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Panasonic's DMP-BD55 is the best standalone Blu-ray player yet, but you shouldn't buy it

CNET reviews the Panasonic DMP-BD55, giving it the highest rating rating for a standalone Blu-ray player yet.

The Panasonic DMP-BD55 basically has it all. It's Profile 2.0 compliant, has onboard decoding for Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio, and features excellent image quality. Not only that, but we've given it the highest rating we've ever given any standalone Blu-ray player, making it only outclassed by the Sony PlayStation 3. And even with all that, the vast majority of home theater buyers looking to get into Blu-ray shouldn't buy it--even if they're set on a standalone player.

That's because, as good as the DMP-BD55 is, Panasonic also has the less expensive DMP-BD35, which offers almost all of the same features and performance for less money. The major difference between the two players is that the DMP-BD55 has 7.1 analog-audio outputs and some enhanced analog-audio circuitry, but if you plan on using HDMI for audio or a digital-audio connection, you won't get any benefit out of the DMP-BD55. In fact, when we met with Panasonic engineers earlier this month, they told us that both models offer exactly the same video quality.

Read the review for the full details--especially how it compares to the PS3 on image quality tests--but the short story is that unless you plan on using the analog-audio outputs, go for the cheaper DMP-BD35.

Read the full Panasonic DMP-BD55 review.