One of the big factors slowing down the take-up of Blu-ray is the fact that many people simply aren't prepared to replace their DVD collections, particularly with hi-def software prices being so high. It's for this reason that the upscaling DVD player market continues to thrive, and why Panasonic has slipped this deck into its latest range despite offering an unrivalled line-up of Blu-ray decks.
On the inside, the DVD-S54 boasts a typically tempting feature list, but there's a lot going for it on the outside too. For starters it's ridiculously slim and sturdily built, plus it features a black reflective fascia that's sure to attract fingerprints but makes the deck look alluring in an understated sort of way. Set into the reflective panel is an info display that allows you to switch between elapsed time and a simplified title/chapter arrangement. Attractive though it is, the lack of inputs on the front panel is disappointing, and somewhat surprising given Panasonic's usual habit of gratuitously slapping SD card slots on its products.
The back panel is no great shakes either, covering the basic connections but nothing more. There's the now familiar sight of an HDMI output, the old-school trio of component phonos to cater for progressive displays without digital inputs and an RGB SCART output. There's also a coaxial digital output, but we'd have traded the useless S-video and composite video outputs for an optical digital output as the coaxial input on our test amp was already taken!
If you've got a DVD recorder elsewhere in the house, then rest assured this deck will play your recordings no matter what type of disc is used. The impressive list of supported formats includes DVD-RAM, DVD-R, DVD-R DL, DVD-RW (formatted in VR and Video modes), DVD+R, DVD+R DL, DVD+RW, CD, CD-R/-RW, Video CD and SVCD. It's a shame Panasonic couldn't have thrown in DVD-Audio playback for good measure but it's hardly a deal-breaker.
Your PC media library is also in good hands, as the player supports MP3, WMA, JPEG, MPEG-4 and DivX files, but the lack of a USB port or SD card slot means you'll need to burn them onto CD or DVD first.