Panasonic DMP-BD55 review: Panasonic DMP-BD55

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CNET Editors' Rating

3 stars Good
  • Overall: 6.6
  • Design: 7.0
  • Features: 6.0
  • Performance: 7.0
Review Date:
Updated on:

The Good Excellent image quality on Blu-ray Discs; Profile 2.0 compliant; onboard decoding for all high-resolution soundtrack formats, plus bit stream output; 7.1 analog-audio outputs.

The Bad PlayStation 3 offers much more functionality and faster navigation for the same price.

The Bottom Line The Panasonic DMP-BD55 is the best standalone Blu-ray we've tested and it's a good choice for those with older receivers, but most people will get the same performance out of the cheaper DMP-BD35.

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Editors' note (March 30, 2009): The rating of this player has been changed since its initial publication to reflect changes in the marketplace. The Panasonic DMP-BD55 has been replaced with the newer Panasonic DMP-BD80

Blu-ray has almost gotten its act together. After putting the stake in the heart of HD DVD, prospective buyers have had to deal with confusing Blu-ray profiles, varying audio-decoding capabilities, and standalone players with prices above $500. As we head into the 2008 holiday season, however, we're finally starting to see fully mature Profile 2.0 players with high-resolution audio decoding at prices that don't exceed the cost of theSony PlayStation 3.

The Panasonic DMP-BD55 is a perfect example, hitting almost all the essential features we look for and pairing those up with pristine image quality. That being said, Panasonic also offers the cheaper DMP-BD35, which (from what Panasonic engineers have told us), will offer all the same features and identical video performance--with the exception of the 7.1 analog outputs and analog-audio enhancements. As good as the DMP-BD55 is, unless you intend to use the analog outputs on your Blu-ray player, go with the less expensive DMP-BD35.

Design
The DMP-BD55's exterior design has been updated significantly. Compared with its predecessor, the DMP-BD50, the DMP-BD55 has a slimmer, sleeker look--although its "vibration-reducing feet" cause it to be nearly as tall as the DMP-BD50. Gone is the large, clunky, flip-down panel from the DMP-BD50--replaced instead by a DVD-like disc tray in the center of the unit. On the far left is the LCD screen, and on the far right a blue indicator light for the SD-card slot. We appreciated that the SD-card light could be completely turned off; the LCD display, for its part, can be dimmed, but not turned off completely. Also on the right is the flip-down panel, and underneath you'll find the actual SD-card slot itself and a few playback controls--although no chapter forward/backward. In all, we like the sleeker redesign.


Under the flip-down tray, you'll find a couple of playback controls and the SD-card slot.

The remote is virtually unchanged from previous designs. The center is dominated by big, blue playback buttons, including chapter skip and fast-forward/rewind. Below is a large directional pad, surrounded by other important buttons for disc menus, pop-up menus, and a general display button. Overall, it's fairly well laid-out and easy to use, and the remote control can also control a TV and an audiovisual receiver, if programmed to do so.

Features
Panasonic's DMP-BD50 was the first standalone Blu-ray player to offer Profile 2.0 support, and the DMP-BD55 is also compliant. This means it's capable of accessing Internet-enabled features (often referred to as "BD-Live" features) available on some movies, such as Rambo and Walk Hard. To access the features, you'll need to have the DMP-BD55 connected to the Internet via its Ethernet port, as well as have an SD card in the front panel slot--we would have liked to see Panasonic offer built-in memory as another step-up from the DMP-BD35. So far, BD-Live features have been pretty underwhelming, but we expect the content to improve as more compliant players hit the market and disc makers get a handle on the new technology. We will note that the DMP-BD55 still offers a significantly inferior experience to the PS3 on these interactive features--the PS3 is just faster, and its built-in hard drive is more convenient.

We were happy to see the DMP-BD55 handled nonanamorphic wide-screen DVDs correctly. While there's no manual setting, we popped in an older version of Carlito's Way and the DMP-BD55 automatically detected the aspect ratio and properly displayed the movie. This is particularly useful on some HDTVs that lack aspect-ratio control for HD sources.


The DMP-BD55 has all the audio decoding you'll need.

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Where to Buy

Panasonic DMP-BD55

Part Number: DMP-BD55 Released: Oct 1, 2008

MSRP: $399.95

See manufacturer website for availability.

Quick Specifications See All

  • Release date Oct 1, 2008
  • Additional Features Progressive scanning
    JPEG photo playback
    3:2 pull down compensation
  • Media Type DVD+R
    BD-ROM
    BD-R
    BD-RE
    DVD-RAM
    CD-R
    DVD+R DL
    DVD
    CD
    DVD+RW
    DVD-R DL
    DVD-R
    DVD-RW
    CD-RW
  • Type Blu-ray player
  • Sound Output Mode Surround Sound
  • Built-in Audio Decoders DTS-HD decoder
    Dolby Digital
    Dolby Digital Plus
    DTS decoder
    Dolby TrueHD