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Audio support is comprehensive. Not only can the BD55 decode Dolby True HD, DTS HD Master Audio, Dolby Digital Plus and DTS HD soundtracks and send them as PCM from the HDMI or 7.1 analogue outputs, but it can also pass the raw bitstreams on to your receiver.
What's more, the BD55 puts players like the Samsung BD-P1500 and Sharp BD-HP21H to shame with its wide-ranging format support, which includes DivX, MP3, JPEG, and AVCHD as well as every recordable disc format (including DVD-RAM, amazingly).
The BD55 comes armed with the same arsenal of picture processing technology found in the BD35 (courtesy of Panasonic's UniPhier chip) which could give its images the edge over similarly priced competition. It includes the enhanced version of its PHL Chroma Processor Plus system, which corrects colours on a pixel-by-pixel basis to create crisper and more vivid tones than its predecessors. Also on board is P4HD, which handles processing duties like motion detection, 3:2/2:2 pulldown, upscaling and i/p conversion.
Other features include 1080/24p output, Deep Colour and x.v.Colour support, Viera Link and a basic set of picture adjustments covering contrast, brightness, sharpness, colour and gamma.
Just like the BD35, the BD55 is an absolute joy to use. All of the onscreen menus are presented with an almost child-like simplicity, using bold primary colours and large legible text. The menu software is also ultra responsive and allows you to explore the extensive array of picture, sound and network settings without any confusion at all.
The remote also plays a big part in making the deck easy to operate, thanks to its big foolproof buttons and clever layout. There are dedicated buttons for all the key features, including keys to turn the BonusView secondary video and audio on and off and an Option button that brings up a handy menu showing the frequently used functions.
It's also pleasing to discover that the BD55 doesn't take an unreasonable amount of time to load up Blu-ray discs, and during playback it's fairly responsive when activating the scan mode or calling up the pop-up menu, for instance. BonusView and BD Live material also presents no problems, all of which makes this one of the slickest Blu-ray players around.