The Panasonic DMP-BDT320 is, on the face of it, a straightforward 3D-capable Blu-ray player. It has the basic connections usual to modern Blu-ray players (hint: you will need HDMI). It is oddly shaped, with some of its controls on the top. Combined with the light build, we couldn't imagine stacking it, except on top of other stuff.
Discs are slot loaded. A display on the left shows basic disc information. The unit has a power-saving mode in which it consumes virtually no power while trying to remain aware of the presence of people in the room. If it detects a person, it adopts a higher state of readiness so it can switch on quickly.
The remote control only has a dozen keys, because it relies heavily on a 40x40mm touch-sensitive pad. You use it by sliding and tapping on this, and you can also learn a bunch of motions to control disc play and such. A dedicated "Key's" key pops up an on-screen panel for you to choose keys explicitly.
We hated using this remote. After weeks, it still seemed unintuitive, touchy and tedious. Bring back the buttons, we say! If you have Wi-Fi and an iOS or Android device, you can use an app to control the unit instead.
One of the two USB sockets is on the front, next to an SD card slot. You will need a card in the latter to support advanced Blu-ray functions like BD-Live. The unit networks via RJ-45 or built-in Wi-Fi.
The unit can be personalised for up to four users, normally selected with a coloured key. With an optional Panasonic Skype camera, it can apparently also recognise users by their faces.
Panasonic Blu-ray players have long had a feature dear to my heart: the ability to force the method by which interlaced video is converted to progressive scan. That capability is retained in this player. There are optimal strategies for sourced film and video, most particularly provided on DVD or on some Australian Blu-ray discs (which may be 1080i rather than 1080p). As is usually the case, the player tries to work out which is which automatically, but this fails on tricky scenes. This player lets you explicitly choose Video or Film.
Disc loading was pretty fast. Disc navigation was good, too, except for the uncertainty about whether swiping the touchscreen on the remote was going to work as hoped for. Picture and sound were of top quality.
The transport controls were generally good, except that you cannot backspace frame by frame, nor slow rewind with Blu-ray.
The internet functions are set out on several layers of screen, each with seven panels from which you may select particular functions. Many of the panels are empty after the top screen, but you can fill them from the "Market" and change locations to best suit your needs.
As installed, the front panel offered BigPond Movies, Quickflix, ABC iView, Facebook, Skype, YouTube and Yahoo7. The next page offered an AP news feed and AccuWeather
The Market is organised into a bunch of categories. All of the apps were free (although actually using BigPond Movies, for example, will require you to subscribe with BigPond).
For video, you get 15 items, including those mentioned. Daily Motion and Vimeo are available, along with a bunch of topic-specific streams (eg, Wealth TV). Internet radio is available via ShoutCast. There are a couple of educational items for very young kids, and 17 games.
Under the "Social Networking" label are Twitter and Picasa web albums, plus the Bharat Matrimony service. Skype and Facebook are, as mentioned, on the front page, and you'll need an optional Skype camera to use the former.
The unit also gives you access to content — music, video and photos — on your network, primarily via DLNA. It can also access shared folders, but for this you're going to have to do a bit of configuration, entering IP addresses and so on.
The unit also plays back content from an SD card or USB. It supports music in the form of MP3, WAV and FLAC (up to 192kHz, 16-bit!), but not AAC or WMA, nor does it support an iPod plugged in to the USB. JPEG and MPO (the 3D still format) photos are handled, and DivX and MKV format video likewise. It wasn't mentioned in the manual, but MPEG2 files recorded from digital TV, including HDTV, were also happily delivered.
They were delivered very nicely, in fact. Rather than being a half-hearted implementation, you get the full weight of Panasonic's seriously impressive picture-processing options available for this kind of video, as well.
If you value picture quality on tricky discs higher than smart functions, then this is the Blu-ray player to buy. Those smart functions, though, while plentiful and fairly powerful, are presented in a way that doesn't really invite the user to delve into them as readily as with some.