choose our video output; determine whether to send 24p as 24p (no brainer) and also to choose the colour space we send our display. What you choose here will be governed by your display's capabilities but YCbCr(4:2:2) will be safe for most displays but you may get a bit more from the RGB/YCbCr(4:4:4) settings. We suspect anyone that has this level of understanding of their display will already know what best suits but discs such as Spears and Munsil that contain Chroma Multiburst patterns will help you determine the optimum settings between the player and your display. Panasonic have made quite a bit of fuss about their player's chroma upsampling abilities and we can testify that, when paired with a suitable display, a reduction in colour banding was evident although little other benefit jumped out of the screen at us. Also, in this area we can enable HDMI CEC, labelled Vierra Link by Panasonic, and determine whether to send audio over HDMI as well as setting Deep Colour to Off or Automatic, the safest bet is off.

The BDT310 packs in a fair amount of features with, perhaps, the built in wifi being the highlight. The connection to our network proved very robust with no noticeable drop in speed over a wired connection. Once connected to the network streaming of media files was a little hit and miss and there seemed to be a bug that wouldn't allow for scrolling down past four of the available folders through a media server. It's something that can be worked around but a bug non-the-less. On paper the BDT310 can play 'streamers' favourite mkv files through both DLNA and USB but out our five test files, it only managed successful video and audio of one. We're by no means owners of many of this type of file but the 310 is clearly no media streamer replacement.

Panasonic DMP-BDT310

Given that Panasonic has gone to the cloud for their latest internet offering, Vierra Connect, it's a little disappointing to see the BDT310 is only equipped to run the previous years' version, Vierra Cast. Frankly it's all a little mundane when compared to other offerings available - including Vierra Connect - and looks very pale when compared to similarly priced players from LG and, in particular, Samsung. Sure we have the likes of YouTube and the Skype widget may bring a little joy to some but this is 2011 and we expect better Panasonic. If you're in the market for a new Blu-ray player and are interested in upgrading to the 'smart tv' revolution, this probably isn't the best box to choose. Finally, there's a 2D>3D conversion feature to transport your dull old 2D discs to the next dimension but we've yet to see any that benefits from the digital wizadry. Some might like the novelty but we're firmly unconvinced.

3D Playback

The BDT310 certainly had plenty of opportunity to show its 3D colours whilst in for testing, being paired with two 3D LG's and one 3D Panasonic. We're more than happy to report the Panasonic player does a very capable job with 3D Blu-ray with no undue artefacting. In truth, 3D duties should place very little strain on a player - much in the same way 1080p24 2D material shouldn't - and that certainly proved the case here. Would we recommend the BDT310 as a 3D spinner? The answer is an unequivocal 'yes' but then we would say the same of any we've seen so far.

1080p Playback

The Sony BDP-S480 we reviewed recently showed some negative influence on our calibrated displays [tip=Greyscale]greyscale[/tip] and gamma tracking with nothing that could be done, on the player, to rectify matters. We're very happy to report the Panasonic DMP-BDT310 was no such sinner. We also ran checks on [tip=gamut]gamut[/tip] reproduction and the 310 did slightly raise luminance across the board. It would have been nice to have had the ability to correct the 'error' on the player but there wasn't so we used the TVs controls instead. Whilst it is a slight error, it's certainly no issue to people that have displays that can save settings per input. It's almost needless to say that the BDT310 displayed 1080p24 encoded Blu-ray without introducing any issues but that would be remiss, so we'll say it - the BDT310 coped flawlessly with Blu-ray 1080p24. With the 310 set at 1080p, detection of the most common PAL (2:2) and NTSC (2:3) cadences was handled well but less common ones weren't picked up on. Not that we'd expect it to be a big issue for the majority but owners of lots of Manga DVDs may want to take note.

1080i Playback

Setting the player to 1080i and loading up both edge and source adaptive deinterlacing tests from the Spears and Munsil and the HQV discs revealed the BDT310 to fare very well in edge adaptive deinterlacing but less so in its cadence detection duties. Fine details were largely retained under movement with just the merest hint of jaggies but the player failed to lock on to the PAL 2:2 film cadence. The most common NTSC cadence, 2:3, was handled much better so prospective owners with large amounts of US DVD's needn't worry although, naturally, they'd need to purchase a multi-region version. Of course a lot of that is academic if you have a 1080p display and set the BDT310 to output accordingly.

SD Playback

We liked the BDT310's scaling engine, even if it is just a tad softer than the likes of Sony and Samsung's efforts. In actual fact, testing showed there wasn't any detail being taken away from the image and well transferred material looked very nice indeed. Forcing the player to output 480/576p did absolutely nothing for its cadence detection capabilities but then why would anyone want to buy this player to output SD resolutions?

Load Times/Power Consumption

With Quick Start enabled in the set up menu, the BDT310 was a fairly zippy loader of Blu-rays with times ranging between 20 and 30 seconds on the range of discs we tried. Power consumption in standby does increase, however, from 0.5w - with Quick Start disabled - to 6.5w. Playback consumption figures were no different with an averaged 8.5w but load times increased by an average of 7 seconds without Quick Start. So yer pays yer money and takes yer choice!

Verdict

7
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

Pros

  • Unadulterated Video Playback
  • Fairly Speedy Load Times
  • Dual HDMI Out
  • Built in Wi-Fi
  • Quiet in Operation
  • Responsive Menus

Cons

  • Networking Experience is Not Great
  • Vierra Cast instead of Vierra Connect
  • Still Limited Support for Media Files
  • Touch-Free Sensor (although it can be disabled)

Panasonic DMP-BDT310 3D Blu-ray Player Review

The Panasonic DMP-BDT310 is a well built, responsive and quiet Blu-ray player that fulfills its primary purpose of playing back both 2D and 3D discs with utmost competency. The 310 does nothing untoward to material and, of course, with 1080p material - in both flavours - it looks sublime. We can find very little to fault with the player's representation of scaled standard definition either and, for all those reasons, we have absolutely no qualms in sticking an AVForums Recommended Badge to its shiny black casing.

Where the BDT310 didn't quite hit the high notes was in its 'smart' offerings with both networked media playback and internet content through the, now ageing, Vierra Cast platform a slight disappointment. For readers thinking of using their next Blu-ray player as an upgrade - not only in to 3D but the world of 'Smart TV' also - we can think of better alternatives. We'd also really like more manufacturers to offer on-board picture controls and Panasonic are as guilty in this regard as many others but as only minor adjustments to our calibrated display were required, it wasn't a big issue.

Had the Panasonic suggested retail price of around £260 held firm through retail channels, the BDT310 might have been more of a hard sell. As it is, with prices as low as £200 offered, it's certainly one worthy of your consideration.

Recommended

Scores

Picture Quality

.
9

Sound Quality

.
.
8

Features

.
.
.
7

Ease Of Use

.
.
8

Build Quality

.
.
.
7

Value For Money

.
.
.
7

Verdict

.
.
.
7
7
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

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