Pros: Does the basics and a few extras
Cons: Limited connectivity, inconsistent user interface
The main features offered are:
- Panasonic Viera Cast apps (including Netflix, Hulu Plus, CinemaNow, Vudu, YouTube etc.) plus online access to their app store for other add-ons
- Web browser
- Built-in WiFi (as well as ethernet)
- 3D playback support, including 2D-to-3D conversion
- DLNA support
- direct access to network shared drives
- local playback from USB drive, including NTFS support
- Miracast support for devices that have WiFi Direct (e.g., recent Android 4.2 or higher phones and tablets, but not Apple devices unfortunately)
- includes an HDMI cable (it had better, since that's the only AV connection)
The biggest drawback is that it has only an HDMI connector. There is no analog video output, no analog or digital audio output. You can forget about connecting this player to an AV receiver via optical or coax digital audio.
Physically it's smaller than it looks in photos, and light enough to be twisted around by the HDMI cable. The box contents are the unit itself, the DC power supply, the remote and batteries, short HDMI cable, and quick-start guide.
The remote has a reasonably clear layout, with a dedicated Netflix button and a Home button to get you back quickly to the Home menu. It has very basic TV controls for On/Off and volume (they work with a Panasonic TV, don't know about others). It's a bit clunky and awkward to hold.
The menu and background color scheme is poorly chosen. In many places it uses fine white text on a light grey menu background that's particularly hard to read. The default backdrop is too garish and makes it hard to see the icons, and the other 3 choices aren't much better. Fortunately you can substitute your own photo if you want. Menu layout is ok, but response can be sluggish in parts and it doesn't help that the interaction model is inconsistent. For example sometimes you need to cursor to an item and then click - other times just cursoring onto the item activates it. Some of the pop-up keyboards are QWERTY, others are alphabetical order, others are numeric keypad. I guess their human interface guy was sick the day they were designing this.
Video, photo, and music files can be played from a local USB drive (FAT or NTFS format), or a network DLNA server or shared folder. DLNA streaming worked fine from a Windows 7 PC or from my NAS. I was also able to connect to network shared folders hosted by my Windows 7 PC and my NAS. The range of video file types and codecs supported for playing local files from USB is reasonable, including mp4 and mkv (H.264), mpeg and VOB (mpeg-2), and avi (xvid), although it doesn't support some of the audio and video codecs used by my files (such as divx).
It insisted on a firmware update before it would allow me to access any internet content, but after the update I found that WiFi streaming worked fine for the basic apps like Youtube.
Netflix also worked fine, once I got it going. The first 20 times I tried, it told me that it couldn't connect to Netflix, or it exited with a cryptic error. I double checked that Netflix was working fine on my other devices, I tried a wired ethernet connection, even though Youtube was working fine over wireless. I played with the DNS settings. Eventually on the 21st attempt it connected and I was able to enter my account settings. It requires you to enter username/password for Netflix rather than using the device authorization code scheme. (BTW for non-U.S. users, the Netflix client on this unit can see U.S. content with U.S. DNS settings, but can't play it).
I took a quick look at the web browser, which is an add-on app from the Panasonic app store rather than a built-in capability. As expected, it's not very useful: painfully slow to operate, crashes or freezes with any kind of complex content, and I guess it's the slight overscan on my plasma TV that's cutting off the edges of the browser window.
Overall I think I'd be happy enough with it for routine use like watching Netflix or computer video files (of the right type), once it's set up. It's just that the lack of connectivity options limits the system configurations where you could use it effectively.