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.="" align="center">
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 cord-cutters without cable. 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.
Our extensive review of Viera Cast includes a chart comparing the major manufacturers' services.
|HDMI outputs||Single||Analog outputs||Stereo|
|Component video output||No||Digital audio outputs||Optical|
|USB ports||1||SD card slot||Yes|
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.
Blu-ray disc load times and player speed
|Blu-ray disc load times and player speed|
|Average seconds||Composite score|
|Disc loading||33.18||Disc loading||132|
|CNET speed rating||112|
|Higher composite scores indicate faster performance, with an average 2011 Blu-ray player having a composite score of 100. For more information, see our guide to how we test Blu-ray players.|
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
The Panasonic DMP-BDT210 has a CNET speed rating of 112, which means it's significantly faster than an average 2011 midrange Blu-ray player. This is largely because of blazing fast disc-loading speeds, loading movies like "Spider-Man 3" and "Pirates of the Caribbean" nearly 10 seconds faster than all its competitors.
The Panasonic is hands-down the speed champ so far this year for disc-loading, but it's surprisingly slow when actually navigating movies. Movies with complex menus like "Walk Hard" stutter along on the DMP-BDT210, while they zip by on competitors. It can be frustrating and make the player feel slow when you're actually using it. Still, we'd say the DMP-BDT210's quick load times make up for occasionally navigation sluggishness.
If you're interested in all the details about the Panasonic DMP-BDT210's speed compared with other 2011 players, check out our full 2011 Blu-ray player comparison chart and scroll down to the load times section.
We put the Panasonic DMP-BDT210 through our full battery of image quality tests, but before we get to the results, let's be perfectly clear: we don't think most buyers should worry about image quality when deciding which Blu-ray player to buy. The differences, especially on the Blu-ray side, range from minute to nonexistent, and even DVD performance is very close between players. The only exception is for people with home theater projectors, where you may actually see a difference on a 100-plus-inch screen. In that case, it may be worth shelling out for a reference-level Blu-ray player like the Oppo BDP-93.
If you're into the nitty-gritty image quality details, again, check out our full 2011 Blu-ray player comparison chart and scroll down to the performance section. For more information on our testing procedure, consult our guide to how we test Blu-ray players.
|Blu-ray image quality: Test patterns and program material|
|Film resolution||Pass||"Ghost Rider"||Pass|
|Video resolution||Pass||"Mission: Impossible III"||Pass|
|Text overlay on film||Fail||"Sunshine"||Pass|
|Cadence tests||1/8||"Tony Bennett: An American Classic"||Pass|
|Chroma zone plate||Pass||"NIN Live: Beside You In Time"||Pass|
If we were purely judging based on test patterns, the DMP-BDT210 would appear to be the worst performing Blu-ray player we've seen this year. It fails a surprisingly number of tests, including seven cadence tests and the 2:2 film resolution test. However, we wouldn't read too much into these failures. The main takeaway is that the DMP-BDT210 passed all our program material tests and we didn't see any difference in its image quality compared with other players outside of synthetic tests.
|Streaming-video image quality|
Though the image quality of Netflix streaming video varied a little bit last year between players, we haven't observed any differences so far this year. The DMP-BDT210 provides the same Netflix image quality as other players, but remember that streaming image quality varies a lot on a title-by-title basis, and also depends heavily on the quality of your broadband connection and home network.
|DVD image quality: Test patterns and program material|
|Video resolution||Fail||"Star Trek: Insurrection"||Pass|
|Text overlay on film||Pass||"Invite Them Up"||Pass|
Again, the DMP-BDT210 did not fare well with test patterns, but it passed all our actual program material tests. We wouldn't put much stock into this when choosing a player, although if you happen to watch a lot of rare DVD material, it could be a tie-breaking factor against the Panasonic.
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.