Elsewhere, the deck upscales to 1080p, 1080i and 720p, which will appeal to owners of Full HD sets who want to boost the resolution of DVDs to match their screens. Upscaled video is available from the HDMI v1.3 output, which also supports Deep Colour and can therefore reproduce suitably-encoded content with 12-bit, 4096-step colour gradation, plus it supports Viera Link for unified control of several connected components.
On the audio side the player is compatible with Dolby Digital and DTS, and there are plenty of value-adding picture and sound modes on board. For pictures, there are five presets, including the unusual-sounding Soft Skin and Animation modes, plus HD Enhancer, noise reduction and a choice of YCbCr colour space options (RGB, 4:2:2 and 4:4:4). On the audio side, you’ll find Panasonic’s Dialogue Enhancer, Re-Master and three Advanced Surround (VSS) settings for expanded two-channel playback.
Delving into the setup menu, it seems a little more rudimentary than the interface found on its DVD recorders, but the wide range of options offers a greater level of control than you’d normally find on a player at this price. For example, there are six aspect ratio settings as opposed to the usual three, and you can tell the player what type of display you’re using and it alters the image characteristics accordingly. There’s even a Time Delay option to correct HDMI lip sync issues.
In action the deck is beautifully responsive and offers a few convenient playback tricks, such as a two-stage zoom, Quick Replay (which jumps back 10 seconds), and the option to play DVDs at a quick speed or in slow motion with the sound intact. The remote is excellent, allowing effortless, intuitive operation thanks to the big, well-labelled buttons and superb layout. What’s most impressive is that all of the picture and sound modes are given their own buttons, which means you don’t have to dig around in the setup menu to find them.