The DMP-BDT260 is our first look at Panasonic’s 2014 Blu-ray player range. A middle-sitter in the six-strong line-up, it’s sandwiched between the bottom-of-the-range DMP-BD81 (£80) and flagship DMP-BDT700 (£550).
Panasonic had an outstanding run with Blu-ray players last year, totting up its five-star credentials and establishing a rivalry with Sony.
So will its new range keep up the good track record? If the BDT260 is anything to go by, the answer is yes.
Put on After Earth and it’s clear we have another sterling performer on our hands. In the very first scenes, pictures in space show impressive contrast: stars look bright against the deep black canvas, and big white spaceships look striking.
Motion is smooth and judder-free as spaceships cruise along, managing to remain stable during the jerky movements when the ship loses control.
Fine detail is the Panasonic’s forte too, digging up texture in the characters’ rubbery bodysuits and conveying subtleties in facial expressions.
Rich and punchy colours are instantly arresting. Greens in the wildlife are lush and bloody carcasses are bright red.
There’s a tinge of over saturation to the lustrous colour palette, but we like its ability to make content eye-catching.
Skin tones remain well judged though, rendering natural complexions and realistic shadows on faces.
Switch Blu-ray discs to Rush and clean whites on the car’s bodypaint offset oily blacks on tyres. There’s good texture on the latter, and that sense of wear on the seatbelts shows it’s really paying attention to detail.
Like the others in Panasonic’s new range (bar the BD81), the BDT260 supports 3D. Load Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 Blu-ray and it’s every bit as impressive.
The picture is pin-sharp and stable, while much of the detail and rich colour balance apparent in 2D content is present and correct.
Badly handled motion can be particularly uncomfortable in 3D, but this Panasonic takes erratic broomsticks dodging traffic and weaving in and out of one another in its stride.
Those who still have large DVD collections will be pleased: it does a fine job upscaling standard definition. With Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, there’s radiant shine to C3-PO’s gold metal body, and impressive punch to the brick-red landscape.
Compared with our Award-winning Sony BDP-S5100, motion is a little smoother and the picture less prone to noise.
More after the break
Panasonic hasn’t rested on its laurels where sound is concerned either. As with its picture, its sound revels in richness.
There’s decent weight behind voices and film tracks generally sound robust. When the iconic Star Wars theme tune plays atop the disc menu, it sounds big and authoritative.
As well as disc playing, you get USB playback and DLNA for accessing files from a network or compatible storage device.
You will need an internet connection for the latter, which can be achieved wirelessly thanks to the BDT260’s built-in wi-fi. A LAN socket provides wired access.
As far as files go, it supports numerous formats including MKV, MP4, FLAC, AAC and WAV. You’ll also find the usual YouTube, Facebook, Netflix and catch-up-on-demand apps pre-loaded on the BDT260.
It’s the bare minimum we expect for smart functionality these days, but it works well: loading content is fairly quick, and USB devices are recognised right away.
The Panasonic interface is intuitive, and navigating menus is straightforward too. Getting from A to B can feel a bit long-winded, though, and requires some patience. The lack of a display is a niggle.
If your household has conflicting tastes, a multi-user mode lets up to four people store and save their customised settings too.
Panasonic doesn’t offer a control app for this year’s players, remaining reliant on a physical remote control.
In keeping with its previous design, it’s lovely to use: buttons are nicely spread and well positioned.
The BDT260 has been worth the wait. The player’s only real snag is its lack of display.
Instead, a single red light indicating it is powered on marks the only sign of life.
It may not be the most feature-packed player out there, but its picture and sound performance heartily make up for it.
If this is indicative of the range, we can’t wait to see what the rest of it has in store.