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9/10

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It's no secret that for a long time I considered HD DVD to be the better high definition format. The reason for that belief was that two years ago, when HD DVD and Blu-ray both launched, the former actually provided all the features that the next generation formats had promised, while the latter did not. Even the earliest HD DVD players offered features like an Ethernet port, dual decoders for picture-in-picture, downloadable firmware updates, persistent storage for downloadable content and the ability to access online features, none of which were available on early Blu-ray players. But as Bob Dylan said, the times they are a changin'.

It may have taken a little while, but Blu-ray players have now caught up to where HD DVD was two years ago. The so called "final profile" for Blu-ray players brought with it mandatory dual decoders and Ethernet connectivity, but recently there has been an update to the Final Profile - am I the only one the sees that as something of a misnomer? Anyway, semantics aside, the latest Blu-ray profile takes the format to where it always promised to be, by finally adding BD Live!

The DMP-BD50 is the latest Blu-ray player from Panasonic, and the first to feature the full complement of features that the format always promised it would have. So, for the first time you can buy a stand alone Blu-ray player, safe in the knowledge that it won't be out of date in a few months. And that will instantly make it pretty damn attractive to consumers, especially consumers who have been too scared to invest in a new high definition optical format, for fear of making the wrong decision or buying something that lacks the full feature set.

Just like Panasonic's latest generation of Viera TVs, the DMP-BD50 looks very sleek and stylish. The gloss black fascia is split into two halves, with the left half hiding the disc tray and the right side incorporating the display and a fold down flap behind which lies playback controls and an SD card slot - more about the latter later.

At the centre of the top edge of the fascia is a blue light - obviously any entertainment product has to have a blue light, or at least that's what the majority of manufacturers would have us believe. In fact this particular blue light is relating to the SD card slot and can be set to only illuminate when a card is inserted. The BD50 is also a very slim player, which belies its high-end aspirations - there was a time when size and weight did dictate quality in AV kit, but not so much these days.

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