Panasonic has a strong track record when it comes to Blu-ray players and here is its freshly honed weapon, the Panasonic DMP-BDT330.
It might have lost to the Sony BDP-S790 at our 2012 Awards, but it was a very close fight. And while Sony is content to keep using last year’s machine, Panasonic has brought out this 2013 Blu-ray player.
It’s time for a rematch.
Panasonic DMP-BDT330: picture
Put on a Blu-ray and it’s immediately apparent that Sony will have another tough fight on its hands. The Panasonic DMP-BDT330 puts out a spectacular picture – one that gives the Sony BDP-S790 a run for its money.
We get started with the opening scene of The Dark Knight, and detail levels are sky high. From the windows of the bank to The Joker’s sweaty, scarred and painted face, everything is sharply etched and crisply textured. Motion is handled with a tight grip as the camera pans around Gotham City.
Skipping forward to one of the many dark scenes, we are treated to deep blacks that hold enough detail to see the creases in Batman’s mask.
Time to try something more colourful, and it’s over to the psychedelia of Oz: The Great and Powerful. It’s a warm picture from the Panasonic, with colours rich enough to make the Sony look like it’s playing it a bit safe, but not so much that they appear overblown. When it comes to whites, however, the Sony appears to be a marginally punchier.
Next up is 3D, and we give our trusty Life of Pi disc a spin. Motion is handled with minimal fuss as flamingos stroll across the screen in the opening scene, while the scene with flying fish has a convincing sense of depth.
Moving down to a standard-definition picture and a DVD of Die Hard 2 (in which Bruce Willis saves Christmas. Again.) and the BDT330 shows itself to be an impressive upscaler.
There’s an inevitable drop in detail and clarity, but it keeps a good grip on motion and does a good job of suppressing noise. Compared with the Sony, however, the Panasonic’s upscaled picture is just slightly softer.
Panasonic DMP-BDT330: sound
We’re equally impressed with the Panasonic when it comes to sound: it’s smooth and authoritative.
We load up the first attack scene in Cowboys & Aliens. The shattering glass is well defined without veering towards harshness, and explosions are weighty. And as spaceships zoom around terrorising the village, the sound effects are well controlled and widely spread too.
Moving over to music Blu-ray Shine A Light, and there’s a real sense that the Rolling Stones are flailing about in a crowded concert hall.
We could do with greater dynamic reach, but the Panasonic’s sonic delivery is consistently more full-bodied than Sony’s effort.
Panasonic DMP-BDT330: features
The Panasonic is fairly easy to use. The remote control handset is classic Panasonic: big, responsive buttons in a logical layout, and so easy to use that we don’t feel the need to download a control app.
And that’s just as well, as it turns out – because Panasonic’s 2012 app effort doesn’t seem to be compatible with this Blu-ray player. You can, at least, get a third-party app such as iMediaShare, which is a nice way of streaming videos and music on your portable device.
The BDT330’s smart performance is average: functional, but in need of work. The system interface is a little confusing – more exciting than Sony’s line of icons, but also unnecessarily complicated.
Sadly, the app page isn’t the lovely DIY home screen we’ve seen on Panasonic’s 2013 TVs. It’s the old system, with pages of seven apps at a time. The usual big-hitters are there (including BBC iPlayer, Facebook, Netflix) and you can move the apps about, but navigation is rather slow and we’d like to see more catch-up TV content.
DLNA compatibility means you can view content from your home network. It works fine for videos, but we found photos compressed-looking and slow to load. We’d rather use an SD card or a USB stick.
Elsewhere, you can share your phone’s content if you have a Miracast-compatible device. There’s also a web browser, but it’s awkward to use and embedded videos didn’t work for us.
Panasonic DMP-BDT330: verdict
The Panasonic DMP-BDT330’s smart content isn’t anything extraordinary, but the key thing is its Blu-ray performance, and here we are very impressed.
In that regard, it’s on a pretty even footing with the Award-winning Sony: its picture performance particularly is nothing short of stunning.
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