If you have a mind to step up to high definition DVD, which of the two Blu-ray players currently available do you choose: Panasonic?s DMP-BD10 or Samsung?s BD-P1000? Thomas Bartlett examines the ledger.
First, let us consider picture quality: both generally do a sterling job here, with nothing really to separate them. One or the other may well have the better digital to analog video converter, but I wouldn?t know, and you shouldn?t either. If you don?t use HDMI with your Blu-ray player, you?re short-changing yourself.
But both have the same significant flaw. As most Blu-ray discs (BDs) on the Australian market are going to be virtually identical to the US versions, a BD player needs to be able to deliver 1080p signals at 24 hertz. Neither of these players offers that capability, so the conversion from film?s 24 frames per second to the players? 60 frames per second produces jerky camera pans. For me, that would be a deal-breaker. I would wait until next year?s models.
Then there is sound quality. Panasonic?s DMP-BD10 has an edge here, thanks to its 7.1 channel analog outputs, whereas the Samsung unit is limited to 5.1 channels. But if you are content with 5.1 channels in your home system, and most people should be, then this in itself ought not be enough to push the Panasonic to the top of the list.
We must also consider extra features. The Samsung BD-P1000 features a pair of flash card slots, from which it can display JPEG photos and play MP3 music tracks. It you like those kinds of features, this might make it the preferable unit. But both players will support JPEG and MP3 that you have burnt onto discs, so this feature is less important. The Panasonic DMP-DB10 has one feature that may make it preferable to some: it plays DVD-Audio discs. Even though this is pretty much a dead format, those of us who have collected a few over the years will appreciate this capability for the magnificence of the sound it allows.
Of vital importance is compatibility. The Panasonic unit is a clear winner here, thanks to the comprehensive setup menus that allow such things as switching off the HDMI audio, and independently setting the digital audio output for each different audio format. That ensures that once you have set it up, every disc you insert will play to its best effect without any further manipulation of controls. I do trust that Panasonic will eventually release a firmware upgrade so that the unit supports Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD (the uncompressed surround sound formats encoded on Blu-ray discs).
For many, disc navigation is important. Both offer step-by-step frame advance and plenty of fast forward and rewind speeds. But there is one oversight with the Panasonic unit: it does not offer direct chapter selection (except via the disc menu), nor jumping to a specific time on BDs. It has a ?Time Slip? feature which allows you to advance by a specified number of minutes, but if want to go to precisely 59:12 on the disc, then you?ll be fiddling around.
Finally there is price. At $1599 the Samsung BD-P1000 is far more affordable than the $2749 Panasonic DMP-BD10.
There you go; our summary of the benefits and shortcomings of both Blu-ray players currently on the Australian market. Bear in mind that, whichever brand you choose, a quality display is critical to revealing the picture detail contained on Blu-ray discs. If you don?t already have a 1080 LCD, plasma or projector, look for a retailer that will give you a good deal on one when you buy your Blu-ray player.
Want to know more about Blu-ray? Read our Australian-first review of the Panasonic DMP-BD10, our our Australian web-first Samsung BD-P1000 review, or read our article Movies on Blu-ray, a look at the clearer picture and higher interactivity the Blu-ray format offers, plus a list of some of the initial release of Blu-ray movie titles.