At the beginning of 2010, 3D Blu-ray players were a premium item, and as a result they commanded a high price, too. But, with Sony's Blu-ray players now featuring 3D playback from as little as 200 bucks, it's now filtering into the mainstream. Originally priced at AU$599, the BDT300's drop to AU$399 is much welcomed.
Occasionally, Panasonic will surprise you with a stunningly-crafted piece of machinery with clean, metallic lines acting as a focal point for a modern living room. This is not one of those times. The BDT300 is brown. Panasonic has offered up a functional-looking Blu-ray player, which is designed to complement the flagship VT20 plasma, we suspect.
The fascia is quite spartan and features the now obligatory drop-down flaps. Controls are limited to On/Off, Eject, Play and Stop. If you lose the remote you're going to need another one. Meanwhile, underneath one of the flaps lives a USB port and SD card slot.
If you have an older receiver, odds are it can't throughput a 3D signal — it never needed to. But you needn't buy a new receiver if you get this player — it has a second HDMI port that you can connect directly to your 3D TV, while the other cable feeds audio to your AV equipment.
As with most of the company's devices for 2010, the BDT300 boasts the Viera Cast web portal that enables access to YouTube, Bloomberg and Picasa. Fripperies such as Twitter and Skype are relegated to the company's range of televisions.
When it comes to displaying a picture, your television tends to do a very good job of "scaling" an incoming picture to the resolution of your screen — no matter whether it's a DVD, Blu-ray or the on-board tuner. We tested the Blu-ray player in concert with the company's own TH-P50VT20A and were quite surprised to find that the player was better at picture processing than the TV itself.
The BDT300's talents were most evident on the Mission Impossible III bridge attack test scene, with a combination of smooth movement and a lack of distracting moire patterns in the rails of the bridge. The scene is also notoriously noisy and the Blu-ray player cleaned up any extraneous noise masterfully.
Unsurprisingly, the player was also clear of image defects in our HQV 2.0 Blu-ray test disc with a good performance in the film, video and random noise tests.
The Blu-ray player wasn't quite as successful as a DVD player as some noise crept into the images. While replaying King Kong there was a lot of "mosquito noise" surrounding contrasting objects, though no blockiness. Despite this, images had solidity and depth with natural colours. The "fly by" of the planes as they circle the Empire State was also smooth.
The company's Viera Cast system works as it does on Panasonic's other products and though the interface is a bit clunky to use it is straightforward. Booting up a number of YouTube videos demonstrated that the TV was very good at delivering web content on a 50-inch screen in a watchable fashion.
As this is a "three-dee" player, we tested it with a number of different discs — including the Samsung-exclusive Monsters vs. Aliens and the retail Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs animated features.
Having tested a number of 3D TVs now we can say that crosstalk has more to do with the actual television and less to do with the Blu-ray player. That said, there was no no crosstalk on the corresponding Panasonic TV, and quick movement was well handled. Of course, the image will be quite muted if you're using it with the corresponding Panasonic plasma as it lacks the brightness levels of a Samsung or Sony 3D LCD TV.
A lot of people buying this player will probably also use it to spin a CD or two, but if you're serious about your audio then buying a high-end amp is probably your best solution. If you can't afford that then the BDT300 was a quite passable CD player. Audio playback lacked some sparkle and "air", but on Nick Cave and the Bad Seed's Red Right Hand the singer's voice had plenty of menace and managed to keep out of the way of the similarly-pitched bass.
Using it to decode the Avatar Blu-ray soundtrack we found it to be passable but not so talented at creating a cohesive soundfield. A high-end receiver such as the Pioneer LX82 did a much better job of decoding with more presence and better integration of the subwoofer.