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Panasonic SC-BT100: Blu-ray home cinema in one package

If you can't be bothered to spend all your time and money putting together a home cinema system, why not let Panasonic do all the hard work for you with its new Blu-ray home cinema in a box?

If you've long wanted to get into home cinema but haven't had the motivation, you might find the switch to high definition is a good time to get involved. At least, that's what Panasonic is hoping with its SC-BT100, a Blu-ray home cinema system with 5.1 surround and a bunch of wonderful trimmings.

We've always been a fan of simple home cinema systems. No one will pretend you're going to get the best quality high-end sound, but as far as simplicity and value for money goes, they can't be beaten. Especially if you lack the expertise and inclination to spend hours putting together a top-notch setup.

What makes the BT100 ideal is that it also offers a step up to Blu-ray while at the same time offering 5.1 sound. There's an added bonus too -- you can add an extra pair of optional speakers to turn the whole thing into a 7.1 surround sound system. Now that's the sort of flexibility we like.

It's also worth pointing out that there's the option to use wireless rear speakers with the BT100 as well, via an optional kit you have to buy separately. If you want 7.1 surround wirelessly, that's possible too, but you'll need two sets of wireless receivers and speakers to do it. We think wireless speakers are the future, as it saves all that messy arguing with your other half, who almost certainly won't want you trailing cables all over the place.

In the box you get four satellite speakers, a centre channel and a Kelton subwoofer, which Panasonic reckons produces some of the best bass about. The Blu-ray portion is fully-featured too, offering profile 1.1 support, 1080/24p playback and deep colour. There's also some impressive audio support, including Dolby TrueHD and DTS Master Audio, there's Dolby Digital (obviously) and PCM uncompressed audio, which Blu-ray discs often support. You also get something called 'whisper mode surround' which is designed for late-night movie viewing without attracting the attention of the local constabulary.

The system can also be connected to your iPod, a feature that will appeal if you're one of the trillions of people that has bought an iPod in the last few years. The player will also upscale your regular DVDs to 1080p via HDMI, which makes sense given how many DVDs there are knocking around the planet.

There's no price for the SC-BT100 yet, but it should be available in the UK from June, when we'll be reviewing it. –Ian Morris