Sometimes an excellent operating system can be made even better
- Exceptional picture quality, Many media types supported.
- Some functionality issues, price
The Panasonic DMP-BD10 is delivered exceptional image quality but had some functionality issues and carries an high price tag.
Price$ 2,749.00 (AUD)
As the 1080p era is finally unleashed on the home entertainment market, Panasonic release the DMP-BD10, their first offering for High Definition movie playback. Like the Samsung BD-P1000, this Blu-Ray product is aimed squarely at early adopters and AV enthusiasts with exceptional picture quality to make them weak in the knees. However, even with the target audience taken into consideration, it is hard to justify the cost of this machine when the Samsung player is significantly lower in cost without a relative drop in quality.
Testing Blu-Ray at this point in its life cycle is not the easiest task. Blu-Ray is still a fledgling format, and as such establishing a benchmark for comparison is difficult. We tested, tested again and triple tested the player on multiple televisions, with multiple cables and with multiple Blu-Ray titles to make sure that our opinion on the player was as accurate as possible. In the end, our testing showed that the player outputs a high quality video signal without any degradation or undue noise and is about on-par with its Samsung counterpart.
Sony Pictures was kind enough to send us some test discs including the film Into the Blue and Panasonic sent us a 1080p authored Blu-Ray demo disc. Both of these looked great, with Into the Blue delivering an excellent test due to its exquisite underwater photography.
We tested the unit at both 720p and 1080p on a variety of screens, but unfortunately both 1080p panels we used had issues themselves, which had an impact on the picture quality. Nonetheless, ignoring these problems the image displayed was quite impressive. However on the 720p Samsung TV we used, the image quality was nothing short of stunning. While the Samsung only has a native resolution of 1366 x 768 and can only run the Blu-Ray image scaled at 1080i, it still looked far better than either of the 1080p capable units we tested on and was more indicative of the overall quality of the Panasonic player. On the Samsung, there was no image noise, the clarity was superb and the level of detail was in keeping with what we expect from Blu-Ray.
However, not everything was smooth sailing. There are fundamental functionality problems with this unit that need to be addressed. The first issue is the time to start up. On average, it took about 45 seconds from the time the disc was inserted to the time an image was displayed on screen; powering up took longer still. The remote control is also problematic with its counter-intuitive and poorly labelled buttons, no eject option and a shuttle control that doubles as a four way navigation pad. When you bring up the menu during playback and attempt to navigate, the overly sensitive shuttle starts fast forwarding or rewinding the film which quickly becomes frustrating.
At times, we also had some problems with the unit not reading some of our test discs. Since there is no on-screen progress indicator to let us know what was happening, we were left to rely on the LED display which insistently flashed "PLEASE WAIT" over and over until we got frustrated and rebooted the unit. While these may seem like fairly minor problems in the grand scheme of things, they are problems that you would not expect from a high-end product.
The design of the Panasonic DMP-BD10 is quite attractive, with a silver finish on all surfaces. The front of the unit has a mirrored facade which is hinged at the bottom and hides the actual Blu-Ray drive. While this certainly adds to the attractive nature of the unit, we can't help but question the fragility of this hinge and wonder if it will stand the test of time.
All connection options are housed at the rear of the device and include one HDMI, one Component, one S-Video and one Composite port. 1080p content is only supported via HDMI with a maximum output of 1080i via Component or 576p via all other connectors. While this is essentially a Blu-Ray player, it does support many other media types as well including DVD-Audio, DVD-Video, DVD-RAM, DVD-R/-RW, DVD+R/+RW, CD, CD-R/RW, CD-DA, Video CD, SVCD and both MP3s and JPEGs.
Overall, we found the Panasonic DMP-BD10 to be a great player that delivered exceptional image quality. However, its functionality issues and its price tag make it a questionable purchase over the less costly Samsung alternative.
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