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Panasonic prices DMP-BD50 at $700, releases more details

Panasonic prices the DMP-BD50 Blu-ray player at $700, and releases more details, including the ability to output DVDs at 24 frames per second.

The Panasonic DMP-BD50 is packed with features, but is it too expensive?
The Panasonic DMP-BD50 is packed with features, but is it too expensive?

When Panasonic announced the DMP-BD50 at CES 2008, home theater enthusiasts who didn't want a game console as their Blu-ray player finally had a fully-featured standalone player to look forward to. The Panasonic DMP-BD50 promises the two big elusive features: Blu-ray Profile 2.0 and onboard decoding for both Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio. Tuesday, we attended a demonstration of the DMP-BD50 and learned some new details. Here's a quick glance at the spec sheet as far as we know right now.

Key features of the Panasonic DMP-BD50:

  • Blu-ray Profile 2.0 (BD-Live)
  • Onboard Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio decoding
  • Can output Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio in bit stream format
  • Can output DVDs and Blu-ray discs in 1080p at 24 frames per second
  • 5.1 analog outputs
  • SD card slot capable of playing back AVCHD video
  • $700 list price, available this spring

The big news that we didn't know from CES was the $700 list price, which is more than we were expecting. Whether it's fair or not, all standalone players are going to be compared with the PlayStation 3, which costs $400, has all the major Blu-ray features, and loads discs must faster than any standalone player we've tested. (Panasonic told us that the DMP-BD50's load times aren't significantly faster than its predecessors.)

Compared with the recently announced Pioneer BDP-51FD, the DMP-BD50 is well-positioned, as the BDP-51FD is only a Profile 1.1 player and will only have onboard Dolby TrueHD decoding when it's released--with DTS-HD Master Audio coming later via a firmware update. On the other hand, the BDP-51FD is $100 cheaper and has 7.1 analog outputs, for those still using older non-HDMI receivers.

We're starting to sound like a broken record, but our instinct is that the majority of buyers are going to stick with the cheaper PlayStation 3 until quality standalones become more affordable. What do you you think? Will any of these standalone players compete with the relatively cheap PS3? Or is the PS3 positioned to be the best Blu-ray value for (at least) the rest of 2008?