Panasonic doesn’t hang about when it comes to Blu-ray. It feels like only yesterday that we were lavishing praise on the Profile 1.1-enabled DMP-BD30 and BD-Live compatible DMP-BD50, but the company has already launched their successors, the DMP-BD35 and BD55. These were unveiled at IFA Berlin last month (alongside Europe’s first Blu-ray recorder – finally) and look to offer the same top-quality performance and features as their predecessors but at more affordable prices.
The best news is that the DMP-BD35 goes one better than the BD30 by offering full BD-Live compatibility, supporting the web-based interactive content found on a growing number of Blu-ray discs. With the DMP-BD55 and DMP-BD50 also offering BD-Live support, Panasonic is amassing a formidable arsenal of hi-def decks that can deliver the full Blu-ray experience.
Panasonic has tweaked the design of the DMP-BD30 to create a more streamlined chassis, and its 49mm height makes it the world’s slimmest Blu-ray player. It’s a highly attractive and robustly built machine, styled in black to compliment Panasonic’s Viera TVs and AV receivers. A small flap on the right hand side of the front panel conceals a few buttons and an SD card slot, which plays a crucial role in the player’s BD-Live functionality – you’ll need it to store bonus content downloaded from the Internet, such as trailers, subtitles and BD-J applications. The SD slot also allows you to play JPEG and AVCHD files.
Around the back, you’ll find a surprisingly meagre selection of sockets, headlined of course by the HDMI 1.3 output, which supports all the usual goodies like Deep Colour, x.v.Colour and Viera Link. There’s also an Ethernet port for accessing online content and making firmware updates, plus component and composite video outputs, optical digital out and stereo audio output.
However, the multichannel analogue outputs found on the BD30 are missing, leaving the HDMI output as the only means of listening to HD audio formats – owners of older non-HDMI amps will have to settle for bog standard Dolby Digital and DTS from the optical digital output. Given that the player can internally decode Dolby True HD, Dolby Digital Plus, DTS HD Master Audio and DTS HD, it feels like a missed opportunity, but we won’t come down too hard on Panasonic as it’s a price-driven decision – the pricier BD55 adds 7.1-channel analogue outputs (and a coaxial digital audio output).
The player can pipe Dolby True HD, Dolby Digital Plus, DTS HD Master Audio and DTS HD bitstreams to a compatible AV receiver via HDMI, and this socket can also output these formats as multichannel PCM should your receiver not be able to decode them.