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Panasonic DMP-BD50 Blu-ray Player - Panasonic DMP-BD50
If you've got a large DVD collection you won't be disappointed either, since the upscaling capabilities of the BD50 are also impressive. Obviously, no amount of upscaling is going to make a DVD look as good as an actual high definition source, but the improvement is noticeable. Of course, over here in the UK the player isn't having to do quite as much as it would in the US, since the 576 line nature of PAL means that it has more resolution to play with.
So is this the perfect Blu-ray player? Not quite. One of the reasons I'm still using my PS3 as my main player is that it's a Japanese console, and therefore is happy to play pretty much any disc I put in it. The BD50 on the other hand, will only play Region B or multi-region discs, which means you can't order US movies unless you already know that they're multi-region. To be fair, this isn't Panasonic's fault, and the blame lays firmly at the door of the movie studios, who continue to artificially sectionalise the world.
The other main potential negative point comes down to your choice of TV. If you're not going to invest in a seriously good TV, it's unlikely that you'll see much improvement over using a PlayStation 3 as your Blu-ray player - and let's not forget that the PS3 is cheaper and a high definition games console to boot.
Despite the DMP-BD50 being feature rich and offering superb image quality, it's not as pricey as I had expected, with it already available online for as little as £377 - a stark contrast to Panasonic's original DMP-BD10 player, which had a worrying lack of features and a price tag of around £1,000! I appreciate that £377 is still a fair chunk of cash to many people, and the fact that the PS3 can be had for around £250 makes it seem even more steep, but if you're planning on buying a very good TV, it's worth investing a bit more in your Blu-ray player too.
It has been a very long time coming, but Panasonic has finally created a Blu-ray player that has all the features that the format promised at launch. If you want to access online content, view picture in picture video, play Java based games or decode the latest audio codecs, the DMP-BD50 can do it all. Add to that, some of the best image processing available in the home, thanks to the UniPhier chip and the software/firmware driving it, and there's no doubt that this is a very special player.
The DMP-BD50 isn't cheap, but I don't think that it's overly expensive either considering the image quality and features. Ultimately, if you've been holding off on buying a Blu-ray player because of the format war, lack of features and high price, your wait is over. Is this the best Blu-ray solution out there right now? I certainly think so.
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