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Christmas Gift Guide

This is the year you're going to buy into Blu-ray. How do we know this? The hardware is finally approaching affordability, the number of homes with an HDTV is increasing every week and we can't see people not wanting high-quality video to go with them. Panasonic is launching several players this year, each aimed at encouraging you to take the plunge into the Blu-ray lagoon.

Does the Panasonic DMP-BD65 move things on? Not especially: this is a risk-free proposition from Panasonic. A profile 2.0 player with support for JPEG images, MP3 audio and some limited video formats, such as MPEG-4 SD and DivX HD. It is, however, a stylish and compact player that will happily slip into the gap vacated by your ageing DVD player. It's good to see Blu-ray players finally get down a dress size or two and look like modern products rather than VHS decks.

The BD65 has HDMI out for getting that 1080p video to your TV, along with component and composite outputs, but we can't see these being especially popular with anyone these days. Optical digital audio out is provided too, but this won't get lossless HD audio to your AV receiver, and Panasonic hasn't included analogue 7.1 RCA jacks on this model.

VieraCast is included, which gives you access to YouTube and other services. We're still hoping that more Web TV and video-on-demand services will launch on this Panasonic platform at some point soon. At the moment it's not the amazing service we think it could be. We'd love to see 4oD, ITV Player and iPlayer on there -- it would really help sell the equipment.

The BD65 will be on sale in the UK soon, and although prices are yet to be announced, we'd expect somewhere around the £200 mark. To find out what we think of the player's performance, you'll have to wait until it's been through our proper testing process. Expect to see a full review in the next week or so, in our reviews channel.

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Blu-ray's online feature BD Live is supported, as is playback of AVCHD, which will appeal to camcorder users and people with a boatload of digital stills.
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DivX HD decoding support is included, but the cynical part of us wonders just who exactly is using this codec for anything. Surely including container support for MKV would be far more productive?
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SDXC support means that this player can read the new generation of SD cards arriving over the next few years. In theory, SDXC can go up to capacities of 2TB.
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USB and SD card sockets are designed to view video, photos and listen to MP3s.
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Ethernet is essential for BD Live functionality, although we aren't sure what BD Live is essential for. You can also update the player's firmware over the Internet with this connection.
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No analogue 7.1 audio out, but you do get an optical digital connection and stereo audio out via RCA jacks. Component video also provides an output for people who don't have HDMI.
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The remote control is unchanged from Panasonic's previous models. No complaints from us -- it's a beaut.
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You get an idea of how compact the BD65 is when you see that the remote is the same length as the player is deep.
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