Panasonic DMP-BDT210 review: Panasonic DMP-BDT210

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The Good The Panasonic DMP-BDT210 has built-in Wi-Fi, a simple user interface, and an excellent suite of streaming-media services, including Netflix, Amazon Instant, Vudu, Pandora, Skype, and CinemaNow. The DMP-BDT210 also has the fastest overall disc-loading speeds we've tested. And though its "touch-free" disc tray opener is a little gimmicky, we found it occasionally useful.

The Bad The Panasonic DMP-BDT210 has fewer overall streaming services than some competitors, missing some high-profile services like Hulu Plus and MLB.TV. It also lacks onboard memory for accessing BD-Live features.

The Bottom Line 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.

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8.4 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 9
  • Performance 8

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.

Panasonic DMP-BDT210
The DMP-BDT210 doesn't look quite as slick with the front panel flipped down.

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.

DMP-BDT210 touch-free sensor
Just wave your hand over the top of the player and the disc tray opens.

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.

User interface
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 home screen
The DMP-BDT210 home screen is a little unconventional, but it works well once you get used to it.

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.

Viera Cast home page
The Viera Cast home page has large icons for each service, and you can customize it to your liking.

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.

Panasonic's Netflix interface

Like on the other players, the Panasonic has the most recent Netflix interface, which lets you search and browse movies that aren't in your Instant Queue.

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
Wi-Fi Built-in 2D-to-3D conversion Yes
3D Blu-ray Yes Onboard memory No
Other: DLNA

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.

Streaming-media features
Netflix Yes Pandora Yes
Amazon Instant Yes Napster No
Vudu Yes Picasa Yes
Hulu Plus No Facebook No
MLB.TV No Twitter Yes
YouTube Yes Weather Yes
Other: Skype

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.