Buyers' Guide - Blu-ray HD DVD Devices

Panasonic DMP-BD10

The Panasonic DMP-BD10 offers most of the features you'd expect from a high-end, high-definition DVD player. It features a sleek unmarred front panel - the power button at the lower left is the only protrusion from its otherwise flat front, until a panel gets flipped down to uncover the media drawer and other front panel controls. This is a good-looking design that also delivers excellent video quality, especially from native Blu-ray media. Its video upconversion for conventional DVDs also gets pretty high marks, from which it can generate 720p, 1080i and 1080p outputs. The unit also supports DVD-Audio discs (but no Super Audio CD, aka SACD support).

From the outside, the DMP-BD10 looks like any other high-end DVD player

Alas, the Panasonic DMP-BD10 does come with a few gotchas as well. First and foremost, it supports HDMI version 1.2 rather than the newer version 1.3, so it may suffer a bit more from hook-up issues, and possible HDCP problems. Its remote is also best described as "somewhat cheesy," bound to be replaced with a more usable and friendly universal remote by anyone who has to work with it more than a bit. The unit also suffers somewhat from slow load times and sluggish navigation. The lack of a motorized front panel mover (you will have to flip it open and close it manually yourself) is a little jarring on a unit that's priced so highly. Likewise, the front panel graphics are pretty clunky, reminding us of countless PC VFDs we've stared down over the years.

When it comes to multi-channel sound tracks for Blu-ray and conventional DVD media, the unit handles Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital Plus and DTS, and can pipe them through HDMI in bitstream formats for decoding by an AV receiver, or in linear PCM (LPCM) formats. The DMP-BD10 does not, however, support either the lossless Dolby TrueHD or DTS-HD Master Audio formats as we write this description, though a firmware update is planned for April 2007 that is supposed to remedy this situation. In addition to HDMI, you'll also find component video and S-Video outputs, along with 7.1 multi-channel analogue audio outputs. As with most high-end DVD players, the DMP-BD10 also supports optical and coaxial digital audio, along with two analogue stereo outputs.

All in all, this is an attractive, capable Blu-ray player, but one that's a bit on the expensive side, as you'll see by comparison with other models whose descriptions follow.

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