CES 2009: Panasonic's Blu-ray in a Box

The term "Home Theater in a Box" formerly had about as much cache as "wine in a box." HTiB was, in fact, a very pejorative acronym used only with extreme prejudice. But, that is changing. Increasingly, HTiBs are going upscale, with Blu-ray drives installed in their head units.

Case in point, Panasonic is introducing two new Blu-ray equipped HTiB systems. Moreover, the are offered at lower prices than their current models. Both come with 7.1-speakers or supports them (reflecting the trend toward 7.1 on BD discs) and both support BD-Live. In addition, both support Panasonic's VieraCast service to deliver direct internet access to YouTube, Picasa Web Albums from Google, and other content.

The SC-BT300 (pictured) is a 7.1 system; it features an iPod dock, and wireless-ready surround speakers. The dock has been upgraded to display an iPod's video and audio menus, and the unit will upconvert audio on all channels to 96kHz sampling rates. Interestingly, a bamboo cone driver is used in the front and center speakers. Total output power is 1250 watts.

The SC-BT200 is similar to the 300, but uses smaller front speakers and total output power is 100 watts.  --Ken C. Pohlmann