Panasonic's DMP-BD10 is the second standalone Blu-ray player to cross our desks, following swiftly behind Samsung's BD-P1000.
Panasonic has gone for imposing minimalism with its first Blu-ray player -- the unit is solid at 4.5 kilograms, and has a sleek black look. The front of the player comprises a solid, glossy, button-free panel that flips down to reveal the disc tray. There's no real reason for this addition, but it does make the BD-10 look elegant and expensive -- a comfort when you've just shelled out close to $3000 for it. It also coordinates neatly with Panasonic's SA-XR700 home theatre receiver, should you desire to deck out your lounge room in matching components.
A large LCD is viewable through the surface of the panel, as is a strip of neon blue light above it (presumably there to remind you that this is a Blu-ray device, not some crummy old DVD player). To load a disc and control playback without the remote, you'll need to pull the panel down with your own bare hands -- there's no fancy mechanical method.
We were disappointed with the remote control; it's a little flimsy and wide enough to be awkward for smaller hands. The scroll wheel is especially unwieldy, and feels loosely attached. Because it functions as both a selector and a navigator, you need to be careful when pressing the sides, which control up, down, left and right movement onscreen. Push the wrong section of the wheel and either the selection won't register, or the scroll function will be activated. This can be annoying when checking out the in-movie special features on a Blu-ray disc -- which is one of the big reasons to upgrade from DVD in the first place.
In addition to playing titles in Blu-ray (BD) format, the DMP-BD10 handles a heap of other disc formats, including DVD-Audio, DVD-Video, DVD-RAM, DVD-R/-RW, DVD+R/+RW, CD and CD-R/RW. You can also use it for slideshows by burning JPEG images to a CD -- an image gallery will show up onscreen, and you can navigate through folders and select individual images to display. The same goes for MP3s, as the player will recognise folders of music files on a standard data CD.
In terms of connectivity, the DMP-BD10 sports the crucial 1080p-carrying HDMI output, as well as component video, S-Video and a Scart connection. Audio is 7.1-channel, using a 192kHz / 24bit digital-to-analog converter, compared with the BD-P1000's 5.1-channel output. There are also two analog stereo outputs, an optical port and one digital coaxial.
Let's not mince words -- Blu-ray discs look pretty amazing. Our main concern in evaluating the DMP-BD10 however, was whether they look $2749 worth of amazing. Early adopters will always pay a premium for their keenness, regardless of the technology, but for the sake of comparison, you can pick up a BD-P1000 for an RRP of $1599.
The price factor has become even more important with the release of Sony's PS3, a $999 gaming console that ships with an in-built Blu-ray/DVD/CD drive. When we evaluated the PlayStation's non-game features, we found that it handles Blu-ray discs incredibly well -- colour reproduction, loading times and image detail were all very good, and we'd call it more user-friendly than the Panasonic player. Probably the main disadvantage of watching Blu-ray on the PS3 is that you need to navigate to the console's main setup options section in order to alter playback settings. There's also a DVD-related downside -- the PS3 will not upscale DVDs to 1080p, unlike the DMP-BD10.