So far so good? Not quite. One rather glaring omission from the rear panel is an Ethernet port, which means that the DMP-BD10 won’t be able to access online content once BD Live is up and running. We appreciate that Panasonic was trying to keep a cap on cost and that Ethernet isn’t mandatory for Blu-ray decks, but its omission is a little galling for the money – after all, it’s one of the format’s big selling points. It also means that firmware updates have to be made by playing a CD-R, either burned from the Web or provided by Panasonic.
Elsewhere however, there are loads of features to get your teeth into. The deck will play MPEG-2 and MPEG-4 (AVC or VC-1) and it’s the only Blu-ray deck to offer DVD-Audio playback.
The Panasonic can output native 1080p pictures found on most Blu-ray discs without relying on internal interlacing/deinterlacing, as is the case with the Samsung player. You can also upscale standard definition, 720p and 1080i material to 1080p.
There’s also a wealth of impressive-sounding technology working behind the scenes. Pixel Precision Progressive Processing for HD (try saying that after a few pints) generates the best-possible pictures from a Blu-ray disc by processing more than 15 billion pixels per second, and handling all de-interlacing and interlacing conversion where necessary. The deck also incorporates a 297MHz, 14-bit video DAC and a 192kHz/24-bit DAC for each of the eight audio channels.
As well as the aforementioned support for Dolby Digital Plus, it also decodes the uncompressed PCM soundtracks found on some discs (up to 7.1 channels), which can be transferred to a compatible amplifier via HDMI or played through the 7.1-channel analogue outputs. Dolby Digital Plus and DTS HD bitstreams can also be piped to a compatible amplifier via HDMI.
The DMP-BD10 does not support the lossless Dolby TrueHD and DTS HD Master Audio formats, though Panasonic will offer a firmware upgrade for Dolby TrueHD later this month. But given that the deck’s HDMI 1.2 output isn’t able to carry a Dolby TrueHD bitstream (only version 1.3 can do this), the upgrade will only allow the deck to transcode Dolby TrueHD into multichannel LPCM. With no HDMI v1.3-equipped amps on the market yet it’s not a big deal, but a bit of future-proofing would have been welcome.
Power up the DMP-BD10 and it takes a long time before it’s ready for action – around 50 seconds from opening the disc tray to an image appearing on screen. Chapter skipping is also slow, and navigating around a disc is quite cumbersome due to the poorly designed remote. It uses an odd rotating dial, which also acts as the left, right, up and down buttons when navigating a menu. The thing is, when you press down on the dial, nine times out of ten you accidentally turn it slightly, which activates the fast search mode – highly frustrating!