Along the top front ledge of the chassis there are some basic controls, with an on/off button on the far left hand side and the play/pause, stop and eject buttons on the far right hand side. The disc slot is positioned in the middle, with the display on the left hand side and a pull down flap on the right hand side. Behind the flap there are two slots, one for a SD card and the other for a USB drive.
The connections are all located at the right 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. What you don't get is component video outputs (thanks to a jittery film industry who are locking the stable door long after the horse has bolted) and no 7.1 audio outputs. Finally, at the left rear of the player, is the two pin connector for the mains power lead.
Unlike the BDT220, which comes with the standard Panasonic Blu-ray remote control, the BDT320 comes with a new touch pad remote. Clearly Panasonic has recently been attending the "if it ain't broke, break it" school of thought because this new remote is a disaster. The only actual buttons on the remote are On/Off, Internet (VIERA Connect), Netflix, Skype, Home, Return, Option, the colour buttons and a new one called Keys. Everything else is done through the touch pad, which might make scrolling through some of the internet features easier but makes even the most simple disc navigation task a nightmare.
When playing a disc for example you need to press the Keys button and then select the desired control on the onscreen virtual keypad using the touch pad. To press enter you need to tap the touch pad which doesn't always work and entering text is incredibly time consuming and the only way of getting rid of the onscreen virtual keypad is to hit return on the remote. After only a few minutes of attempted use we had thrown this lemon away in frustration and resorted to using a standard Panasonic Blu-ray remote that we happened to have lying around. It comes as no surprise that TPS offers owners of the BDT320 the chance to buy a normal remote for a small additional fee. Aside from touch pad remote's ergonomic issues, we fail to understand why Panasonic bothered with the new remote when you can use your smartphone or tablet as a control anyway.
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 BDT320 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.
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 feature, which is supposed to improve sound quality by turning off the video signal for HDMI output.
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. There is also a 2D to 3D conversion feature but this remains what it will always be, a total gimmick not worthy of serious consideration. 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.
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 BDT320 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.
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.
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. We had no problems using all these features and we were quickly watching AVForums videos on YouTube. Another addition is the slimmed down VIERA Connect Market, where you can download additional apps and games, although there is no payment feature.
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 BDT320. Certainly if your current TV doesn't have any smart features, the BDT320 is an effective way of adding these features without the added expense of a new TV.
As far as connectivity goes, the BDT320 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 BDT320 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 BDT320 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.
Subjective Audio Tests
Given that there are no analogue 7.1 outputs on the BDT320, the audiophile credentials of the player are limited, despite Panasonic's claim that it includes 'digital tube sound'. You can send the audio from CDs or downmixed multi-channel via the analogue stereo outputs but these didn't sound any different to the same tracks being passed to the amp digitally. There is the High Clarity Sound feature, which 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. Frankly, if you are looking for a player with genuine audiophile credentials, you would be better off considering at the BDT500.
Disc Load Times
- Impressive video playback
- Fast load times
- Built-in WiFi
- Viera Connect
- Extensive file support
- Good networking capabilities
- Stylish and solid construction
- Responsive menus
- Excellent energy efficiency
- Multi-region modification
- Connections are basic
- Touch pad remote is a disaster
Panasonic DMP-BDT320 3D Blu-ray Player Review
The BDT320 sits just above the BDT220 in Panasonic's new Blu-ray player range and as such includes a £30 price premium. The only real differences between the two are the better build quality and more attractive styling of the BDT320, the 'digital tube sound' and the touch pad remote. So the question is, do these changes justify the additional cost?
In terms of the build quality and design the BDT320 is definitely an improvement on the cheaper model and as a result it feels more substantial. Whether or not you prefer the central disc slot over a disc tray is a matter of personal but there's no denying that the BDT320 is attractive to look at. The added benefit of the improved construction is that the BDT320 is far quieter in operation when compared to the slightly plastic BDT220.
The BDT320 comes with a new touch pad remote control that is possibly one of the most il-conceived ideas of recent times. The touch pad is fine for moving around certain internet content but makes even the most basic controls for Blu-ray playback a total nightmare. The logic behind Panasonic's decision to create this remote is even more bizarre when you consider the smartphone control app does it all far better. In fact this so-called 'premium' remote is so bad, it's actually a reason to not buy the BDT320.
The setup is identical to the BDT220 and thanks to the built-in WiFi, connecting the BDT320 to the internet and your home network is very easy. The BDT320 also includes WiFi Direct (WiDi) so that you can connect directly to similarly capable devices without going through your router. The inclusion of VIERA Connect 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 BDT320 is fully DLNA compliant and can stream all the most common files over your home network and you can also access content via disc, USB or SD card.
The BDT320 offered excellent 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 BDT320 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 BDT320 was just as capable, delivering nicely scaled images without blurring or ringing.
The audio performance of the BDT320 was exactly the same as the BDT220 over HDMI and since most people will use either player as a digital transport, there is no real audio advantage to buying the BDT320. For the record, the BDT320 it is not able to play SACD, DVD-A or HDCD discs. Our review sample was provided by TPS and had been modified to play Blu-rays and DVDs from multiple regions. 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 can report that the modification worked flawlessly.
In the end the DMP-BDT320's audio and video performance is identical to the cheaper BDT220 and it doesn't offer enough improvements to justify the additional cost. In fact, in the case of the new touch pad remote, it actually represents a retrograde step and we'd recommend buying the BDT220 and spending the money you save on some discs.
Ease Of Use
Value For Money
Our Review Ethos
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