Panasonic DMP-BDT320 3D Blu-ray player
Disc spinner with a new twist
Review Panasonic’s DMP-BDT320 is both fabulous and frustrating. Leading the brand’s mainstream Blu-ray brigade, and positioned as an understudy to the audiophile grade DMP-BDT500, it packs a towering performance into a chassis barely 27mm tall. It also comes with a new-style remote control that tries far too hard to be clever.
Box clever: Panasonic’s DMP-BDT320
Distinguishing the deck from the lower ranks are jauntily angled side panels and a slot loading disc mechanism. Both seem built for speed. The player sucked in a Java heavy copy of Goldfinger and had the 007 menu onscreen in a respectable 52 seconds. A less complicated platter reached its menu in just 31s.
Connectivity comprises a single HDMI out, with legacy phonos and optical digital audio, plus a USB for the brand’s optional Skype camera. A second USB is positioned beneath a fascia flap for media playback, alongside an SD card reader. Wi-Fi is built-in.
Network savvy but format fussy
USB file support is wide. This year FLAC and WAV join MP3, while video covers MKV, AVI, MOV and MP4. Unfortunately, this compliancy doesn’t extend to streaming the same content from a Nas across a LAN.
Network Nas mapping: Panasonic's way of doing things
Panasonic’s approach is to manually map the Nas (by inputting IP address, shared folder name and login details) to the deck itself, which then allows the player to render your files. I can’t imagine general users feeling comfortable doing this, but it works well enough.
The Viera Connect web portal is rather more straightforward to use. BBC iPlayer is the headline attraction, but there’s supporting action from Netflix, YouTube, Dailymotion, Acetrax, Aupeo!, Shoutcast and others. You’ll also find Facebook, Twitter and Picasa amongst others in the Viera Market apps store.
Main navigation interface
The most contentious aspect of the DMP-BDT320 is that remote. For its top tier kit, Panasonic has jettisoned the standard zapper and draughted in a radical new touchpad. With only four buttons, the bulk of your interaction with the player is via directional strokes.
Unfortunately, driving the deck is a bit like playing a deeply unrewarding level of Super Mario Land. I lost track of how many times my attempts to navigate were misinterpreted.
Touchpad remote could be more finger friendly
This may not matter a jot, though, when balanced against the deck’s audio visual performance. Video playback, with both 2D and 3D Blu-rays, is outstanding. It also does a wonderful job upscaling DVD and is an extremely advanced audio player.
The UniPhier SoC at the heart of the DMP-BDT320 comprises a number of circuit blocks for audio, video, signal processing, interface control and the like. Using a single chip solution like this has its benefits, in that reduces the number of connected signal lines on the deck’s PCB, which inherently reduces noise.
Viera Connect Portal
On this model, Panasonic has gone a stage further, offering the option to partially shut down blocks within the UniPhier chip that relate to the analogue video DAC and HDMI Video output. This further reduces the general electrical hubbub from within. Panasonic call this a High Clarity Sound mode.
Valve effects on-board that don't need time to warm up
And there’s more. Root around the Special Effects audio menu and you’ll find so-called Tube Sound filters. These effectively add controlled harmonic distortion to the player’s audio output, creating a warm sound characteristic of the valve amps of yore. You may scoff, but my SHM-CD of Bowie’s Diamond Dogs (Japanese special edition) has a treble edge that can cut glass. Listening whilst applying just such a filter restored the requisite level of glam. Try selecting Mode 5 when you have a sultry female vocal or Mode 1 for some retro smoothness.
Overall, the DMP-BDT320 is a splendid bit of kit, albeit not without complexity. Video quality is fabulous, and sonically the deck shines. But I’m unimpressed by the new touchpad controller. It’s a nuisance when navigating and will prove a complete mystery to anyone who hasn’t studied Panasonic’s operational tutorial. Still, you can always download the brand’s generic control app, I suppose. ®