Styling and Connections
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Load Times/Power Consumption
- Unadulterated Video Playback
- Fairly Speedy Load Times
- Dual HDMI Out
- Built in Wi-Fi
- Quiet in Operation
- Responsive Menus
- 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.
Ease Of Use
Value For Money
Our Review Ethos
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