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Panasonic DMP-BD30: Panny's profile 1.1 player finally hits UK

Blu-ray players are usually released in the UK months after the US gets them and they generally cost a fortune -- the Panasonic BD30 will help change all that

Unless HD DVD manages to conjure up a biblical-scale miracle, we're all going to be buying Blu-ray players from now on for our high-definition movie pleasure. Of course, with Blu-ray having a number of profile specifications it can be a confusing process choosing one. Luckily, the Panasonic DMP-BD30, which has been available for some time in the US, is coming to the UK.

We're excited about it because the DMP-BD30 has a number of features that make it a pretty good all-round HD player. Let's start with the profile 1.1 aspects of the player. The BD30 has a second video and audio decoder, so you can watch picture-in-picture video, which adds some cool potential features to Blu-ray discs. There's no requirement for 1.1 players to have Ethernet, and the BD30 doesn't. You'll need to fork out again for a profile 2.0 player for that. Hurrah for the Blu-ray Disc Association.

There's also another feature on the BD30 that we welcome with open arms. It can play DivX -- implying XviD support as well -- which is an excellent addition to an HD player, because until now there's been pretty much no support for downloaded formats in next-generation players, forcing people to keep their old DVD players to watch content they had in the DivX format.

Panasonic is keen to make its Blu-ray players more central in people's media centres. It's integrating support for playing back footage shot with its camcorders, so the BD30 can play back video stored on memory cards -- handy if you're a home video fan. The player will also happily read JPG images stored on SD memory cards too, which is useful if you want to turn your TV into a gigantic digital photo frame.

The BD30 also supports 1080/24 for more accurate movie playback, on TVs that support this format. It seems almost redundant to mention that there's also HDMI 1.3, with support for deep colour -- we'd be very surprised it this wasn't included in every next-generation player. Panasonic is also pushing its Viera link technology, which allows you to control all of your Viera-branded stuff from one remote control.

Panasonic has also taken this opportunity to create another ridiculous technology with a stupid, badly spelt name. This time they've called it UniPhier, which is supposed to indicate that it unifies two technologies, one for colour reproduction and one called P4HD, which takes care of motion and video quality. We're sure it's very good at what it does, despite its absurd name.

The Panasonic DMP-BD30 can be pre-ordered now for around £300-£350 -- Amazon expects to deliver in one to two months, which gives an idea of its release date. We'll have a full review lickety-split. –Ian Morris