Editors' note: Several user reviews have mentioned problems with Netflix streaming on the Panasonic DMP-BDT210, which we did not experience during our review. For more information, read our blog about the issue.
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.
There's not much to the exterior design of the DMP-BDT210, which sports a typical glossy black front panel. 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 included remote is excellent. The buttons are laid out well and we really like that there were separate buttons for directly accessing both Viera Cast and Netflix. The DMP-BDT210 can also be controlled via an iPhone app; there's no Android app yet. It's a pretty standard remote app, but the major drawback is that you can't use a keyboard to input text in streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Instant.
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.
There are even more services available if you click the More button below the center icon, bringing you to the next "layer" of screens. The whole layer concept seems a bit more complicated than it needs to be, but, since you can fit seven services on the main page, most people will never need to navigate beyond the main screen anyway.
For overall user experience, Panasonic's Viera Cast is definitely one of the best this year, coming in right behind LG's Smart TV. Check out our full review of Panasonic Viera Cast for more information and comparisons of the content portals offered on LG, Samsung, and Sony Blu-ray players.
|Key Blu-ray features|
|3D Blu-ray||Yes||Onboard memory||No|
The DMP-BDT210 includes standard features for a midrange Blu-ray player, including built-in Wi-Fi and 3D Blu-ray support. There's also 2D-to-3D conversion, although we wouldn't put much stock in that feature--it's hard enough to find native 3D material that looks good. There's no onboard memory, which means you'll need to insert an SD card to use BD-Live features. Again, that's not a big loss in our book, as we never find ourselves using BD-Live, but we'd prefer if Panasonic included an SD card in the box.
The player is DLNA-compatible, which means you can stream digital media files over your home network. Supported digital media file formats include DivX, MKV, MP3, and JPEG. (A full list of supported file types is available in the user manual (PDF link). Digital media files can also be played off a connected USB drive. While we were successfully able to play back our suite of test files, digital media files have tons of variation in how they're encoded, so your results may differ. If digital media playback is important to you, we'd recommend looking through user opinions on CNET and elsewhere to see how a player performs in real-world scenarios.
Compared with other manufacturers, Panasonic's Viera Cast content portal has the fewest streaming-media services, but it includes all of the standard services (Netflix, Pandora, Vudu) and a few standouts, including Amazon Instant and Skype.
Amazon Instant Streaming is our favorite extra, especially for. While competing services like Vudu are a compelling alternative for video-on-demand movies, Amazon Instant offers by far the largest selection of TV shows for pay-per-view watching, including both network and cable shows. If you want Amazon Instant, we'd consider Panasonic's main competition to be LG's Smart TV. Sony offers Amazon, too, but its user interface isn't quite as good.