Panasonic DMP-BDT330 3D Blu-ray Player Review

Panasonic gets back to basics with their latest Blu-ray player

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25

Recommended
Panasonic DMP-BDT330 3D Blu-ray Player Review
SRP: £199.00

Introduction

There appears to be a trend developing amongst the consumer electronics companies, with many of the manufacturers carrying over their previous year's flagship Blu-ray players into this one. Sony are still counting last year's S790 as their flagship player in 2013 and Panasonic have followed suit, with the BDT500 remaining at the top of the tree and not being replaced. So, by default, the top Panasonic Blu-ray player being released this year is the DMP-BDT330 and a quick look at the specifications reveals that Panasonic have stripped out many of the features from last year's model, presumably to keep the cost down. Whilst Panasonic have added a second HDMI output, Miracast and 4K upscaling, gone is the touch pad remote, remote app, pure audio feature, 2D to 3D conversion, digital tube sound and adaptive chroma processing. Now most of those features aren't especially important and frankly we're glad to see the back of the touch pad remote but the absence of a remote app for smartphones and tablets surprised us. Of course what really matters is the audio and video performance so let's see how the BDT330 measures up.

Styling/Build/Connectivity

The BDT330 has a similar stylish design to last year, with angled silver sides, a brushed aluminium top and a dark reflective front panel that can be pulled down. Behind this panel is the disc tray on the left hand side, the IR sensor, SD card slot and USB ports in the middle and the display to the right. This display is large and informative and can be set to bright, dim or auto - where it automatically dims when a disc is playing - but it can't be turned off completely.

At the far right there some basic controls for play and stop and on the top there is an eject and an on/off button. When you press eject, the entire front panel automatically flips down and the disc tray comes out. In the centre just above the flip down panel is a blue LED that thankfully can be turned off completely. The player has a reasonably well built feel and solid construction, with dimensions measuring 430 x 41 x 181mm and a weight of 1.6kg. However we did find it rather noisy in operation, especially when loading or navigating discs.

Panasonic DMP-BDT330

The connections are all located at the right rear of the player and are fairly standard these days, consisting of twin HDMI outputs, along with a LAN socket, an optical digital output and a two pin connector for the mains power lead. It's worth noting that along with the composite video, coaxial digital audio and analogue stereo outputs, the dedicated communication connector for a Skype camera has also been dropped.

Panasonic DMP-BDT330

Panasonic has obviously been listening to feedback and have thankfully ditched the disastrous touch pad remote that shipped with the BDT320, in favour of their standard version. This 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.

Setup/Menus

The BDT330 uses a central Home page, from where you can access other menus or content. There is an option to customise the HOME page for up to four users, including selecting the wallpaper, an icon and a user name. 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-BDT330
Panasonic DMP-BDT330

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. The only other option is HDMI output and here you can select the HDMI Video Format (the resolution which now includes scaling up to 4K), the 24p(4K)/24p Output, the HDMI Colour Mode, the Deep Colour Output, Contents Type Flag and the HDMI (SUB) Output Mode, which controls the second HDMI output.

Panasonic DMP-BDT330
Panasonic DMP-BDT330

The next submenu relates to Sound and includes options for setting the Dialogue Enhancer, Dynamic Range Compression and Digital Audio Output. Here you can choose which audio signal to output, select the BD-Video Secondary Audio and the HDMI Audio Output. Next we have the PCM Down Conversion, as well as a Downmix feature and DTS Neo:6. The 3D submenu allows the user to setup 3D BD-Video Playback, 3D AVCHD Output, the 3D Playback Message (best left hidden or it gets annoying) and Graphic Display Level which adjusts the position of the Option menu.

Panasonic DMP-BDT330
Panasonic DMP-BDT330

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. 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 and BD-Live Internet Access.

Panasonic DMP-BDT330
Panasonic DMP-BDT330

After Network, there is another submenu called Ratings where you'll find 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, TV Settings, Unit Settings, Start-up Banner (turn it off), Quick Start, Remote Control, Firmware Update, System Information and Default Settings.

Features

The BDT330 includes both built-in WiFi and an Ethernet port and once you have set up a network connection, you can then access Panasonic's VIERA Connect internet platform. The platform that Panasonic use on their BD players is essentially the same as last year's TV platform and now includes a Web Browser, along with a decent number of applications. There's BBC iPlayer, Netflix, YouTube, Twitter and Facebook, along with BBC News, EuroSport, AceTrax, CineTrailer, Dailymotion and Euronews. There is also the slimmed down VIERA Connect Market, where you can download additional apps and games.

Panasonic DMP-BDT330
Panasonic DMP-BDT330

We were surprised to see that a remote app wasn't listed in the BDT330's specifications, nor does one appear to have been released for the 2013 BD players. We tried using the 2012 version but were unable to connect with the BDT330 - this seems a strange omission on the part of Panasonic, especially as they have added Miracast. As far as other connectivity goes, the BDT330 is fully DLNA certified which means it can connect with other 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 BDT330 covers MP3, JPEG, MKV, Xvid, FLAC, WAV, MPO, AAC and WMA. 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, MP4, JPEG, MP3, FLAC, AAC and WMA files wirelessly over our network.

3D and 1080p Playback

As 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 BDT330 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 BDT330 was excellent with the all the content we tried playing flawlessly. With recent purchases like Jack the Giant Slayer and Oz the Great and Powerful we encountered no firmware issues, added crosstalk or any other unwanted artefacts affecting picture quality.

Panasonic DMP-BDT330

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 BDT330 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.

1080i Playback

There is a greater opportunity for a player to improve the image quality when it comes to 1080i content and the BDT330 took both the edge and source adaptive deinterlacing tests from the Spears and Munsil and the HQV discs in its stride. The BDT330 also handled the edge adaptive deinterlacing and cadence detection duties very well and 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. 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.

480i/576i Playback

This is another area where the player itself can actually add value and overall we liked the BDT330'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 BDT330 also 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 BDT330 will get the best out of your standard definition collection.

Audio Performance

This section is far more subjective, especially as the BDT330's outputs mean it can only be used as a digital transport, sending the audio as bitstream via the HDMI or optical outputs. In this sense the BDT330 worked very well, seamlessly sending a number of different audio formats including Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD MA, to a suitably capable amplifier. There were also no problems using the onboard decoding of the BDT330, allowing it to send these same soundtracks as PCM to any amplifier that couldn't do the decoding internally. The BDT330 also had no problems sending the audio from CDs and DVDs, either as bitstream via the optical out or via the HDMI output as bitstream or PCM.

Video Review

Disc Load Times

The BDT330 took 32 seconds to get to the home page with the Quick Start feature off but this could be improved to 28 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.

Energy Consumption

  • Standby (Quick Start off): 0W
  • Standby (Quick Start on): 7W
  • Idle: 10W
  • Playing a disc: 11W

Verdict

8
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

Pros

  • Impressive video playback
  • Extensive file support
  • Good networking capabilities
  • Stylish and solid construction
  • Well designed and responsive menus

Cons

  • No remote app
  • Noisy in operation

Panasonic DMP-BDT330 3D Blu-ray Player Review

Whilst the DMP-BDT330 appears quite similar to last year's model, it uses a disc drawer rather than a slot, which frankly we prefer. The build quality was reasonable but didn't feel quite as solid as last year and it was definitely noisier during playback. Panasonic has also dropped a surprising number of features and whilst we're glad to see the back of the touch pad remote, the loss of a remote app was unexpected. The rear connections have also undergone a purge with only an optical digital output and Ethernet port, although Panasonic have added a second HDMI output which is good to see. The menu system is identical to last year, making the BDT-330 easy to setup and navigate and the player also includes built-in WiFi. As is usually the case with Blu-ray players, they use the previous year's internet platform - which in the case of Panasonic's VIERA Connect offers a reasonable set of features and file support but pales when compared to some of the competition.

The start-up and load times are reasonable, although not spectacular, and make sure you turn off the start-up banner feature, unless you want to watch forced adverts when you boot your player up. The energy consumption is also good whilst not being overly impressive and overall the BDT-330 was average in both these areas. As we would expect from a Blu-ray player that is basically a digital transport, the audio and video (both 2D and 3D) performance over HDMI was flawless. The video processing was also excellent apart from a minor issue with video text over film content and the BDT-330 will do a great job of getting the best out of any DVDs that you still watch. The Panasonic DMP-BDT330 is a competent Blu-ray player that offers an excellent level of performance at a reasonable price and as such is certainly worth a Recommendation.

Recommended

Scores

Picture Quality

.
9

Sound Quality

.
9

Features

.
.
8

Ease Of Use

.
.
8

Build Quality

.
.
.
7

Value For Money

.
.
8

Verdict

.
.
8
8
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

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