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Panasonic DMP-BD30 Blu-ray Player - Panasonic DMP-BD30
The disc has a picture-in-picture feature called Under The Umbrella, which shows interview clips with the cast and crew, storyboards and other interesting bits of footage as the movie plays. This works smoothly, and it's a relief to finally see this level of interactivity on a Blu-ray disc, but the wow factor is reduced considerably by the fact that we've seen it all before on HD DVD.
That said, we're sure it'll be a useful feature for movie buffs, and certainly a lot of fun - granted, Milla Jovovich sharing her thoughts on the sci-fi genre is hardly Orson Welles ruminating on the making of Citizen Kane, but we're sure it'll get better when paired with a decent movie.
However, we did experience some problems with the picture-in-picture audio mixing. Occasionally the movie's main soundtrack drowned out the commentary, particularly during loud scenes. At other times it worked just fine, with the main volume dropping when a PIP clip appeared. We couldn't work out why it only worked sometimes - Panasonic says the audio mix is determined by the software. Curious.
Otherwise, sound quality is fantastic, with Resident Evil's fiery Dolby True HD soundtrack delivered with real gusto through the Pioneer LX01 system. Dolby Digital also sounds great using the 5.1-channel analogue outputs, though the lack of decoded True HD output from these sockets is a shame. The BD30 is also adept with music, making CDs sound fresh and vital with plenty of detail on offer, while MP3s sound great and play without a hitch. JPEGs viewed from an SD card look superb, presented in pin-sharp hi-res quality.
With so much more to come from the Blu-ray format, the DMP-BD30 is by no means the last word in hi-def hardware. It won't support BD-Live and the lack of hi-res audio decoding is disappointing, given the scarcity of suitably equipped receivers. But when compared with the other comparably-priced Profile 1.0 players on the market from the likes of Sharp, Sony and Samsung, the choice is a real no-brainer - give us the DMP-BD30 every time.
But we say this not just because of its Profile 1.1 spec, as there are many more strings to its bow. It's packed with lots of useful features, boasts a solid operating system and delivers sizzling picture quality - all of which makes this the best Blu-ray deck on the market, not to mention the most future-proof.
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