Panasonic SC-PT850W

Panasonic SC-PT850W
  • Expert Rating

    3.75 / 5

Pros

  • Great sound for action movies, Powerful midrange, DVD upscaling, Great calibration options for video

Cons

  • Treble is slightly weak, Bass lacks 'punch', The menu system is slightly complex, Limited calibration options for audio

Bottom Line

With its powerful midrange, and with DVD upscaling, the SC-PT850W is a hard system to beat for movies.

Would you buy this?

The Panasonic SC-PT850W is a 5.1-speaker wireless home theatre system. It includes an upscaling DVD player, which also acts as a receiver. The unit's sound is well-suited to most movies, although the lack of a balanced or neutral sound may make it unsuitable for certain types of music. However, with a good feature-set, DVD upscaling to 1080p, and a relatively attractive price point, the SC-PT850W makes for a good entry-level home theatre.

Audio from the system is dominated by an aggressive and punchy mid-range. Bass tends to be slightly muddy, losing clarity at high volumes. However, lowering the sub's power does make for a sharper (although slightly less powerful) bass range. Treble suffers from the same general lack of sharpness, and is, at times, drowned out by the louder bass and mid-ranges. This makes for an overall sound very well-suited to most movies, especially explosion-packed action flicks. On the flip side, however, fans of punchy hip-hop tracks or spookily atmospheric suspense thrillers, may find that the lack of bass clarity and treble power detract from the experience. It really comes down to what you want to use the home theatre for -- the focus on one particular type of sound over another isn't necessarily a bad thing, it just means that the unit's performance will vary depending on the source material.

DVD playback is well integrated, and quite easy to control. Users with a Panasonic TV that supports Viera link will be happy to know that they'll be able to control the DVD player with their TV remote, and vice versa. Image quality is respectable, and we found that upscaling delivered a noticeable improvement in performance. Our only qualm was the relative difficulty of setting up the output resolution. Many of the video options, despite being quite extensive, are buried unnecessarily deep in sub menus. Nevertheless, once working, the video upscaling delivers clearer, sharper DVD images.

Comprising four tall speakers (the rear two being the wireless ones), a smaller centre speaker, and a slim subwoofer, the system took us some time to set up, although this is to be expected with such a large package. Unless you plan to move your system on a regular basis, this shouldn't be a big problem at all. A quick note on the wireless nature of the system: because of the speakers' power requirements, a truly wireless system is impossible. What this package essentially does is eliminate the need to stretch cables from the receiver (at the front of the room) to the rear speakers. These rear speakers are connected to a wireless receiver, which then connects wirelessly to the main DVD unit. You'll still have wires, but with careful planning, they shouldn't stretch out across your living room floor.

Volume is good, and the unit is capable of producing some very loud audio with only minimal distortion. We have no complaints with the amount of power the speakers are capable of producing. The sub, however, is a slightly different story. With only four levels of bass volume, it may not be enough to satisfy bass-hungry users; however, we found that the higher levels provided more than enough power for our own tastes. Unfortunately, the bass volume is the only way to customise the speakers' sound - no treble or individual speaker volume calibration is available.

The interface is relatively easy to navigate, although it does tend to become a little convoluted with too many sub menus. Video output can be customised not only by resolution, but also in terms of sharpness, colour space, and other variables, making this system an attractive one for those with either the knowledge to configure it, or the patience to experiment through trial and error.

The SC-PT850W's design is quite elegant. The two front and two surround speakers are both tall-standing with wide bases. With the wires tucked away, they look quite attractive, and should suit most living rooms. The sub is quite narrow, giving users a few more options regarding its placement. The centre speaker is much smaller than the other four, and well-suited for almost any positioning. The DVD player/receiver is a pretty standard affair, with a slim-line design. The rear panel houses HDMI output, front and centre speaker and sub connections, optical input, analogue audio input, and component video out. Users should note that no coaxial audio connection is available. The front panel's connections include a headphone jack and USB port.

The SC-PT850W is a great entry level system for users looking for a home theatre with a good amount of power and rumbling bass. Those looking for a slightly more developed treble, or sharp and punchy bass, may be better served by another system. Still, with its powerful midrange and its DVD upscaling ability, the SC-PT850W is a hard system to beat for movies.

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