The Panasonic DMP-BDT210's built-in Wi-Fi, simple user interface, Amazon Instant streaming, and blazing fast disc-loading speeds make it our favorite Blu-ray player of 2011 so far.
It's tough to stand out in the Blu-ray player market, with all the midrange models having the main features we think are important: built-in Wi-Fi, Netflix streaming, and excellent image quality.
Though the Panasonic DMP-BDT210 doesn't have any single killer feature that puts it head and shoulders above the competition, it does just about all the little things right. It has the fastest disc-loading speeds we've seen on a player so far, coming in a good deal faster than its competitors. Its user interface is very simple to use, and we love that the remote includes a button for directly accessing Netflix. And while it doesn't have the most comprehensive suite of streaming-media services (it's missing Hulu Plus and MLB.TV), it does have Amazon Instant, which isn't available on competitors like the Samsung BD-D6500, Insignia NS-WBRDVD2, or the PS3 Slim.
If you want more streaming services than the DMP-BDT210 offers, the LG BD670 is the next best choice. But altogether, the Panasonic DMP-BDT210 feels like the most polished Blu-ray player overall, making it our Editors' Choice in the category.
Unlike other Blu-ray players, when you hit the eject button, the entire front panel flips down, exposing the disc tray and a few front-panel buttons. The flip-down front panel allows the DMP-BDT210 to have seamless look when it's flipped up, but the downside is that if you have a USB drive in the port, it forces the door to stay down and you're stuck looking at the unattractive interior.
The real design flair on the DMP-BDT210 is its hands-free disc sensor. When you have the feature activated, simply wave your hand over the top of the player and it opens the disc tray. Yes, it's a bit of a gimmick, but it can ultimately be a useful feature in a darkened home theater where it's easier to wave your hand than hunt for the eject button. In any event, we appreciate that you have the option to disable it.
The home screen on the DMP-BDT210 is simply laid out, although a little unconventional. Instead of having a cursor that hovers over the various menu options, there's essentially an onscreen directional pad--press up and you jump right to the "network" section. It's not what we're used to, but it's fast since there are fewer button pushes overall.
The Viera Cast user interface is very straightforward. The main screen has seven large icons to choose from, including the most popular services like Netflix, Amazon Instant, and Vudu. Even better, you can customize the main screen in the setup menu. In our case, that meant swapping in Pandora for CinemaNow on the home screen.
The DMP-BDT210 has the standard assortment of ports you find on most Blu-ray player. The major exception is the SD card slot, which Panasonic uses for BD-Live storage, but is also handy for popping in an SD card right from your camera and viewing photos.
Note that although the DMP-BDT210 lacks a component video output, we don't consider it a major missing feature since component video is now limited to 480i resolution, because of annoying AACS rules.