Panasonic DMP-BDT230 £120

23rd Oct 2013 | 14:24

Panasonic DMP-BDT230

Awesome 2D, 3D and upscaling – and a Netflix shortcut – in a quirky yet speedy user interface

TechRadar rating:

4.5 stars

In the world of Blu-ray players you get what you pay for, and if you're after the very best in Full HD detail, Panasonic is definitely the brand to head for. In terms of picture quality from all sources, there are no better choices than the DMP-BDT230.

Like:

Excellent 2D & 3D images; Great value price; Rich colours; SD Card slot; Netflix shortcut button

Dislike:

Uses 2012 smart TV GUI; No Lovefilm app; Lacks MyHomeScreen; No virtual remote apps

Introduction

In the world of Blu-ray players, you get what you pay for, and if you're after the very best in Full HD detail, Panasonic is definitely the brand to head for.

As such, the Japanese manufacturer's mid-range DMP-BDT230 could be star of the show this year. It lacks the second HDMI input, the (frankly pointless, for most of us) Ultra HD 4k upscaling of DVDs, and the dedicated analogue outputs that the step-up DMP-BDT330 includes.

Ratings in depth
Panasonic DMP-BDT230Panasonic DMP-BDT230Panasonic DMP-BDT230Panasonic DMP-BDT230Panasonic DMP-BDT230

In the world of Blu-ray players, you get what you pay for, and if you're after the very best in Full HD detail, Panasonic is definitely the brand to head for.

As such, the Japanese manufacturer's mid-range DMP-BDT230 could be star of the show this year. It lacks the second HDMI input, the (frankly pointless, for most of us) Ultra HD 4k upscaling of DVDs, and the dedicated analogue outputs that the step-up DMP-BDT330 includes.

But what it lacks in dedicated and future-proof home cinema features, it makes up for in an otherwise generous feature count and its cutting-edge hi-def images.

Panasonic DMP-BDT230

We've been impressed by the company's My Home Screen innovations in 2013 on its TVs that make smart apps more personal and customisable, but there's a no-show for all that on the DMP-BDT230.

Sadly, in their place come last year's VIERA Connect screens, a collection of apps presented in a seriously outmoded fashion. Accessed via the oddly-named Network Services tab (sounds like a call centre to us), VIERA Connect includes everything from BBC iPlayer, YouTube and Netflix to iConcerts, CNBC Real-Time, Euronews, Daily Motion, Aupeo, PlayJam Games, Twitter and Facebook. There's also a link to a Marketplace where even more apps can be downloaded.

There's no Lovefilm app, but the headline is Netflix, which is underlined by the presence on the DMP-BDT230's remote control of a dedicated big red button for the online streaming service. That we like, though the DMP-BDT230 could soon look a little silly if the wind blows in another direction and Lovefilm, or something else, becomes dominant.

None more black

In terms of looks and physical features, the DMP-BDT230 sticks with the traditional gloss black, though it's extraordinarily slim (just 38mm tall) and should fit snugly into any AV rack already groaning with gear. It's angled inwards at the sides, too, adding to the slimline appearance.

Around the back it's all pretty simple, with a single HDMI output accompanied by a digital optical audio output (the DMP-BDT230 deals in PCM or bitstream, and supports all Blu-ray surround sound formats, such as DTS Neo:6, DTS HD Master Audio and Dolby Digital True HD) and a wired LAN port, though the DMP-BDT230 does have a WiFi module. We're so glad that the dreadful days of the dongle are (almost) over.

Panasonic DMP-BDT230

The front contains the most excitement in the form of an SDHC Card slot. Panasonic Blu-ray players, DVD decks and TVs have long featured one, but we're glad to see it continuing even if it only supports playback of music and photos. No matter, because the DMP-BDT230's two USB 2.0 slots are nestled-up next to it, all under a kick-down flap.

Performance

There are a few changes from last year's almost-identical crop of Panasonic Blu-ray players. The DMP-BDT230 doesn't have a touchpad remote, as its forbears of 2012 did, but the same simple directional user interface remains. It's actually very, very easy to use – it's just a case of relying on the excellent, simple remote control's arrow keys – not even the OK button is needed – but what's happened to Panasonic's awesome new smart TV pages for 2013?

Panasonic DMP-BDT230

The built-in web browser isn't worth bothering with, largely because the DMP-BDT230 comes with a rather basic TV remote – welcome though it is – that makes navigation of web pages, and text entry, painfully slow. Use a smartphone instead; after all, the DMP-BDT230 also comes equipped with Miracast for linking directly to Android devices.

Aside from its simplicity, where the DMP-BDT230 does impress is with its support for digital media. In our test we managed to get the DMP-BDT230 to display AVI, MP4, MPEG-4 and AVC HD video files, JPEG photos and MP3, WAV, AAC, FLAC and WMA music files.

Disc loading times are fair; the DMP-BDT230 managed 12 seconds in Quick Start mode, with both DVDs and CDs clocking-in at less than 15 seconds.

Picture quality

Picture quality is where the DMP-BDT230 really excels. You should stick with the hassle-free Normal, Soft or Fine picture presets, though there's little need to move away from the default Normal; pictures from our 2D test disc Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close were pin-sharp and fluid, with zero video nasties and very little judder. In fact, its 24p images are smoother than we've ever seen.

Panasonic DMP-BDT230

Switch to a 3D run-through of Hugo and the DMP-BDT230 copes just as well, delivering depth-filled images with no crosstalk or image echoes to frustrate us. Colour and contrast in both 2D and 3D impress, as they do in some remarkably well upscaled fare from our test DVDs. In terms of picture quality from all sources, there are no better choices than the DMP-BDT230.

Verdict

In the furore about whether streaming is taking over from optical discs, Panasonic's mid-range Blu-ray player makes a strong case for the survival of hard media.

We liked

Excellent digital media handling and a fairly wide suite of smart TV apps impress, but it's some excellent 2D, 3D and upscaled DVD images that make this Blu-ray player a standout option for even a high-end home cinema environment. Few decks can match it for pure image quality, and it's also one of the easiest 'smart' devices to use. It's also great to see Netflix here, complete with a dedicated button on the small, old-fashioned, but easy to understand remote control.

We disliked

Easy to use it might be, but the language in its otherwise simple, polished (though unusually structured) user interface is sometimes a little odd; should the rather hidden Network Services tab really hide the DMP-BDT230's entire suite of smart TV apps? While we're talking about apps, the DMP-BDT230 doesn't really have enough of the big ones, notably Lovefilm and the catch-up services of UK broadcasters, save for the BBC. It's also rather odd not to find any free, downloadable apps for smartphones and tablets that ape the remote control. If nothing else their omission makes the provision on the DMP-BDT230 of a web browser rather pointless.

Final verdict

Viewers after the latest and greatest collection of apps should look beyond the DMP-BDT230 and head for a Samsung deck. However, if you're after the very finest picture quality not only from 2D and 3D Blu-ray, but from upscaled DVDs, too, the low-priced DMP-BDT230 is dead centre of the sweet-spot.

Rather like its plasma TVs – far and away the finest TVs currently being manufactured – Panasonic's DMP-BDT230 delivers on quality, no question, but what it's surrounded with in terms of user interface design and smart TV apps means that it may be passed over in favour of ultimately less capable decks. That would be a shame since the DMP-BDT230 is a remarkably capable Blu-ray player, and great value, too.

Also consider

The DMP-BDT230 doesn't get much competition from the Toshiba BDX2400, but when judged purely on its selection of apps might not fare so well against the Samsung BD-F6500, which favours smart TV.

Blu-ray awardrecommended
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