Top critical review
87 of 104 people found this helpful
Good sound, lousy user interface
on August 24, 2012
I bought this all-in-one blu-ray/amplifier/radio because I live in an apartment and want a compact, dead-simple unit to watch TV, Netflix, and AppleTV shows with, as well as to stream music from my iPhone with. It does all of that just fine. Sound quality is great for movies, and so-so for music (it lacks low midrange) - about what I expected in this price-range with small speakers. The speakers are stylish, and can be wall mounted or mounted on the pedestals included. Bass sound is excellent, as is treble. I purchased the Panasonic SH-FX71 wireless rear speakers, which complements this system nicely. They include a transmitter that plugs into the back of the stereo, along with an AC-powered amp that can be hidden behind a sofa that connects via wires to the rear speakers.
Assembly was easy. The product was packaged well, and instructions were acceptable (but not great). Included were color coded wire labels for the speaker cables, which was a nice touch. The jacks on back of the machine are color coded like the speaker plugs, making it easy to put together. I paired this with a Panasonic VIERA TC-L47E50 TV. Picture from the BluRay disks are excellent. Disk load times are fast. My only grip with the BluRay player: It doesn't remember where I stop a movie after turning off the machine, forcing me to restart movies from the beginning, which is infuriating. The instructions claim it has this feature, and that some disks are designed to prohibit this feature, so I'm not sure whether the machine or disks are to blame. The unit has a built-in cooling fan, which is inaudible.
There is a slide out tray for inserting an iPhone to play music/videos. However, if you put the Panasonic machine in a cabinet or on a shelf below another shelf, this tray is useless since it doesn't pull out far enough, causing the iPhone to hit the shelf or cabinet above the machine.
The user interface of this machine is horrible, other than the ability to select NetFlix via a single button on the remote. To select other sources (e.g. Cable TV box, HDMI inputs (mine's connected to an AppleTV), radio, etc.), it is necessary to either (1) Press "Home" on the remote, wait a few seconds, and then navigate two levels through a graphical menu of inputs and click "OK"; or, (2) Press one of two source buttons on the remote repeatedly to cycle through various source inputs until the desired one of ~5 is selected. This is a joke. There should be dedicated buttons on the remote to immediately select "TV", "HDMI 1", "Bluray", etc. I attempted to deal with this by getting a Logitech Harmony 650 universal remote, but was unsuccessful. (The Logitech remote was only able to cycle through the various inputs on the Panasonic just like the OEM remote; it couldn't directly access various inputs. It's not clear whether the unit will recognize remote codes that directly select specific inputs; the logitech configurator didn't provide that option.) This is a big minus for me - my kid and mother have a horrible time using this machine to watch TV as they cannot figure out how to change the inputs, and there's not "TV" button. The main purpose of me getting this machine was to avoid that problem, so I'm not impressed. I hope a firmware update from Panasonic will fix this.
Integration with other Panasonic devices is so-so. For example, when I change the volume with the remote control, depending on what input is selected, the volume indication may or may not appear on the (Panasonic) TV. This inconsistency is due to sloppy software coding, and needs to be fixed.
Aesthetically, the main unit is plain looking. It's not nearly as nice looking as Panasonic's standalone slot-load DMP-BDT320 blu-ray player, and for something in this price range, I'd like a slot-load BluRay player, not a tray load unit. The tray for this unit is hidden behind a spring loaded front panel that automatically opens and closes when the tray opens and closes, for a fairly clean look. The digital display shows minimal information. Buttons on top of the machine exist for power, volume up/down, and eject, which is convenient.
The iPhone interface is mediocre. It works, but album art is of very low resolution. There is no Apple AirPlay capability. However, I have an AppleTV connected to the unit that does support AirPlay, so this is not a big issue to me.
The NetFlix interface is pretty good - better than the older Sony bluray player I had. It's a bit sluggish, but a tad faster than the 2-year old Sony bluray player one was. Annoyingly, it doesn't remember at what titles I was browsing, so everytime I return to the NetFlix screen, I have to start navigating through the titles anew. Because the "Home" button is very close to the "Up" button on the remote, it's easy to accidentally hit "Home" and exit the NetFlix mode when navigating through titles, requiring the slowish accessing of the NetFlix screen again.
Overall, I will say that this product gets the job done, and has acceptably good sound and excellent picture. However, usability leaves a bit to be desired. These issues could be fixed via a firmware update, and I hope Panasonic will address them.