Blu-ray Players

Panasonic DMP-BDT230 Blu-ray Player

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The Panasonic DMP-BDT230 Blu-ray Player In Use

Starting with some Blu-ray content, the Panasonic player was very good in use. The image looked great, and titles were pretty quick to load. One issue I found is that the Menu button didn't work a lot of the time, and I had to bring up the Options and then select Menu from there on Blu-ray titles. That is annoying and another issue that I hope they can fix with firmware, though it doesn't impact the image. Everything on screen looked and sounded great, and I didn't see any evidence of issues with the player messing up the content. For regular Blu-ray playback, the Panasonic was basically perfect, this is what I expect.

Watching DVDs was also very good on the Panasonic. My usual choice of Cars 2 looked just fine; free of any obvious stuttering or motion issues, and the responsiveness of it was very quick. TV Shows also played back just fine, and so did the documentaries I watched. For all of the disc media that I tested, I didn't see a single hiccup or issue in my time with the DMP-BDT230.

As soon as I went to try streaming content, that is where some issues began to happen. You can add additional apps to the Viera Connect screen, and that is done through their custom app screen. When you go to do this, you are presented with advertisements that run in the corner, with video and audio. That is something I really don't want to see on a product that I just paid for. Panasonic has had many of the same complaints with their TVs this year, but on those you can disable the ads. I found no way to turn these off in the menu system, and I worry this will grow to show more intrusive and larger ads going forward.

Once loaded, the apps reside in the Viera Connect section, with space for either apps on a page. I say only space for eight apps, and not just eight apps, as one of the spots here was taken up by an advertisement as well. It didn't have video and audio, but it was still using up a space where I could put something useful. This Viera Connect screen also lags a good bit, and takes a while to move from one screen to another. I used to like this interface on the 210, but as Samsung has stepped up their game on the BD-F5900 and its SmartHub design, the Panasonic is less user friendly and slower.

Some of the Panasonic apps use the standard interfaces, like Vudu and Netflix, but Amazon Instant Video is wrapped up in a custom skin. There is also no support for the Amazon Cloud Player app or Spotify, which limits the music options here. Once installed, the Netflix app had much worse performance that I have seen recently. All players are tested in the same AV cabinet here, one floor above the wireless router (both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands available) to try to keep results comparable. With the DMP-BTD230 I had more frequent rebuffering and failures to connect to the services than with other players.

Beyond Netflix, Amazon Instant Video would often report that a title wasn't available, and Hulu had buffering issues. Surprisingly the HDX streams on Vudu played just fine, as those are usually the most demanding ones available. Even at different times of the day the issues remained, so it wasn't due to too much network activity that streams were buffering. It seems that the DMP-BDT230 just has a Wi-Fi antenna design that might not be quite as good as other players out there, or has a smaller buffer for data than other players do. I'd really recommend using a hardwired connection with it, though that's not a possibility for most people I know.

As a disc player, the Panasonic was good, but as a streaming player, I wasn't impressed.