If you want to watch Blu-ray movies on the move, then Panasonic has made it possible with the DMP-B15, the world's first portable hi-def disc spinner. Not only does this groundbreaking product allow you to play hi-def discs wherever you like, but it also provides the same features and functionality you'd expect from its standalone decks, making it a viable candidate for the home as well as the car.
To display those hi-def pictures, the DMP-B15 is fitted with an 8.9in, WSVGA (1,024 x 600) screen, which may not match the 1,920 x 1,080p resolution of most Blu-ray movies, but is high enough to make the picture look sharper than your average portable DVD player.
The unit isn't particularly compact or elegant but it's sturdily built and boasts an unusual design. The screen folds open just like a regular portable player, but then you have to swivel the screen 180 degrees, pull it down and prop it up like a picture frame using the plastic stand attached to the back. That makes on-lap viewing a bit trickier than usual, particularly as the stand doesn't shut flush to the back panel, and all of the buttons are awkwardly placed along the top edge. These include playback, AV select and volume controls, as well as a small joystick for menu navigation.
The bulky lower section houses the disc tray and built-in speakers, while down the side you'll find a generous row of connections. Most significantly there's an HDMI output for feeding hi-def pictures (available in 1080/24p) and HD audio bitstreams to a receiver when using the DMP-B15 as a regular Blu-ray player.
It's joined by a single headphone jack and an AV minijack, which outputs composite video/stereo audio and accepts the same signals from external sources. Because the DMP-B15 is a Profile 2.0 player, there's also an Ethernet port that lets you connect to the Internet and download movie extras. As an added bonus, you can also access Panasonic's Viera Cast portal and watch movies on YouTube or browse photos on Google Picasa. This is as slick and enjoyable to use as Panasonic's regular Blu-ray decks, but the novelty factor is increased when viewed on this little screen.
Of course, the wired Ethernet connection means you can only use these features at home, but built-in Wi-Fi would have allowed you to watch YouTube when you're out and about, which could have been quite useful. Hopefully Panasonic will add it to the next generation.