Last year we looked at a handful of portable DVD players and just one portable Blu-ray player, the Panasonic DMP-B15, which was the first of its kind. Though portable DVD players are a mature product category--offering tons of features and functionality at a reasonable price--portable Blu-ray is just entering its infancy. Perhaps that's why even Panasonic's entry-level model, the DMP-B100 ($400 street price), is expensive. If portable movie watching is your goal, a device like an iPad, a laptop, or a traditional portable DVD player is a better choice, mainly because the picture quality advantages of Blu-ray generally aren't worth it at this screen size. If you're looking for a way to watch your Blu-ray collection on the go, however, the DMP-B100 is the least-expensive way to do it, although Blu-ray-equipped laptops like the Gateway NV5933u ($650) are getting close.
The B100 has a much more minimalistic look than other portable players we've seen, with few buttons or ports cluttering up the design. The device is covered in matte silver plastic, and has plenty of attractive curves and edges. Weighing in at just 3 pounds, it's certainly mobile, but heavy enough to necessitate carrying it in a pouch or backpack.
Most notable is its 8.9-inch LCD screen that can be partly detached from its foldable stand, giving it the option to be viewed in a number of ways. The screen can lay almost flat on top of the disc tray or be propped up in a more traditional clamshell fashion. Volume controls are laid stealthily along the right edge of the screen; all other playback and menu functionality rest on the disc slot itself or right below it. Along the bottom of edge of the screen are the speakers; the lone headphone jack can be found on the right side at the base of the player. Finally, the SDXC card slot is located on the left edge, with a slide-down flap hiding the port.
The B100's included remote is lightweight and small enough to bring along, but the sheer number of keys is intimidating. All of the buttons are the same size and they're arranged in a grid format, so there's no chance of navigating by feel. That's less of an issue with a portable player, which will generally be used in a well-lit environment, but more attention to usability would be appreciated at this price.
The B100 can play back Blu-ray, DVD, and CD discs, as well as recordable versions of each format. The player can read a number of file types off these discs, including JPEG photos, MP3 audio files, and video formats (MPEG-2, 4 and the H.264 codec). It also supports high-capacity SDXC cards that can house any of the previously mentioned file formats. Our testing with various files worked fine with basic MP3, JPEG, and MPEG2 formats, but we didn't have any MPEG4 AVCHD on hand to try out with the player. Panasonic advertises this as a convenient link between your HD camcorder, so it certainly sweetens the deal if you happen to have one.
The B100 can decode Dolby TrueHD and DTS HD soundtrack formats to stereo, although we doubt you'll hear any sonic advantages over plain old Dolby Digital and DTS on this player. Unlike other players we've seen, the B100 only provides one headphone jack, which means you'll need an adapter if two people want to listen at once.