Panasonic SC-BTT270

With its built-in iPod dock and an integrated Wi-Fi module, Panasonic provides a very enticing deal. However, the lack of HDMI inputs means that you'll need to have an ARC-compatible TV or be able to live with this limitation.


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Upside

If you're in the market for an affordable entry-level home theatre in a box (HTIB) that doesn't skimp on features, the SC-BTT270 could fit the bill. The AU$449 system plays 3D Blu-ray discs and is rated to pipe out 1000W of power through its 5.1 channels. This should be adequate to fill most small- to medium-sized living rooms.

Panasonic has decided to have Wi-Fi connectivity imbued in all its 2011 BTT-series HTIBs. This removes the hassle of purchasing an additional Wi-Fi dongle or connecting an Ethernet cable for internet-related functions. Another interesting addition is the integrated iPod and iPhone dock, which sits in a slide-out tray on the Blu-ray player/receiver unit; a nice touch that gets rid of one extra cable. There's even a hidden USB port under the front lid for playing back movies, music and images from external drives.

Internet connectivity on this set is present in the form of the Panasonic's Viera Cast function, which allows access to YouTube and other sites via its included app library. However, unlike the more recent Viera Connect smart TV feature, you won't be able to download new apps from the Viera Market or control your equipment with a tablet or smartphone.

Downside

We expect entry-level HTIBs to lack some of the more robust connectivity of high-end models, but were a little surprised at the complete lack of HDMI inputs in this set. This means that you'll need to connect additional devices — such as game consoles and set-top boxes — directly to your HDMI ARC-equipped TV or to the lone optical audio input at the back. If your HDTV lacks the ARC function, we'd recommend going for HTIBs with at least two HDMI inputs.

Those after more attractive-looking speakers will also be disappointed by the SC-BTT270's slightly dated design. The satellite speakers are oddly shaped and have grilles that clearly show the drivers behind them.

Outlook

It's a good time to be in the market for a new entry-level 3D Blu-ray HTIB. With its built-in iPod dock and an integrated Wi-Fi module, Panasonic provides a very enticing deal. However, the lack of HDMI inputs means that you'll need to have an ARC-compatible TV or be able to live with this limitation.

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