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

Things are no less impressive at the rear, with a full complement of gold plated analogue AV connectors. There's component video out, S-Video, composite, left and right analogue audio, and a full set of 6-channel surround sound outputs. You also get both coaxial and optical digital audio connectors for outputting digital bit streams to an external amplifier or decoder. It's the final two connectors that are the most interesting though. There's an HDMI 1.3 port, which will obviously be the connection option of choice, providing digital audio and video, for the best possible experience. You'll also be able to make use of Deep Color software, if any of the studios ever release any. Finally there's an Ethernet port, one of the major omissions from early Blu-ray players and the key to getting online with the BD50.

When it comes to audio the BD50 covers pretty much all the bases. There's lossless compression formats in the shape of Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio, along with Dolby Digital Plus and DTS-HD High Resolution Audio. All those codecs can be mixed into a 5.1-channel PCM output.

It's the six-channel analogue audio outputs that will be a real bonus to anyone that doesn't want to upgrade their surround sound amplifier. Since the BD50 can process these codecs internally, anyone with an amplifier/receiver that has six-channel analogue audio inputs, will be able to sample the delights of the latest lossless formats.

You can, of course, also output uncompressed PCM audio in up to 7.1-channels - this type of audio is quite common on Blu-ray movies, and the results can be incredibly good. In order to playback these codecs and 7.1-channel PCM audio, you'll have to connect the BD50 to your amp/processor using HDMI.

The aforementioned SD Card slot brings potentially extensive persistent storage to the party. It's SDHC compatible, which means that you could plug a 32GB card in there, if you had enough spare cash to buy one. But considering that you can buy a 16GB card for under £30 these days, you're going to be able to download a lot of extra content over BD Live - or at least you will be able to when more discs support the service.

Talking of BD Live, disc support is pretty thin on the ground at the moment, but there is a lot of content scheduled for release in the coming months. In fact, Disney will be launching some of its classics on Blu-ray, complete with BD Live features soon, how many of these features you'll want to use is debatable though. Stuff like blogging to a website for the disc or instant messaging friends while watching a film have limited appeal if you ask me, not least because you'll be writing said text using the remote control!

The other great thing about the SD Card slot, is that it works beautifully with the latest generation of SD based AVCHD high definition camcorders. So, if you happen to be shooting with something like the Panasonic HDC-SD9, you could simply eject your SD card, slap it into the BD50 and watch your home movies in glorious Full HD.

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