The Panasonic DMR-PWT520 is two things: a Blu-ray player with a good set of "smart" features and a 500GB twin-tuner PVR.
There are obvious differences with the straight Panasonic Blu-ray player: it's bigger, heavier and more conservative in styling. It is also more conservative internally, employing the same menu structure that Panasonic has been using for years. And it also has a standard, old fashioned, key-festooned remote control that is wonderful to use in comparison to Panasonic's touch-pad model.
Not that the remote is perfect. If you're recording something from TV onto the hard disk and press the Stop button, it just stops with no request for confirmation. If you're playing a Blu-ray and touch the Guide key, the disc stops and the EPG displays instead, often losing your place on the disc.
The unit is network savvy, but it also has Wi-Fi built-in for convenient connection in those places where the wires don't reach. It appears that this unit, however, does not work with the iOS control apps; the Panasonic 2012 Blu-ray Remote app wouldn't detect the unit at all. The 2011 version found it, but the controls did nothing — in my office, anyway.
The picture quality of discs played on this unit are up to Panasonic's usual high standards, even on default settings. When it comes to certain 1080i Blu-ray discs and Australian DVDs, the ability of this unit to select Film or Video mode processing, instead of the Auto mode, means that it can deliver the best performance that's technically possible. This, incidentally, is a rare feature and not offered by most mainstream brands.
The unit fully supports Blu-ray 3D, as well as all other Blu-ray features.
When it comes to Smart features, this unit is pretty much the same as the DMP-BDT320 Blu-ray player. It has the same screens and the same apps available.
In short, you get multiple layered screens, the top two of which have up to seven links to various apps, but it is up to you to populate the rest from the Market, which is also accessible from these screens.
Most of the most important stuff is there. On the video front, you get BigPond Movies, Quickflix, ABC iView, YouTube and Yahoo7, Daily Motion and Vimeo, plus a number of specialist topics (there are 15 items available in total, including at least one in 3D). These apps don't cost you anything, but the content they provide access to might cost. Quickflix and BigPond movies, for example, require subscription.