That same WHQL test DVD also includes a layer-change test to gauge how quickly a player can perform that function. Compared to the Samsung player (BDP-1600), which aced the test with no noticeable freeze or jump at the layer change point, the Panasonic was not as good, with about a half-second of noticeable freeze—not bad, but not as good as the best.
Using the Inspired By Nature DVD that’s packed along with a new calibration instruction DVD that’s just been introduced by Disney of all people (WOW – World Of Wonder – 2 disc version, which is also available on Blu-ray), I looked carefully at the first chapter on the disc, which consists of gorgeously colorful shots of vibrantly hued flowers. The chapter opens with an extreme close-up of a yellow flower with bountiful petals fluttering gently in the breeze, and switching back and forth between the two inputs yielded a slight, but noticeable edge-sharpening effect with the Panasonic.
The product specifications on the Panasonic US website for the player allude to a number of other included picture adjustment and enhancement features, such as basic picture adjustments of brightness, contrast, gamma and the like, as well as a Picture mode with choices of Normal, Soft, Fine, Cinema, Animation and a User mode. There are audio features also listed, including Night surround mode, Dialogue Enhancer, and Dynamic Range Compression. No such features exist on the review sample I got from Panasonic, and the owner’s manual makes no mention of them either.
The downloadable product specification brochure PDF on the site also lists the same vaporware features, and as the Power Source specification quotes a non-North American 220-240 volts AC 50 Hz power spec, it may be possible that these features are perhaps included with other-market versions. The lesson here is, once again, to ignore a manufacturer’s specifications and feature descriptions on their website, and take the brief amount of time involved to download the owner’s manual, as that document almost always endures far more editorial scrutiny for accuracy. Websites are maintained by the marketing department, while owner’s manuals are generated by the engineering department—it’s easy to guess which of those two groups is going to be a whole lot fussier about getting things factually correct.
The Panasonic, like other current generation Blu-ray players, includes BD-Live, but not surprisingly for Panasonic, with the DMP-BDT100 you’ll need a 1GB or larger SD card for that functionality (as Panasonic is a co-developer of the SD format). Since they’re easily available for well under $10, it’s not a big deal. Interestingly, the need for an SD card in the slot became apparent as I played the WOW Blu-ray calibration disc and was informed the player needed the additional memory for an available content upgrade, which is all the more remarkable for two reasons. First, the WOW disc had just become available two weeks prior to my testing, and second, that Disney, a huge mega-entertainment corporation, is nimble enough to upgrade their calibration disc with surprising speed. I never would have guessed it.
A virtual carbon copy of the OSD used on recent Panasonic TVs, the player’s menu structure is quite sensible, and the text and graphics are clear even when viewed from quite a distance. The remote control is well designed, and at about three quarters the size of their TV remote equivalent, isn’t hampered by super-tiny buttons.
Sure, some of the button are comparatively small, but the oft-used buttons are as large as need be, and the layout also mimics that of the TV remote. Included on the player’s remote are buttons to power on/off a Panasonic TV, switch its inputs, adjust volume and change channels. For a reasonably-priced 3D Blu-ray player, the Panasonic’s remote is a cut above.
As mentioned earlier, the Panasonic had no problem handling a slew of DVD and 2D Blu-ray discs, both conventional fare as well as test discs. It also had no problem with the half dozen or so 3D Blu-ray discs on-hand. Video veterans who were there when first generation DVD and Blu-ray players were introduced will remember all too well the problems with those early discs and players, with lock-ups, stumbling, glacially slow loading and disc navigation, and other maladies that were part and parcel of being on the “bleeding edge.” Kudos (so far) to Panasonic and the makers of 3D Blu-ray discs for getting it right from the beginning.
The player’s internal upconversion features the afore-mentioned detail enhancement of DVDs, and also alludes to improved 1080i-1080p upconversion. While the player’s performance in this regard isn’t up to the level of the first rate video processors built into better TVs and some recent generation A/V receivers, it could be considered to be at least competent, with no obvious and major flaws (jaggies were evident on low angle edges occasionally, but not to the extent that they were obnoxious).