So, what do I want out of my next laptop and what must it include?
Panasonic DMP-BDT320 Blu-ray player
This 3D Blu-ray player has excellent image quality and a funky remote control
- Excellent design
- Excellent Blu-ray picture quality
- Very detailed DVD up-scaling
- VIERA Connect needs more features
- New remote's trackpad is imperfect
- Poor file support over DLNA
If you want the best picture quality from your Blu-ray and DVD movies, the Panasonic DMP-BDT320 is an easy choice - it's one of the best players we've tested for both 2D and 3D Blu-rays, as well as DVDs. Over and above this it's got Panasonic's acceptably good VIERA Connect service, which has a decent range of video on demand but can be sluggish. If you don't need to play high-definition video over the DMP-BDT320's DLNA, and can use USB for your downloaded video, the player is an excellent choice.
Price$ 299.00 (AUD)
The Panasonic DMP-BDT320 is the company’s best Blu-ray player — with built-in Wi-Fi, 3D Blu-ray support, a touchpad remote control and some power-saving smarts, it’s superior to the cheaper DMP-BDT220 and DMP-BD77. Its slim, futuristic design sets it apart from the more conventional DMP-PWT520 Blu-ray PVR and DMR-HW220 set top box.
Panasonic DMP-BDT320: Design and setup
The Panasonic DMP-BDT320 is, like the WT50A LED TV, a step in the right direction for the company’s design team. It’s a very slim player, measuring only 27mm tall, with a mirror-finish front fascia. At 430mm wide and 179mm deep it’s a standard size for home entertainment equipment.
The body of the DMP-BDT320 is trapezoidal — it angles inward from top to bottom, looking futuristic and attractive. The same motif continues around the central, slot-loading Blu-ray drive. The mirrored panel to the right of the Blu-ray drive flips down to reveal an SD card slot and powered USB port.
The DMP-BDT320’s all-important power button is a physical one, on the top left of the player. Buttons for stopping and starting playback, and ejecting the disc, are touch-sensitive and slightly recessed into the body of the player, and can be found at the top right.
In terms of video and audio output, this Panasonic Blu-ray player sits in the middle of the pack. It’s got a single HDMI output for connecting a modern TV or HDMI A/V receiver, while older devices can use the standard definition composite A/V jacks. An Ethernet port enables the DMP-BDT320’s Internet features, although Wi-Fi is also built-in, and an optical digital audio output means an external amplifier can handle sound if needed.
The DMP-BDT320 has two USB 2.0 ports. The front input can be used for connecting a portable hard drive or flash drive to play media files, while the rear input will only work with Panasonic’s Skype camera. The front USB port supports a wide range of file types, including JPEG picture files, MP3 and FLAC audio, and MP4/MKV/MPO/AVI/DIVX/ACVHD video files. It’s important to note that DLNA media access is restricted to AVCHD, JPG and MP3 files, which is disappointing if you have high-definition MKV files and FLAC audio stored on a NAS, for example.
The new remote control bundled with the Panasonic DMP-BDT320 uses a touchpad, doing away with the traditional playback buttons of a regular candy-bar remote control. Interestingly enough, only this remote control is included with the DMP-BDT320 — no standard clicker is included — so you’ll need to learn the functions of the touchpad model from scratch.
The touchpad is surrounded by a few buttons to access the main features of the DMP-BDT320, but you’ll be using the touchpad in place of navigation keys and playback controls. The touchpad concept works well once you’ve become used to the gestures — buttons are arranged in contextual grids in three separate tiles, like you’d find on an iPhone’s home screen — and the on-screen guide is a useful help, but we can’t help but feel a traditional remote control would have handled these functions with less learning required.
Panasonic DMP-BDT320: Picture quality and performance
The Panasonic DMP-BDT320 is able to play both 2D and 3D Blu-ray movies, and it can play DVDs at 1080P thanks to internal up-scaling. We used the HDMI output for all of our testing, connected to Panasonic WT50A and Samsung Series 7 LED TVs. Our test material ranged from The Dark Knight, Terminator: Salvation and Avatar 2D Blu-rays, to Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs and Avatar 3D Blu-rays, and The Matrix, The Dark Knight and Batman Begins on DVD.
We found that the DMP-BDT320 had exceptionally good picture quality with 2D Blu-ray movies, thanks to some very high quality picture processing with excellent levels of detail. The level of fine detail we were able to see from the DMP-BT320 equals any other consumer-level Blu-ray player we’ve tested — you’d need to spend big and invest in something like a Oppo Blu-ray player to get noticeably better video.
Unlike some other Blu-ray players from previous years that artificially boost contrast and interfere with gamma to create ‘punchier’ pictures, the DMP-BDT320 stays true to the original material and is able to retain full shadow and highlight detail. This was most evident when we compared night-time scenes from The Dark Knight between the DMP-BDT320 and an older Sony BDP-S580, which lost some detail in the darkest parts of the screen.
The DVD up-scaling of the Panasonic DMP-BDT320 is also worth praise. It does the best job we’ve seen of getting the maximum possible quality out of older 480p DVD video, with some smart sharpening, resizing and smoothing to remove any artifacts, and ensure sharp video with minimal aliasing.
Panasonic’s VIERA Connect service makes an appearance on the DMP-BDT320, and is the same iteration as can be found on the company’s Smart TVs and other Blu-ray products. For a run-down of the video on demand and social media services included in VIERA Connect, read our review of the Panasonic VIERA ST50A plasma TV. It’s acceptably good — it’s got access to major video on demand services as well as Facebook, Twitter and Skype — but you’ll find a wider range of features on competing players from Samsung, LG and Sony.
Panasonic DMP-BDT320: Conclusion
The Panasonic DMP-BDT320 is an excellent Blu-ray player for cinemaphiles — it does a sterling job of displaying the full detail of both Blu-ray and DVD video. Its touchpad remote is a decent replacement for a normal remote, but requires some practice. Above and beyond movie watching, the DMP-BDT320’s VIERA Connect service does a decent job but competitors are better.
If you don’t want to spend big, this is the Blu-ray player we’d pick for outright picture quality. Pair it with a high quality TV — our current choice being the VIERA ST50A — and you’ll have an excellent home theatre setup for next to nix.
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