LAS VEGAS--Panasonic has long had one of the strongest Smart TV suites on its home theater products, but you needed to buy a Blu-ray player, HTIB, or TV to get access to it.
Panasonic's new duo of streaming-video players are looking to lower the barrier to getting the Viera Connect suite of streaming-media services. The high-end DMP-MST60 will feature all of the services of Viera Connect, plus it's 3D-capable and has a Web browser. The step-down DMP-MS10 includes a more basic streaming-media suite, with support for Netflix, Hulu Plus, CinemaNow, Vudu, Amazon Instant, and YouTube.
Both models include built-in Wi-Fi, DLNA certification, and have the ability to play back digital media off a hard drive, although specific file formats aren't specified. Miracast is also supported by both boxes, which lets Android mobile devices (running 4.2 or higher) stream content directly to the box ala AirPlay.
Of course, Panasonic is entering a space with tough competition, especially from Roku, and to a lesser extent Apple TV. While Viera Connect compares well with Smart TV packages available on Blu-ray players and TVs, it will have a much harder time matching up to Roku's 700+ channels, plus advanced features like cross-platform search and the AirPlay-esque PlayOn Roku.
The DMP-MST60 and DMP-MS10 will be available in February. Pricing has not been announced.