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Panasonic BTT500 review

Tom Morgan
6 Jul 2013
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
390
inc VAT

A fully featured 5.1 surround sound system with fantastic picture and sound quality

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Panasonic’s first 5.1 home cinema system for 2013 is as high-end as it gets. With 1,000 watts of power, a network-connected Blu-ray player and a Lightning-compatible dock for the latest iOS devices, it’s a great upgrade for anyone yet to add a surround sound setup to their TV.

The main unit is only slightly larger than the average Blu-ray player, yet there’s room on the back for six speaker inputs, one for each of the five satellite speakers and a sixth for the subwoofer. They use proprietary connectors, but the speakers themselves use spring terminal connections, so it’s not too difficult to extend the bundled cables if they aren’t long enough for your room. The subwoofer’s cable is permanently attached, so you’d have to cut it to extend it, but we found it long enough for our test area and should be fine for many living rooms.

Panasonic BTT500

From the front, the player is sleek yet understated, with a reflective black front panel and silver chassis. The Power, Eject and Play buttons are located on top, but you’ll need to use the remote control for anything other than starting Blu-ray playback. A push-out iOS dock with Lightning connector is located to the side of the disc tray, which flips down when you want to insert a disc or load files from the front-facing USB and SD card slots.

At the back, you’ll find two HDMI inputs and a single HDMI output that supports Audio Return Channel, which means you’ll be able to send audio from your TV’s integrated Freeview tuner through the speakers. There’s a single USB port, but it’s designed for Panasonic’s Skype camera (TY-CC20W, £85 from www.amazon.co.uk). Digital optical and analogue RCA inputs, an FM antenna and an Ethernet port complete the selection, with no legacy video connections for older TVs.

Panasonic BTT500

Panasonic has added its Smart Viera platform to the BTT500. To make the most of it, you must connect the BTT500 to the internet with an Ethernet cable or the integrated Wi-Fi. Once online, Netflix subscribers can use the service by pressing the dedicated button on the remote control. To use AceTrax, BBC iPlayer and YouTube, users must use the BTT500’s grid-based user interface, which has barely changed from last year. It feels slow compared to Blu-ray players from other manufacturers, taking several seconds to load new pages or launch applications. You’ll find Facebook, Twitter and Skype here too, as well as a marketplace with few extra programs available to download, but there’s nothing ground-breaking here.

Panasonic BTT500

Although the limited smart TV services aren’t that impressive, the BTT500 is well equipped to play your own videos. Its file format support is excellent, and the BTT500 let us play almost all of our media, including MKVs and MOVs. The one exception was native DivX, which didn’t even appear in the menu. Conveniently, the SDXC card slot at the front of the system let us play raw AVCHD footage from a camcorder or digital camera.

Blu-ray discs started very quickly, often within 15 seconds. Once playing, we were impressed with the incredibly well-defined images from our reference films. Panasonic enables the Super Resolution and Detail Clarity functions to add extra sharpening, which creates the impression of extra detail. The effect works best when set to a conservative level, but it didn’t introduce unwanted noise. We did notice that Detail Clarity can reduce film grain effects at the expense of detail, so we had to find a balance between the two settings. It’s definitely worth experimenting with the settings to find your own personal preference, though.

Panasonic BTT500 Blu ray rip

Here's a 1:1 crop of Blu-ray playback on the BTT500 - click to enlarge

Sony BDP-S490 vs PS3

For reference, here's the same scene played through a PS3 console - click to enlarge

There are a huge amount of other image quality settings to use, too, including five presets and a user mode that grants full control over brightness, contrast, sharpness, colour, gamma and noise reduction.

Sound quality was equally impressive, with great positional audio and a clear centre channel that meant we could always detect speech, without satellite speakers drowning it out. Although the mid-range had plenty of presence, we thought the system could have done with a more precise high end. It lacks detail in certain situations, although it’s not as noticeable in films as it is when playing music.

We were impressed with the amount of bass the small subwoofer manages to create. It isn’t overpowering and won’t rattle the furniture, but it did justice to our test footage and creates plenty of bass during explosions and action sequences. It has enough power to satisfy, with 65 per cent volume proving an ample sweet spot for our tests.

The BTT500 is reasonably priced for a combined Blu-ray player and home cinema system. Although you aren’t able to upgrade the system at a later date as you can with a system comprised of separates, and the Lightning dock’s superfluous if you don’t own an iOS device, this is still a great all-in-one upgrade for anyone looking to take the first step into home cinema.

Details

Price£390
Rating****

Connections

HDMI inputs2
HDMI outputs1
Component inputs0
Component outputs0
Output resolutions480i, 480p, PAL (576i), 576p, 720p, 1080i, 1080p
Total SCART sockets0
SCART socket typeN/A
S-Video input0
S-video output0
Composite inputs0
Composite outputs1
Stereo phono inputs1
Stereo phono outputs0
Coaxial S/PDIF inputs0
Coaxial S/PDIF outputs0
Optical S/PDIF inputs1
Optical S/PDIF outputs0
Multi-channel inputno
Speaker configuration5.1
Main unit end speaker connection typeproprietary
Speaker end speaker connection typespring terminals
Other connectionsUSB, SDXC, iPod dock, Ethernet
Wired network ports1x 10/100
Wireless networking support802.11n

Playback

Surround sound formatsDolby Digital Plus, Dolby Pro Logic II, DTS-HD Master Audio, DTS, Dolby TrueHD
Optical driveyes
Supported playback disc formatsBD-ROM, BD-RE, BD-R, DVD, DVD+/-RW, DVD+/-R, CD, CD-R, CD-RW
Audio format supportMP3, WAV, FLAC
Video playback formatsAVCHD, MPEG2, MPEG-4, MKV, WMV
Image viewing formatsJPEG, GIF, BMP
RadioFM

Speakers

Speaker configuration5.1
RMS power output1000W
RMS power centre180W
RMS power front370W
RMS power surround250W
RMS power subwoofer200W
Wall mountableyes
Centre speaker cable length1.5m
Front speaker cable length3.0m
Surround speaker cable length5.0m

General

Extrasremote control, cables
Size460x279x39mm
Subwoofer dimensions145x258x290mm
Centre speaker dimensions280x78x86mm
Front speaker dimensions90x89x223mm
Surround speaker dimensions80x75x143mm
Power consumption standby0W
Power consumption on83W

Buying Information

Price£390
Warrantyone year RTB
Supplierhttp://shop.panasonic.co.uk
Detailswww.panasonic.co.uk