Panasonic DMP-BD50 Blu-ray Player - Panasonic DMP-BD50

By Riyad Emeran



  • Recommended by TR
Panasonic DMP-BD50 Blu-ray Player


Our Score:


If you happen to be using the BD50 in conjunction with a Panasonic TV, you'll be able to make use of the Viera Link functionality. This will allow you to control both devices from a single remote, and turn all devices on/off simultaneously. Of course Viera Link incorporates the CEC specification, so it should work with non-Panasonic CEC equipped products, but like many other manufacturers, Panasonic maintains that Viera Link potentially offers more functionality than basic CEC.

For a long while I've been advising people considering a Blu-ray player to go for a PlayStation 3. The reason for this is that up until recently, the PS3 was the most advanced and feature rich Blu-ray player on the market, while also being something of a bargain compared to stand alone players. But with the BD50, Panasonic has finally created a player that not only matches the PS3 for Blu-ray features, but beats it in the image quality stakes.

The key to the superb pictures produced by the BD50 is Panasonic's UniPhier chip. Last October I found myself at the CEATEC show in Tokyo, where Panasonic launched its UniPhier chip, and it was clear even then that this tiny piece of silicon was a landmark in the company's R&D. Based on a 45nm manufacturing process, the UniPhier is pretty advanced, even by CPU standards. The result is that the video processing in the BD50 is noticeably better than other Blu-ray players I've used, including the PlayStation 3.

It's not just the UniPhier chip itself that's special though, it's also the software that Panasonic is running on it. Through Panasonic's extensive experience in mastering home video at the Panasonic Hollywood Labs, the company is able to develop software that will get the very best results from the UniPhier. So, even though Panasonic sells the UniPhier chip to other manufacturers, it doesn't mean that those vendors will get the same results from it.

To really put the DMP-BD50 through its paces, I hooked it up to my Pioneer PDP-LX5090 - this screen uses Pioneer's 9th generation plasma technology, and represents the second generation of its Kuro brand (there will be a full review very soon). Watching Blood Diamond, the BD50 just created a more immersive picture than my PS3 - everything is just that bit sharper, while the image itself has more depth and realism to it. Casino Royale looked equally impressive, with the fast moving free running scene showing no signs of processing artefacts - even the panning shots of the cranes failed to throw up unwanted jaggies. Obviously I was outputting the movie as a 1080p 24Hz signal, and had the TV set to 1:1 pixel mapping.

And that's the key to a player like this. If you want to get the very best out of it, you also need to invest in a very good screen. I'm not saying that the BD50 won't look great on a cheaper TV, because it still produces stunning pictures on Panasonic's more reasonably priced TH-46PZ80 46in plasma. However, the difference between this player and a lesser model is that bit more stark when it's hooked up to a truly great screen.


July 24, 2008, 4:36 pm

what about speed? how long from closing the tray to playback? how smooth are the menu's?

This was the biggest disappointment with my tosh ep30, it was too damn slow.

The PS3 is soo much quicker (and still cheaper!)

Matthew Bunton

July 24, 2008, 5:17 pm

I cannot wait until we start seeing some region free players fingers crossed.


July 24, 2008, 6:51 pm

it's got he features I want (no Sony badge, 7.1 LPCM over HDMI, ethernet, profile2.0 but would like region free) but still not at the right price.

I wont consider getting one until they knock at least 𧷆 off the price (so I can afford 2 or 3).... Will probably go down the upgrade the htpc route though...

A lot of buyers will still consider the ps3 to be a better value purchase....but companies like Panny are all in the same boat....they supported Sony with promises of pricefixing to re-invigorate their revenues...only to have Sony scr*w them all via the ps3 leaving every other OEM scratching their head....

oh to be in one of those boardrooms...."our AV divisions have gone down the drain....we don't make money on dvd players, sony pulled our trousers down and everyone else is talking about downloads.....time to shut up shop.."


July 24, 2008, 10:01 pm

Yes, still too expensive for me. I remember my first DVD player was 𧷤. I'd be looking at Blu-ray players to reach a similar price or maybe slightly less before I consider buying one. And it's still a long way off being accepted by the mainstream who are used to paying around fifty quid for DVD players.

I'd also be interested (as the first poster was) in how long the Panasonic takes from insert disc to playback, as I know the first and second generation Blu-Ray players took an age and a half to warm up.

The Pope

July 25, 2008, 2:22 am

I'm with you, Pbryanw. Sadly, the guts of many of these players are essentially Linux-based mini PCs (I believe) and thus are subject to boot times. I find it REALLY annoying.

Plus, not only is Average Joe buying DVD players for cheap (like the Toshiba (!) Divx-enabled DVD player I saw in Tesco the other day for 㿇!!) but frankly, he's also used to paying under 㾶 for his DVDs; Play has decent flicks down to like ٠.99 ffs

So just how motivated am I to go and spend 㾽.99 on a Blu-ray? I tell ya - I'd go to, say, 㾸.99 if it had decent extras and DTS HD Master Audio. Too many of these Blu-rays just feature the regular DD5.1 as the DVD :(


July 25, 2008, 2:42 am

All valid comments, which is why I said that you're going to have to be serious about your AV kit to consider this player. That said, if you're planning on investing in a Kuro or similarly high-end screen, the superiority of the DMP-BD50 will make itself evident.

You're right, I forgot to mention operation times, but luckily I can confirm that this is the fastest stand alone HD player of any format that I have used. The menues are well laid out and presented too. I don't think it's quite as speedy as a PS3, but it's not alarmingly slower either.

The lack of Region Free content is anoying, especially since HD DVD discs were all region free.

If your first DVD player cost you 𧷤, you must have bought into the format quite late. First generation players cost around ٟ,500 and were useless, while the second generation players were around the 𧿘 mark and generally very good.

I think the last DVD player I bought was my Pioneer DV-737, which cost me around 𧽴 back in 1999. It was the first UK player to support component video with a progressive output - I've still got it now and have yet to find a modern player that comes close to it in terms of build quality.

And Mr Pope - shame on you Geoff. For someone who was so obsessive about the superior quality of DTS over AC3, you should be first in line to extol the virtues of a high definition format. Also, which Blu-ray discs are you referring to that only have 5.1-channel AC3 soundtracks? Even relatively early discs like Casino Royale feature uncompressed 5.1-channel PCM, so there's no need to employ a lossless codec of any kind.


July 25, 2008, 5:51 am

Actually, thinking about it, I bought my first DVD player in 2001. It was a Samsung - a great, big thing it was too. I was in my first job earning a minimum wage and I spent three weeks of my earnings on that. I probably wasn't among the very earliest adopters but I do remember that my local Choices (now out of business) had just started selling DVD's so it felt like I was one of the first. It was still early enough that VHS tapes took up most of the rental space in Choices.

Taxi Driver was my very first DVD and I was astounded at how good the picture was. In 2006, I sold that DVD payer for 1p, and I had a lot of memories wrapped up in that thing - it had accompanied me to University and back. Anyway, sorry for going off-topic but thinking about it just triggered a bout of nostalgia off in me.


August 7, 2008, 9:02 pm

Riyad, you can't really be serious to suggest that HD DVD was better than Blu-ray *just* because HD DVD had internet connection from day one? The picture in picture feature has been incorporated into Blu-ray Discs and works successfully without a Profile 1.1 player! With 50GB to play with, the studios have a lot more flexibility with the Blu-ray system!

If so, you're on pretty thin ground! At best, internet interactivity is a gimmick, a sideshow from the real important issues of picture and sound quality. I wouldn't suggest all Blu-ray discs so far have been excellent quality, far from it, but I have seen many HD DVD discs that we nothing more than upscaled DVDs. Thankfully, the main culprit, Universal appears to *respect* Blu-ray better and is making a fine job in it's Blu-ray productions. Long may it continue.

All the Blu-ray players from approx late 2007, when prices also came down, have been excellent machines in terms of image and sound quality, although start up times have been an issue.

Both the DMP-BD30 and DMP-BD50 Blu-ray players have redefined the market. As their availability increases their prices will come down further. Sony is also releasing it's direct competition, so the market is hotting up!

On the issue over internet interactivity, I think as well as a gimmick, it's actually a bad thing on a number of counts.

Firstly, it won't be too long, when the studios realise that they can charge for the *extra* content. How long will it be before extras that we take for granted (on our special or standard editions) start to be available through download only? For a fee obviously!

Secondly, there is the issue over the studios prying eyes on our viewing habits! Frankly, I view that as an invasion of privacy - just like spyware on our PCs!

There is also the issue over security. Blu-ray (and HD DVD) players probably have no security. It is possible that players connected to home networks could pick up viruses which by-pass security systems!

As you can gather, my family and I will not be connecting any Blu-ray player to the 'net for the above reasons (and more - I've said enough already)!!


September 17, 2008, 3:38 pm

Power on to visible GUI...PS3 10s

BD50 25s

From disc inserted to video on display...PS3 35s

BD50 43s

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