CES 2010: Panasonic's new Blu-ray and home theater products (photos)
Panasonic is one of the major players in the new push to 3D and the company announced its first 3D Blu-ray player at CES 2010.
Panasonic didn't announce it in the press release, but when we took a tour of the booth we noticed that the DMP-BDT350 features dual HDMI outputs, which is unique compared with all the other 3D Blu-ray players announced at CES 2010.
The reason for the dual ports is to deal with the fact that 3D Blu-ray requires HDMI 1.4 and all existing AV receivers support only HDMI 1.3.
The Panasonic DMP-BDT350 will integrate more easily with existing AV receivers, by sending the high-bandwidth 3D video directly to your HDTV, and the audio to the receiver. Other 3D Blu-ray players will require new HDMI 1.4 AV receivers if you want to use HDMI for audio.
We think it's a smart design choice and it differentiates the DMP-BDT350 from the other 3D Blu-ray players at the show.
When Panasonic released the first portable Blu-ray player at CES 2009, it received a lot of skepticism, but when we actually reviewed it,
we found ourselves liking it more than we expected. Yes, it was
too bulky, too expensive, and you had to get really close to see the
visual benefits of Blu-ray, but it did enable you to watch your new
Blu-ray collection on-the-go. Plus, Panasonic made it work as a
fully-functional standalone unit, too.
Panasonic has now announced its second-generation of portable Blu-ray
players, with two models this year: the DMP-B100 and DMP-B500.
Panasonic hasn't released the most important information
yet--pricing--but the new players are definitely upgrades over last
year's DMP-B15K. The sleeker design and built-in Wi-Fi on the B500 is
nice, but to us the big new is that both players will now have a
battery life of 3.5 hours, an hour more than last year's player.
Home-theater-in-a-box systems often get flak for the integrated components that don't work as well as separate components do, but with Blu-ray HTIBs we've generally found that the built-in disc player works as well as standalone units do.
Panasonic announced three new Blu-ray HTIBs for 2010, adding the similar features (Wi-Fi, Netflix) to the product line, as the company did with its mainstream Blu-ray players.
The SC-BT730 is a 5.1 home theater system with wireless rear speakers, support for Panasonic's VieraCast online content portal, Wi-Fi-ready capability (requires a USB dongle) and an iPod/iPhone dock.
Sound bars have been around since the Yamaha YSP-1, which won a CNET Next Big Thing nomination at CES 2005. Panasonic is a major manufacturer of home-theater-in-a-box (HTIB) systems, but the company is making its first entry into the sound bar market with the SC-HTB1.
The press release highlights its "Clear-Mode Dialogue" feature and advanced bamboo cone speakers, but the most interesting announcement to us is its compatibility with ARC (audio return channel), allowing you to "connect it to the TV with just one HDMI cable."
An audio return channel is one of the new features of the HDMI 1.4 standard, and theoretically you could connect all your components directly to your HDMI 1.4-compatible HDTV with just a single HDMI cable sending the audio back to the sound bar.
Panasonic fell a little behind in the Blu-ray features wars last year, with the company's players lacking Wi-Fi, Netflix streaming, and onboard storage, which were available on competing players. At CES 2010, Panasonic introduced three new mainstream Blu-ray players, the DMP-BD45, the DMP-BD65, and the DMP-BD85, that address some of these criticisms, although with some caveats.
The DMP-BD85 supports Panasonic's VieraCast online content portal, which now includes Netflix and Pandora. It's also Wi-Fi-ready, using an included USB dongle, and has 7.1 analog audio outputs.
The DMP-BD45 is Panasonic's entry-level Blu-ray player. The feature set is mostly similar to the DMP-BD65's, except it doesn't support VieraCast, is limited to 5.1 audio processing, and it can't work with the Wi-Fi dongle.