Watching films in 3D might be the next big thing for home cinema, but without a decent surround sound setup the effect won’t be nearly as immersive. Panasonic’s SC-BTT775 solves both of these problems by combining a svelte 3D-compatible Blu-ray player and a 1,000W 5.1 speaker system into one package.
Given the system’s price we were expecting a decent specification, but were still incredibly impressed with its versatility. Beyond 1080p upscaling, BD-Live and support for Dolby DTS-HD audio, it also has a wealth of connectivity options. Multimedia files can be played directly from a USB hard disk or memory stick using the SDXC card reader at the front of the unit, or streamed from any compatible DLNA device on your home network. Both Ethernet and WiFi are included as standard, so getting connected is very simple. File format support was wide-ranging; we had no trouble playing DivX or XviD movies over a wireless network, although high-definition MKV files showed a noticeable amount of stutter. Thankfully, these issues didn’t return when we played the same files through the unit directly using its front-mounted USB port.
An iPod dock extends outwards from behind the front fascia panel. With an iPod connected, you can browse your music collection or video files using the remote control and play them through the speaker system. There weren’t nearly as many connectivity options on the back of the unit as we’re used to seeing on high-end all-in-one systems, but two HDMI, optical S/PDIF and stereo RCA inputs should be enough for most basic setups. A second USB port is reserved for Panasonic’s HD Communication Camera, essentially an external webcam that can be used for Skype conversations without a PC. The two HDMI inputs let you play a games console or media streamer through the speaker system, even if the receiver is in standby mode. Audio Return Channel (ARC) also lets you use the speakers when watching TV - the TV's audio is fed back over the bidirectional HDMI connection.
Although it doesn’t look particularly complicated, the onscreen interface hides plenty of features within its nested menus. As well as detailed picture and audio settings, 3D effects such as depth and border can be changed to make watching films in 3D more immersive. There are also an incredible number of customisable options for the 5.1 speakers, including defining the spacing of each satellite and individual volume levels. Panasonic’s VIERA CAST internet TV functions are also included, letting you watch online videos and catch up with news reports. The whole system was surprisingly responsive, streaming content from YouTube over Wi-Fi without having to buffer video repeatedly. There’s no web browser so you’re limited to the pre-installed channels, but as the TV is internet connected Panasonic may add more in the future.