Panasonic DMP-BDT220 Blu-ray 3D Player
It will be interesting to see where the Blu-ray player market goes in the next few years. We reached a point of diminishing returns on the newer lines of players. The Bluray spec hasn’t changed since the adoption of 3D, so there’s nothing new to add, and just about every device out there has an insurmountable number of streaming features. But that could have been said about last year’s models. Prices continue to drop, along with the size of the players, yet there doesn’t seem to be anywhere to go if you want something truly different from a player going forward. Maybe this is where the rumored 4K Blu-ray will make its entrance and reinvigorate the market. Still, the quality of player you can now get for just over a hundred bucks is impressive, and Panasonic’s latest is about all you can ask for if you want reference-quality Blu-ray playback and cutting-edge streaming features.
If It Isn’t Broke…
For this review, Panasonic sent me the DMP-BDT220 Blu-ray 3D player. This is the follow-up to the DMP-BDT210 I reviewed last year (Home Theater, August 2011), which received our Top Pick recommendation. The two really aren’t that different. You still get built-in Wi-Fi connectivity, Skype video calling (with optional camera), and a host of streaming features. Just about every streaming service you might care about is included in Panasonic’s Viera Cast lineup: Netflix, Vudu, Amazon Video, Hulu Plus, CinemaNow, and YouTube. There’s even Pandora and other streaming services for sports and programming.
Panasonic has ditched the gesture-based opening sensor from last year’s player, but this year there’s a new SmartPhone app that you can use as a remote control. It works on both iPhone and Android devices, and you can download it free from the appropriate app store. The included remote sufficed just fine, but the app added some extra features, such as content information, and it lights up in the dark (see comments below). It will also control other Panasonic products that support the app.
The player itself is very slim and nearly weightless. It’s amazing how much manufacturers continue to trim Blu-ray player designs year after year. The front panel consists of a plastic door that covers the disc tray and limited control buttons. On top you’ll find the power and eject key, which lowers the front panel so the tray can come out. There’s also a slot for an SD card for BD-Live functions (not included).
The back panel doesn’t have a lot of options for connectivity, but it has it where it counts. The DMP-BDT220 features only one HDMI output (1.4a), and it’s 3D compliant. There’s also a composite video output but no component video or S-video options. For audio, there’s a two-channel analog option and an optical TosLink output. An Ethernet port is also available if you don’t want to use the builtin Wi-Fi. The DMP-BDT220 features Viera Link control to mate up with other Panasonic products for a more seamless experience if you have one of the company’s HDTVs or home theater systems. I don’t have any other Panasonic products at home, so I wasn’t able to test this out.
Small Package, Big Features
You may look at the rather small package the Panasonic comes in and think you’re getting an entry-level, bare-bones package, but you’d be mistaken. While the price tag and package are small, the feature set is pretty substantial. This player features all of Panasonic’s latest video processing features on top of full Blu-ray 3D support. I’ve tested plenty of the company’s players in the past, and its in-house-developed video processing is certainly nothing to scoff at.
The DMP-BDT220 features Panasonic’s latest P4HD color processing and has some of the best chroma resolution I’ve seen from a player. The Option menu gives you full access to a list of custom video modes you can use to fine-tune the image. Most of them are right where they need to be in their default state, but a few give a bit more polish to the image. The Advanced Color processing makes the most out of the P4HD processing and gives a boost to the chroma resolution without any objectionable artifacts, but the detail enhancers didn’t do much with the video I tried them out with.
If 3D is your thing, the DMP-BDT220 offers full Bluray 3D playback as well as full 2D-to-3D conversion with any source. I tried this out with a variety of material but didn’t find it that compelling. I’ve yet to see a conversion solution that compares to native 3D content. But I’m also not a big proponent of 3D, so it would have taken a lot to impress me.