[img]http://www.hometheaterreview.com/images/DMP-BD35.jpg[/img]Panasonic DMP-BD55 Blu-ray Player Review
By: Adrienne Maxwell
At CEDIA 2008, Panasonic showed off two new Blu-ray players, the DMP-BD35 ($300) and the step-up DMP-BD55 ($400). Both players are Profile 2.0, which means they support BonusView/picture-in-picture content and BD-Live Web functionality, and both sport a new aesthetic and slimmer design than their predecessor, the DMP-BD50. The two players are very similar in features and performance, but the DMP-BD55 distinguishes itself through a few higher-end audio options, which we will detail below. In terms of video connections, the DMP-BD55 offers HDMI, component video, and composite video outputs. For HDMI, the output-resolution options are Auto, 480p, 720p, 1080i, 1080p/60, and 1080p/24. The setup menu includes an option to enable 1080p/24 output if your TV accepts this signal type; once you enable the feature, the player will always output 1080p/24 when it is available on Blu-ray discs. For component video, the output-resolution options are 480i, 480p, 720p, and 1080i. The display interface provides access to some picture adjustments, like noise reduction, gamma control, and basic parameters like color, brightness, contrast, and sharpness.
In the audio realm, the DMP-BD55 offers HDMI, coaxial and optical digital audio, and both 2- and 7.1-channel analog audio outputs. This is one area where the DMP-BD55 differs from the step-down DMP-BD35, which does not offer multichannel analog audio outputs and is therefore not an ideal solution if you own an older, non-HDMI A/V receiver. The DMP-BD55 has onboard Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio decoding, and it also passes these high-resolution audio formats in their native bitstream form over HDMI, for your A/V receiver to decode. The player can pass 7.1-channel PCM audio over both the HDMI and multichannel analog audio outputs. The DMP-BD55 also uses higher-quality audio circuitry than its less-expensive sibling - a 24-bit/192-kHz audio digital-analog converter, high-quality insulators, copper-foil film capacitors, and ultra-low-impedance electrolytic capacitors.
The DMP-BD55's disc drive supports BD, DVD, CD audio, MP3, JPEG, and Divx playback. Given the player's Profile 2.0 designation, the inclusion of an Ethernet port is a given. This port allows you to connect to the Internet to access BD-Live Web features on Blu-day discs and to perform firmware updates. An SD card slot allows you to add the needed storage for BD-Live Web content; you can also view JPEGs and AVCHD high-def video stored on SD cards. The DMP-BD55 has no internal memory, so an SD card is necessary for most BD-Live applications; Panasonic does not include a card in the package. This player also lacks advanced control ports, such as RS-232 or IR.
• The DMP-BD55 offers excellent Blu-ray image quality and better performance with standard DVDs than previous Panasonic models.
• The player covers all the audio bases: It has internal Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio decoding and can pass these formats in bitstream form over HDMI. It also has 7.1-channel analog audio outputs.
• It supports BD-Live Web content and can play picture-in-picture bonus content.
• This player has quick start-up, load times, and navigation.
• The SD card slot allows for easy viewing of digital movies and photos.
• Panasonic does not supply an SD card for storage of downloadable BD-Live content.
• Accessing and navigating BD-Live content isn't quite as quick and intuitive on this player as we've seen elsewhere.
The DMP-BD55 is an excellent Blu-ray player that offers the full complement of features: BD-Live, BonusView, 1080p/24 playback, and bitstream output and onboard decoding of both Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio. The inclusion of multichannel analog audio outputs makes it a great fit for someone who owns an older, non-HDMI receiver. If you've already purchased a new receiver that supports high-resolution audio over HDMI, you might consider the less-expensive DMP-BD35 instead.