Despite being the baby of the bunch, the BD45 still comes equipped with the same picture technology (developed by Panasonic Hollywood Labs) found on the company’s previous players. We’re sure you’re familiar with these, but to recap they include a new version of P4HD, which processes 15 billion pixel per second and optimises each one to ensure the best possible detail and colour reproduction. It’s also responsible for motion detection, diagonal line processing (eliminating those pesky jaggies) as well as 1080p upscaling for DVDs.
Then there’s PHL Reference Chroma Processor Plus, which works alongside high precision 4:4:4 signal technology to process colour data, which is said to achieve greater accuracy than other systems.
Elsewhere the deck plays an unusually wide range of disc types, including BD-R/RE Freesat recordings made on Panasonic’s Blu-ray recorders, DVD-RAM and dual-layer DVD-R. And despite the lack of BD Live support, the BD45 does support BonusView, so at least you’ll have access to picture-in-picture commentaries.
Poking around in the onscreen menus unearths more goodies. Hit the Display button and a menu banner appears at the top of the screen, with Disc, Play, Picture and Sound headings. Under Picture, you get a choice of presets (Normal, Soft, Fine and Cinema) as well as a User setting that lets you adjust seven different picture parameters and Detail Clarity, which gently enhances sharpness. Under Sound, you can choose from a range of presets (Night Surround and several Re-Master modes that boost high frequencies) and Dialog Enhancer.
People either love or hate Panasonic’s bright, brash onscreen design, but we’ve always been big fans. There’s no ambiguity – most options are placed exactly where you expect them to be and the setup menu doesn’t get bogged down in excessive submenus and fussy layouts. Initial setup is a breeze thanks to the Easy Setting wizard that appears when you first boot up.
Panasonic has made some subtle tweaks to the Functions menu since last year’s BD60 and BD80, but nothing major – the icons are larger and the ‘To Others’ option has been moved to the bottom. It’s slightly annoying that the Setup menu isn’t listed in the Functions menu (you have to select ‘To Others’, then ‘Setup’ in a superfluous box) and accessing it makes you lose your place in the movie, but otherwise it’s a very intuitive and responsive GUI.
Aside from the lack of a backlight, the BD45’s remote is impressive. All of the buttons are labelled in big, shouty letters and the most frequently used keys are clustered together under the thumb.
Previous Panasonic players have been slow to load discs and little progress has been made on that score since the BD60 and BD80. To test it, we put a disc in the tray and started the clock when we hit Close, then stopped it when the first menu or moving video appeared. Spider-Man 3 took 59 seconds to load and Terminator Salvation took a whopping one minute and eighteen seconds, which harks back to the early days of the format.
Still, at least the deck doesn’t take an age to boot up – with Quick Start, it’s up and running in five seconds, with the usual caveat that the player consumes more power in standby. With Quick Start turned off the deck boots up in around 15 seconds, which still isn’t bad.