After years of searching and finally buying the pieces of my home entertainment system, I was missing the DVD player. I thought that this would be a difficult choice, but found that the reviews...
Absolutely stunning 24p play back. Networked Apps are flawless (wired). Very customizable. Unbelievable DLNA capability. Ability to skip the unskippables in a DVD. Overall professional onscreen GUI. Audio Quality is surprisingly very good. Upscaling as a customizable, menu driven item. Very Apple-esque.
Wish it linked to Non-Windows NAS better. Needs longer passwords for Networked Drives.
After years of searching and finally buying the pieces of my home entertainment system, I was missing the DVD player. I thought that this would be a difficult choice, but found that the reviews for this device were excellent from a few trusted sources, including the AVS forum. Only a few on Amazon exclaimed that an OTA update had "messed up the Wifi and Netflix." Apparently Panasonic listened and corrected it, mentioning it in their updates. - 1.53.
Upon first purchasing the device, I was somewhat surprised in regards to the slightly slower start up times than I was used to. I soon noted that the start up GUI was exactly the same as the Panasonic VT50 television set. And I mean "exactly the same." So much so that I was actually confused at first and thought that I had brought up the televisions' menu. Once you select the menu choices however, you are confronted by a delightful smorgasbord of tweaks and personalization choices that would make any geek envious. From sound quality, clarity and translation to video upscaling and the holy grail of 24 p playback and 3D renditions one could spend hours tweaking the device.
So what did a DVD look like? I put in an old DVD "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" to test the waters and was surprised again by the slight delay at the start up (more on that later). But once the movie started and the wonderful Paramount Mountains showed up, I was floored by the quality. No flickering. No bleeding colors or pixelations. The sound quality was excellent in 5.1 . Naturally, running this into the SC-67 didn't hurt things either. I was very happy.
But that was nothing compared to my 3-D experience. I purchased a copy of IMAX Hubble and IMAX Space Station and was stunned at the incredible view. I actually felt as though I was in the Space Station. There is a scene in one of the movies where a rocket takes off and debris is scattered breaking a glass window from which the viewer is seeing. My family swore that the rumble of the rocket taking off broke the TV screen. It was that realistic. There was again no stuttering at all on playback. Additionally, if you want greater 3-D depth this is also adjustable and adds to the realism.
The signature note on this player is of course its flawless playback of 24p Blu-Ray videos. For this, there are no slow loading times. It is fast and reactive and there is never a glitch in the playback. If the color quality was excellent on the DVD and better than excellent for the Blu-Ray DVD's, I cannot find words to describe what it is like in 24p. In Denzel Washington's Safehouse, there are views of South Africa that are absolutely breath taking. The "jiggly camera" technique is actually more intense and meaningful in 24p than in standard movie mode. I actually played back some parts in 24p and in standard Blu-Ray and it was obvious that 24p made it feel as if I was sitting in the Movie Theater or more impressively actually there. It was immersive.
So video playback is excellent on regular DVD's and Blu-Ray, so what about the sound? Not surprisingly, the audio matched the quality of the video. Additionally, there are tweaks that can be made in the menu to bring up the sound a little more (ie. Conversation etc). Surprisingly a lot of tweaks can be made on the fly without stopping the movie.
Music, DLNA and Networks
For Music CD's I can truly say that I have moved on from CD's to FLAC and AIFF and the DMP-BDT220 plays these files without a hiccup. Could I use this as a stand alone CD player? I probably could, but CD's are not really my forte any more and so this may actually have to do as a stand alone. But the gist of this is that you can play your audio, lectures or music from a NAS drive or DLNA compatible device. You can also stream it from other sources.
This will always bring up the aficionados dilemma? Are you buying a DVD player or some gadget that just happens to play DVD's? I am happy to say that the DMP-BDT220 is a DVD Player first and a Media extender second. And no, I did not state that incorrectly because buried in the menu somewhere is a way to turn this thing into a video server. DLNA I would presume, but it shows up on my Windows machine and I would presume that a USB drive could be added to it ?
The Network capabilities are truly amazing and I think that I can say that I was insanely surprised by what this thing could do. It can read from a NAS drive, access a DLNA server and without a set up automatically play any shared files from a DLNA attached server that is on the same network. There is no set up for the DLNA, but you do need to go through the headache of setting the device to read from SAMBA protocols. I do not believe that AFP is supported. The playback, as with everything else on this device is again non jitter. It buffers a good 5 minutes of video before playing (in about 10 seconds) and I have had no problems with the playback.
The Networked apps are also impressive. I have used Netflix and Amazon Player and was greatly impressed by the picture quality emanating from both services. Amazon had a little lag time and buffered once during a 2 hour movie on a wired network, but it was streaming in HD with a lot of other gadgets on the network. Other than the one buffer (ever!!!), the video quality on the HD playback from both services was excellent. Netflix's House of Cards has amazing audio which matches its exceptional HD video quality. I was surprised to see no pixelations or washed out blacks during this show. A lot of times on the TV as opposed to the iPad, I would get a little disappointed by the video quality of the streams, especially the deep black colors which would appear washed out . This did not appear to happen with the DMP-BDT220. And I am not completely certain that this is a 720p (AppleTV version 2) vs 1080p (DMP-BDT220) issue since I had similar issues with the Xbox (1080p). It is my opinion that the DMP-BDT220 just renders these videos better. Again, there is upscaling involved (according to the literature) on the streams and any USB or uploaded videos and these can be tweaked again in the menu. I am not certain whether this is going on during some of the playbacks or if there is additional processing going on at the Receiver level (SC-67) but back to back playback through the same receiver seems to find the DMP-BDT220 displaying better video quality than anything else that I own for streaming playback.
Overall Impressions and minor annoyances
About the only thing that I could find to complain about was that the NAS drive and server sign in screen apparently settle for relatively weak WPA2 passwords. I usually use nothing short of 30 mixed characters but the DMP-BDT220 would not allow anything past about 15 characters. I changed the password for the sake of testing, but felt naked and decided that it wasn't worth leaving myself vulnerable so erased the share from the DMP-BDT220.
Additionally, I was not crazy about the remote control. Since I use a Universal Remote I haven't had to worry about the remote control which looks like something from NASA.
The feel of the device was also somewhat surprising. It feels a little plastic, but looks gorgeous when looking head on. There is a certain minimalism in the design and there are no bawdy characters or flashing lights everywhere. It is almost non assuming in the dark recesses of the entertainment cabinet. My attachments are HDMI out and a Wired Ethernet connection running into a gigabit switch. For myself, I control the device with a universal remote and at times an iPhone app. Both work flawlessly. On the question of Wireless vs Wired Ethernet? I am firmly on the side of Wired! There is so little latency noted with all of my devices with a Wired network that I refuse to go Wireless.
The network capabilities unfortunately does include a call home upon turning on the device. This is noted by the call to update the device upon turning it on if a new update is available. OTA updates are easy and are not cumbersome. The last update 1.53 introduced the ability to skip over previews and other things that take up the first 15 minutes of a DVD. It also introduced Region Free DVD and PAL workarounds accessible from the Remote (This regional issue needs to be verified (AVSNoobie)).
So, there you have it. A relatively inexpensive player that when attached to a relatively decent home system can provide a value based entry into the Blu-Ray space. Equipped with additional Network features, I give this device 5 stars. I am certain that there are probably better devices on the market. Some with load times that are much faster than the DMP-BDT220, but for the price, I do not think that this is a bad device. My overall thought on the difference in load times is that I think that there is probable upscaling going on before the device plays back a regular DVD, while very little in the way of processing is needed for its natural ability to play back Blu-Ray videos. I am especially surprised at the way in which it plays back 24p videos without hesitation. Start up times for the latter two are comparable with what I am used to.
Until I find a few flaws, I give this 5 stars for now based on price and features.