And the new budget player, the Panasonic DMP-BDT220, keeps up the strong performance. Play the Tintin Blu-ray and it’s immediately apparent that the BDT220 excels in what Panasonic does best: picture quality.
Panasonic DMP-BDT220: Picture quality
It uncovers a wealth of detail and texture that makes you fully appreciate all the work put in by the animators, and black levels are deep without swallowing up detail.
Colours are strong and vibrant without being overblown, and manage to lend a natural tone even on an animated film.There’s the merest hint of motion blur, but even in complex scenes the BDT220 zips along without losing composure.
Panasonic DMP-BDT220: in 3D
These characteristics carry on into 3D territory, where the detail and depth are kept intact. The Panasonic is impressively stable compared with its rivals, and when coupled with a rich colour palette and good resolution this makes for easy and enjoyable viewing.
Those of you with large DVD collections aren’t left out, either: the Panasonic is fantastic when upscaling to 1080p. We put on old favourite The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, and for a second, we forgot that we weren’t actually watching a Blu-ray disc.
The picture is remarkably clear with plenty of details that remind you just how stunning and fantastical Middle Earth is.
Black levels are smooth and inky-deep, with a great balance of colours and contrast that can handle action sequences and quiet atmospheric scenes with equal poise. Noise levels are pleasingly low, too.
Panasonic DMP-BDT220: Sound quality
The BDT220’s other big skill is sound quality – not only are there excellent dynamics and punch with superb soundstaging, vocals are also given centre stage so that you don’t have to strain your ears (or turn up the volume) during quieter scenes.
Panasonic DMP-BDT220: Networking
On the network side of things, all new Panasonic Blu-ray players now come with the Viera Connect internet portal, through which you can access a host of online content: BBC iPlayer, Netflix, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Skype and CNBC, to name a few.
You can also access music, videos and photos over your home network via wired, wireless or USB connections, and the BDT220 will play most popular file types.
The menus are easy to trawl, although the system can be slightly slow to switch between options, screens and modes.
Panasonic DMP-BDT220: Connectivity
The player itself is slim and sleek; the front panel has an LED display and opens to reveal USB and SD Card slots, while HDMI, component, stereo and optical digital outputs are on the back.
The remote control is a bit basic and clunky in design, but works fine. Alternatively, you can use Panasonic’s smartphone app.
While it’s a multi-touch interface and lets you flick around with ease, there are some odd controls that can make it awkward to use.
The Pansonic DMP-BDT220 costs a bit more than some rivals, but it’s worth it. If only for its clear picture and ability to dig out the minutest of detail, this player keeps Panasonic on top of the budget Blu-ray class.