Panasonic DMP-BDT330

The DMP-BDT330 continues Panasonic's tradition of providing the best Australian DVD/Blu-ray performance from the big brands, while adding interesting network features.


8.2
CNET Rating

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System

The Panasonic DMP-BDT330 is the company's current top-of-the-line stand-alone Blu-ray player (it has more expensive units that double as digital TV receivers). It's an interesting-looking unit with wedge-shaped ends and a couple of control keys on top, so it isn't stackable.

Inside, it offers lots of features beyond core disc-playing capabilities, including access to Panasonic's latest set of internet features and wide media support from USB, SD and DLNA. It has built-in Wi-Fi (with support for the 5GHz band in addition to 2.4GHz) and supports Miracast, a way of wirelessly transmitting HD video from some recent Android phones.

Forget about analogue with this unit. It has two HDMI outputs and one optical digital audio one. No analogue sound. No analogue video. The main reason for the two HDMI outputs is so that you can feed video direct to your display and sound separately to a home-theatre receiver. If your receiver doesn't support, say, 3D or 4K video standards (both of which this player is capable of supplying), then it can still receive the highest audio quality from the second HDMI output.

Playing discs

When it comes to Blu-ray and DVD playback, Panasonic does a better job overall than most players on the market. The reason is simple: it allows you to control the progressive scan conversion process on interlaced discs (which some Australian Blu-ray discs are, and all Australian DVDs are). Instead of it having to try to work out the best technique from analysing the content (which it does quite competently, but, like all players, imperfectly), it can be set to "Film" mode, forcing it to stick with the best technique for most movies regardless of ambiguities in the picture content.

But you will need to make a couple of changes for best performance. After the auto set-up, the player still has 24p output switched off. The great majority of Blu-ray titles work best at this rate, but unless this is changed in the set-up menu, they'll typically be output at 60p, leading to jerky motion. Just about all TVs made in the last five years support 24p, and those that don't will lack the requisite entry in their HDMI EDID (Extended Display Identification Data) entries, anyway.

If you're using this player with a home-theatre receiver and HDMI, then you should also go into the "Sound" part of the settings menu, find "Digital Audio Output" and switch "BD-Video Secondary Audio" off. It defaults to "On", and in this state, the player rather than using that beautiful losslessly compressed Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio instead draws on the lossy Dolby Digital or DTS counterparts embedded within them. Switch it back on only when you're watching a disc with BonusView PIP sound that you want to hear.

The remote control is smallish and a little chunky, but worked well enough. The player was very responsive to it, acting fast on keystrokes. It started up at a reasonable clip and loaded discs fairly quickly. From standby, it could get a disc's content up on the screen in 25 seconds. There's a "Quick Start" mode that reduces this to 10 seconds, but it leaves big chunks of the unit still consuming power. In normal operation, the unit used 10 watts; in standby, just 0.2 watts. In standby with Quick Start enabled, it used 5.4 watts.

Other stuff

For years, Panasonic has offered both USB and SD connections on its Blu-ray players. Some advanced functionality on some Blu-ray discs, such as BD-Live, typically need a good dose of "persistent storage" in your player. One gigabyte or more. A few high-end players have this built in, but most need it plugged into a USB port. Panasonic has required it to be SD rather than USB, which was sort of silly, because SD is the format that you're going to want to move from your camera to the player and back again, rather than leaving it permanently in the player (it is for "persistent" storage, after all).

In this model, Panasonic has switched this over to USB. Unfortunately, the two USB sockets are both on the front panel, so leaving USB memory mounted there isn't an option, unless you don't mind the otherwise pretty front of the unit being held permanently open by the memory stick. It looks nakedly industrial with the front held down.

Aside from the looks, though, the USB playback was pretty impressive, especially with music. It supports drives of up to 2 terabytes and will handle JPEG and MPO (3D still format) photos and MKV, MP4, MPEG2 and XviD video files (but it didn't detect my standard DivX test clip). On the audio front, it covers the obvious ones (MP3, WMA, WAV) and adds AAC (iTunes format) and FLAC. Proper FLAC: it supported all of our test files, including 24-bit 96kHz 5.1, and 24-bit 192kHz stereo.

There's a good range of apps available in the "Connect" section of the menu system. Oddly, the sharp, modern-looking design of the main menus of the unit haven't made it to this section of the unit, so the same fairly clunky and old-fashioned screen layout remains. But it works well enough. There's kids' stuff, most of the major streaming video facilities (including subscription service Quickflix and the various catch-up services), Facebook and Twitter and a web browser. Usability of anything that requires text entry was extremely limited, thanks to the clunky remote/on-screen keyboard interface.

The Miracast function worked nicely with a quick connection and surprisingly good quality, but you might need to make a setting change. Our phone uses US-style 30/60fps video standards. By default, the player outputs this content at 50fps, so the result was extremely jerky. You'll need to drill right down into the set-up menu to turn the output from PAL to NTSC to change that.

Conclusion

When it comes down to it, all of that extra stuff is nice, but the main job of a Blu-ray player is to deliver high-quality video from DVDs and Blu-ray discs. There are very few players that can do as good a job on Australian discs as the Panasonic DMP-BDT330.



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