The Panasonic DMP-BDT230 nestles in the middle of a range of three new Panasonic Blu-ray players for 2013, the DMP-BDT130 and DMP-BDT330.
The DMP-BDT330 adds 4K upscaling and a second HDMI output, while the DMP-BDT130 is the most basic of the three and sacrifices the wi-fi and Miracast functionality (a form of mirroring using Android devices) of the DMP-BDT230 on test here.
Panasonic DMP-BDT230 review: sound quality
Over recent years Panasonic has developed a knack for making highly recommendable budget Blu-ray players, not least this model's predecessor, the award-winning DMP-BDT220, but does the DMP-BDT230 stick with tradition?
Most definitely. Sound quality is among the best in class, the Panasonic conjuring up impressive scale and dynamics for the money.
Watch The Amazing Spiderman, and the player handles the blockbuster soundtrack with aplomb. You’re excited and moved in equal measure as the machine follows dynamic shifts, rising and falling with the skill of a ballroom dancer.
The BDT230 doesn’t sound unruly or disjointed, either. Spin Imagine Dragons’ It’s Time and the Panasonic sounds entertaining and self-assured.
Panasonic DMP-BDT230: picture quality
Critics will have a hard time finding fault with the picture quality, too. The player comes with its own picture settings (Normal, Fine, User and Soft) but we found using Normal produced the best balance when watching both standard- and high-definition content.
The colourful palette of Tangled bursts onto your screen but the Panasonic doesn’t overdo the brightness or vividity of the movie. Colours are solid and rich with good differentiation between hues.
The '230 paints the grittier, slightly cooler transfer of A Good Day To Die Hard with an even hand, too.
Spin the 3D Blu-ray of Hugo and the Panasonic DMP-BDT230 excels, with the opening credits looking startling as the 3D action comes at you thick and fast.
As the camera sweeps through the Gare Montpanasse train station, and along one of the main platforms motion is handled firmly and fairly. There’s an excellent sense of depth to the image, too.
Panasonic DMP-BDT230 review: specs
All the players at this end of the market are built to a price, and the Panasonic’s build reflects this. The glossy front fascia and angled side panels are hardly groundbreaking design statements, but the machine looks a decent enough proposition.
It’s very minimalist with only four recessed control buttons on the top edge. Flip down the rectangular panel on the fascia and you’ll find two USB sockets and a single SD card slot.
The DMP-BDT230 supports a solid array of file formats, including MKV, FLAC, WAV and MP4, and there’s wi-fi (and wi-fi direct) connectivity and Miracast display mirroring for compatible Android devices.
Panasonic DMP-BDT230: smart features
Unlike Samsung and Sony machines, Panasonic players tend to be a little more conservative as far as smart features and functionality go, and the DMP-DBT230 does seem lacking in this department.
The amount of content available through the Viera Connect internet portal is very limited compared to rival offerings.
Catch-up TV extends only as far as BBC iPlayer – not 4oD or ITV Player. Netflix and Acetrax are available (although Acetrax is set to close on June 21st), but it just doesn’t feel when using the player that this is Panasonic’s primary concern.
Even the way the Viera Connect portal is presented isn’t as intuitive or as inviting compared with rival offerings, and there's no sign of the new My Home Screen interface, as seen on Panasonic's 2013 TVs.
Strangely, and at odds with rival manufacturers, Panasonic has decided against making 2013 models compatible with its own free remote app for tablets and smartphones.
On the plus side, though, the physical controller you get with the player is excellent. It’s nice to use with chunky, evenly spaced buttons. There are a couple of quick keys that act as shortcuts to certain features, too – including a big Netflix button for jumping straight to the video on demand service.
Panasonic DMP-BDT230 review: verdict
Smart features aside, if your main focus is picture and sound, there aren’t many players at this price capable of holding a candle to the Panasonic DMP-BDT230.