Panasonic DMP-BDT110

Created to partner screens in the brand’s three separate line-ups of 3D plasmas (VT30, GT30 and ST30) and sole range of 3D LED-backlit LCD TVs (DT30), this player is the most affordable of a trio of 3D decks in Panasonic’s 2011 range - the others being the DMP-BDT210 and DMP-BDT310.

Amazingly, all three are identical in size, measuring just 35mm in height (dimensions are 430 x 35 x 179mm), with the finished look akin to a compact DVD player. OK, so it’s a still a boring black box, but it’s easier to house in an AV rack than most, and completely at odds with the huge PC-like Blu-ray monoliths from just 3 years ago.

Aside from an ability to play 3D Blu-ray discs, the DMP-BDT110 comes with an online hub. After a couple of years with the best looking, but relatively content-barren online hub in the industry, Viera Cast is reborn here, but it’s not as polished or as content-rich as the latest Viera TVs’ Viera Connect service. It does, however, include the likes of Twitter, YouTube and Acetrax movie streaming, Euronews, Dailymotion, Picasa, Bloomberg, QTom and Skype (including video calling if you buy a TY-CC110 HD Communication Camera from Panasonic for £132.99. It lacks the Viera Cast’s online marketplace where you can download apps, but more critically, there’s no BBC iPlayer service.

Built-in Wi-Fi wouldn't go amiss either, something that would better serve Skype calling, too (for more on this see our review of the Panasonic DMP-BDT210).

On the rear of the DMP-BDT110 are clues that this is otherwise a budget 3D deck. As well as a sole HDMI out (you’ll need two if you want to watch 3D with lossless audio) and a Composite video port for emergencies, a set of analogue phonos perch next to an optical digital audio output. The latter will please those with older AV amplifiers and home cinema systems that lack HDMI inputs.

The rear’s USB slot can be used either for the Skype camera or a USB Wi-Fi dongle (Panasonic make the DY-WL10 Wireless LAN Adaptor for around £79), making it impossible to place Skype calls over Wi-Fi. A further USB slot can be found underneath the front fascia’s flap (for playback of DivX (AVI), DivX HD (MKV), JPEG 2D or MPO 3D pictures, and MP3 music), next to an SD Card slot (for storing BD-Live content and showing JPEG photos and AVC HD camcorder videos only). There’s also an Ethernet LAN port, which comes at the expense of built-in Wi-Fi.

Wired connection is one of our major problems with the current generation of internet-connected home entertainment devices: why are manufacturers so reluctant to put Wi-Fi modules inside? The hassle of dragging a cable - or even inserting a USB dongle - will be too much for most. The end result is a swathe of consumers that own disconnected AV kit.

And they will miss not only Viera Connect, but also BD-Live and this deck’s nifty DLNA networking; the latter allowed us to stream DivX (AVI), WMV, AVC HD video, JPEG photos and MP3 music only from a netbook on the same network.

Booting-up in seconds, 2D pictures from our test disc Donnie Darko are spotless and the brand’s Adaptive Chroma Processing - featured here once again - helps create some luscious, brilliantly saturated colours.

DivX HD files look smooth, too, while the headline act - 3D Blu-ray - is clean and ever so impressive when the footage suits. 3D sequences can still be confusing, especially if there’s a lot of different depths going on; a shot of a shoal of fish in our test disc proved both brilliant and baffling, principally because the camera had set the depth of field so that the fish at the front were slightly blurry, with the fish in focus too deeply into the picture. It’s not this player’s fault - it does a fine job with contrast, colour and clean 3D - but it’s certainly an issue for the format itself.

There is a 3D Effect Controller on board, but in practice we didn’t need to make any adjustments. That could be because we were viewing on a Panasonic plasma (it’s possible adjustments to depth etc. may be necessary if watching on an older 3D LCD TV, for instance).

DVD is upscaled well and enjoys all the same pros with a little less detail on show, though the real upscaling of note here is this deck’s novel 2D-to-3D conversion, a hit-and-miss feature that is capable of wowing one minute, and appearing to be completely pointless the next.

Verdict

A swathe of networking features, Skype video calling and digital file playback are enticing, but it’s this tiny Blu-ray player’s skill with both 2D and 3D that makes it a great all-rounder. That said, the cost of the Skype camera and the Wi-Fi dongle take the gloss from this otherwise good value package, as does the ageing Viera Cast online content portal that lacks BBC iPlayer.

 



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