Panasonic was also the first Blu-ray player manufacturer to embrace DivX playback, something we really approve of. The BD35 carries on with this tradition, but we think it's time for Panasonic to take it to the next level and support MPEG-4 in the MKV file format. And given the presence of an Ethernet socket on the machine, why not go the whole hog and offer media streaming? Added value like that would really make the £300 asking price seem much more reasonable.
Let's start our look at how this machine performs by timing how long it takes for the player to load a disc and start playing it. We picked a movie that has interactive features because these discs generally take ages to load. For this test we use the BD35 and a PS3. We turn both of them on, and then time how long it takes to play a disc after inserting it.
The PlayStation 3 can load our Vantage Point disc in 42 seconds. The BD35 takes 1 minute 16 seconds to perform the same task. Now that sounds like quite a difference, but trust us when we say that's one of the best stand-alone-player load times we've seen. It does lag behind the PS3, but that's effectively a supercomputer, so it's not surprising.
As you would expect, the picture quality is wonderful. Panasonic has invested a great deal of time and money into developing picture processing to make your HD material look as good as possible. Although that might sound unnecessary in the days of 1080p and 24hz playback, the Panasonic goes out of its way to keep colours accurate and ensure motion is as natural as possible.
We tested Casino Royale and Spider-Man, and were very happy indeed with the picture quality. Of course, with 1080p video it's easy to be blown away, but the Panasonic doesn't introduce any nasty artefacts and the video looked brilliant.
The other great news is that the BD35 also does a stand-up job with DVDs, which we discovered when we introduced it to our Jurassic Park DVD. The picture quality was excellent, with great colour reproduction and plenty of picture detail. The Panasonic also did a good job of coping with MPEG artefact noise.
The DB35 is easily one of the best Blu-ray players we've ever reviewed. It's a good price -- though still beaten in terms of value by the PS3 -- and a very good machine to use on a daily basis.
Sheer bang for buck, the PS3 is still the best Blu-ray player out there. But Panasonic is at least proving that stand-alone players can offer decent performance and other advantages such as lower power consumption, nearly silent operation and a much more sensible form factor.
Edited by Marian Smith