Panasonic SC-BTT490 review
The SC-BTT490 is Panasonic’s flagship mainstream all-in-one home cinema package. It might lack the same premium audio components of the more expensive BTT590, but it does have full-height front satellite speakers that are far easier to place in a room if you don’t want to wall mount them.
In comparison, the mug-sized rear satellites look fairly puny next to the towering 1.2m tall front speakers, but both use the same 6.5cm speaker drivers so there should be no difference in sound quality - even if the front channels receive more power from the internal amplifier. Each speaker, including the passive subwoofer, connects to the main unit with proprietary cables, although the speakers themselves have spring terminal connections, so extending them should be easy.
The main unit itself is barely bigger than a regular Blu-ray player, yet it still has room for a pop-out iPod dock, a front-facing USB port and an SDXC card reader. Its back panel connectivity is impressive too, having two HDMI inputs and one Audio Return Channel-supporting HDMI output for high-definition sources and a composite video output for older devices. Analogue RCA phono inputs and a single digital optical input take care of audio, and there’s also an Ethernet port, an FM radio antenna and a second USB port. Unfortunately, the rear USB port’s dedicated to Panasonic’s Skype camera, so we had to use the front port to play our test files.
Thankfully, file format support is excellent, with the BTT490 managing to play almost all of our test files. The only exception was WMV HD, but as this is rarely used any more. Integrated Wi-Fi means you won’t need to run an Ethernet cable to your TV to get online either.
Once connected, you’ll also be able to access Panasonic’s VIERA Connect online portal. It lets you access BBC iPlayer, Netflix and YouTube for streaming video, as well as Skype, Twitter and Facebook for social networking and a whole host of other services from smaller providers.
Switching from on-demand content to Blu-ray movies, the BTT490 continued to impress. Like Panasonic’s other Blu-ray players, there are plenty of image quality settings and speaker adjustments you can make to produce great audio. Panasonic’s all-in-one systems are typically some of the easiest to use, and the BTT490 is no exception, having a simple menu system and icon-based layout that makes changing settings both quick and easy.
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