Originally Posted by Ruined
Some might not consider this a fair comparison, but I think it is an interesting one - a 2yr old premium player vs a new midfi one. But, here goes.
I was able to get Best Buy to give me the DMP-BDT350 for $350, plus I had a giftcard.
I test drove the player for some time yesterday and put it up against the 51FD.
First of all, in terms of Blu-ray the Panasonic DMP-BDT350 offers a better experience than the BDP-51FD. Its faster (starts in under 2 seconds), more full-featured, and most importantly has better 1080i deinterlacing
than the 51FD. Yes, you read that right. The Panasonic DMP-BDT350 does a better job with 1080i Blu-ray Discs than the Pioneer, especially on 3:2 cadence 1080i Discs. The Panasonics conversion from 4:2:0 to 4:4:4 is also superior to the Pioneers. This is evident both in benchmark material (S&M, HQV) and real world discs. For 1080p24 sources, like most players they are very similar. The Panasonic DMP-BDT350 also comes with a free Wifi dongle that plugs into the back of the player.
Moving on to DVD, here it is a closer affair, but once again the DMP-BDT350 offers an overall superior experience in both benchmark (HQV) and real world, but not by much. Once again the conversion from 4:2:0 to 4:4:4 is superior. Navigation and loading of DVDs is significantly faster on the Panasonic.
One area where the Pioneer 51FD did poorly with DVDs is in strange cadences (usually encodes that are messed up/broken, such as the DVD series "Noein"). The Pioneer 51FD displayed combing with this title throughout a few of the volumes that were encoded wrong. The Panasonic shows issues with exactly the same volumes in the same areas. So, for DVDs that have been encoded improperly, neither of these players quite approach the level of a player with an ABT2010/2015. However, I am confident in saying that for DVDs that are encoded properly (about 99% of them), the Panasonic BDT350 looks just as good. Comparing the Pio/Panasonic to Reon-based players show that for the 99% of normal material the Pio/Panasonic both look better than the Reon, but for odd cadences again the Reon can handle them without issue.
In terms of PQ tweaking that made the BDP-51FD so popular, hidden in its Advanced menus, the Panasonic DMP-BDT350 actually offers more
tweakability than the BDP-51FD. All sorts of variables are available for tweaking the picture to your liking. There are some modes for DVD that include varying levels of EE & noise reduction that can improve performance on poorly encoded DVDs. The "super resolution 1" mode for DVD actually offers quite an excellent balance of improving detail without adding significant ringing. And like the Pioneer, all of these enhancements can be turned off.
Moving on to analog Audio Quality, the BDT350's audio output is quite good. While head to head pure against the BDP51FD it is not quite at its level (few players are), but the Panasonic offers a few "virtual tube amp" modes that are quite awesome to tweak with. Panasonic basically came up with DSP modelling that tweaks the sound to sound "tube" like, and it comes quite close to doing so. For this reason I will leave both the BDT350 and BDP-51FD hooked up to my preamp for CD listening.
In terms of internal decoding, the DMP-BDT350 performs similarly to the Pioneer, with the same 7.1 DTS-HDMA speaker mapping on 5.1 DTS-MA titles - which is unfortunate as generally receiver dpliix/iiz/dsx modes do superior work on 5.1 sources. DTS must really be pushing their speaker remapping for some reason.
There are other features such as DLNA and video streaming from the computer, however I've found that it does not perform as well in video streaming as the XBOX 360 using a linksys wireless-n bridge. I am not sure if this is due to the wireless adapter in the BDT350 or the more primitive nature of the BDT350's video streaming software - will have to investigate further. I was not able to get any of my audio files to play yet off my PC, and I'm still trying to figure that one out, and I am anxious to compare to the 360 - as the 360's sound quality for streamed files is pretty dreadful. UPDATE: I just learned that the DMP-BDT350 *CANNOT STREAM MUSIC FILES* - not MP3, not WMA, not AAC, NOTHING. That is a pretty big bummer and to call a player DLNA compliant without ability to stream music is ridiculous. Hopefully Panasonic will remedy this with a firmware update!
The Vieracast portal works quite well and Youtube videos look good windowed, but when expanded to full screen there is no option to pillarbox them like the BDT350 & 51FD do with 4:3 DVD.
Then of course, there is 3-D performance. This is where this unit pulls out ahead from all of the other players out here. The player has dual HDMI outputs for HDMI 1.4 HDTVs, however I was able to use it in HDMI 1.3 mode without issue running through my Integra DTC-9.8 and into my Mits DLP HDTV. The fact that it offers checkerboard and full HD 3-D combined with dual HDMI outputs makes the BDT350 a fantastic transitional device from HDMI 1.3 to HDMI 1.4.
Build quality on this Panasonic is better than past Panasonics, but it is a far cry from the tank-like build of the 51FD. But, I am not sure this will make much difference in terms of reliability as the things that usually break first (laser issues, SoC issues) often have no correlation to the external build of the machine. Also, there is no brown stripe on the player you see in some of the websites. What it has is a frosted bronze lip at the bottom that looks quite nice in person. It is the best looking BD player Panasonic has made, though again not in the same league looks wise as the 51FD.
Overall, the BDT350 is impressive for the price. It offers a ton of features with excellent A/V quality across the board. It does not handle DVDs with incorrect cadence as well as ABT2010/2015 players, but those DVDs are in the minority - and realistically at this time an ABT2010/2015 player with the features of the BDT350 costs over twice as much and is not yet available (such as the Denon DBP2011, which I also plan on evaluating).