With a resolution of 1024 x 600, pictures on the built-in screen aren’t technically hi-def, but there are enough extra pixels to make them look sharper than DVD pictures. In fact images look positively resplendent, offering sumptuous, nuanced colour reproduction, solid blacks and lots of detail. The screen is also nice and bright but with good contrast levels that prevent the picture looking washed out.
With the Wall-E disc, the piles of litter during the opening scenes are crisply resolved, likewise close-up shots of our titular hero’s scuffed, battered bodywork. In fact in every scene the CG looks clean and punchy. Some of this detail looks a little less distinct than it does on a TV, but as portable player screens go this is a superb performance. Also pleasing is that the pixel structure isn’t visible, unlike some portable DVD players, which leaves edges looking smooth and stops the image looking gauzy. The screen also boasts a wide viewing angle.
We switched to The Dark Knight to check how that screen holds up with gloomy scenes, and it fares well. Night-time shots of the city skyline are punctuated by bright, piercing white lights, and it’s possible to make out objects moving among the shadows. Indeed, as Batman stands atop the police building, his black costume and the detail within it look clear and visible. One or two dimly-lit shots lose clarity but on the whole it’s a great effort. The full-screen IMAX scenes, particularly the establishing aerial shot of Hong Kong, look stunning.
The picture obviously looks even sharper when viewed on a TV. However, it contains bags of detail and rich, realistic colours, although the images aren’t quite as nuanced as Panasonic’s latest standalone decks.
The built-in speakers are weak, reducing The Dark Knight’s brutal sound design to a series of pops and hisses, but through a pair of headphones or an AV receiver the sound quality is excellent. The player didn’t have any trouble playing any of our test files, and in terms of disc loading it’s very impressive – The Dark Knight took just 21 seconds to start playing.
If you’re after a portable Blu-ray player, then you’re not exactly spoilt for choice – Panasonic has cornered the market. It’s a good job then that its players are impressive. The DMP-B200 is a great example, offering sharp, punchy pictures (despite the non-HD screen), a pleasing set of features and a stylish gloss-black design. At £300 it’s rather expensive, but don’t forget that it also doubles as a living room Blu-ray player with its HDMI output. It’s a shame there’s no USB port and its Profile 1.1 spec may deter some buyers, but even without these the DMP-B200 has much to offer.