Panasonic’s 2012 3D Blu-ray players have now received their second firmware update, version 1.39, since being released in North America. The update covers the DMP-BDT220, 320 and 500. Panasonic has also released an iPhone and iPad app to control the players as well. More on that later. First, I’ll focus on the firmware updates.
The first firmware update, version 1.31, was issued several weeks ago and while it fixed some problems, it created others. On the plus side, it did fix some wireless connectivity problems the unit had. Before the update, I sometimes had problems connecting to my wireless network. On the other hand, it locked a number of customers out of Netflix. The only way to fix it was to do a factory reset on the Blu-ray player (detailed on page 31 of hard-copy manual). So, I had to redo all of the nuanced set up I shared in my original review (don’t forget to turn-off BD-secondary audio to get Dolby TrueHD or DTS Master Audio).
Luckily, the latest firmware version, 1.39 does not appear to create the same problem with Netflix. According to the official change log, version 1.39, addresses playback issues with some Blu-ray discs. Just as in version 1.31, there are fixes to VIERA Connect where all of the streaming video and other apps live. From what I can tell the Netflix player was a little snappier after the 1.31 update. Also, it appears the audio syncing problems with Netflix have been solved. In addition to several games being added to the VIERA Connect app store, there’s also an on-line shopping section where you can purchase Panasonic electronics and appliances. Who would’ve imagined that you could use this Blu-ray player to buy a Panasonic Rice Cooker?! Maybe, there’s still hope that Apple will build their own food appliance. Alas, no sign of the Ultra-Violet enabled Flixster app.
Another problem I’ve noticed with the player is a skipping or dropped frame that occasionally occurs when playing Blu-ray discs. The problem only seems to manifest itself if the unit is connected to the network via wireless and has BD-Live enabled. I’ll have to use the new firmware for a while to see if this has been fixed or not.
Turning to the new smart phone and tablet remote app, Panasonic has duplicated all of the functionality of their physical remote control and then some. The iPhone and iPad app appear to be identical in functionality. However, the amount of functionality is overwhelming. The app contains multiple ways to perform the same function. There’s no less than eleven different screens to control the player. You can use buttons, motion, a scroll wheel and rotating the device to control playback. While some of the functions are new, such as the ability to create macros, most of them rehash existing functionality. A simpler approach would have been more effective.
Before the 1.39 firmware update, the handiest app function was a button that let you skip all of the previews on a Blu-ray disc. I haven’t found a way to do this on the standard remote. Under the “Cursor” menu, the button that appears to be a document lets you jump directly to a Blu-ray’s home screen. Unfortunately, this feature was removed with the latest firmware update. Now the button opens up the options menu. Feel free to share any other experiences you’ve had with the 2012 Blu-ray players.