Price (RRP): $1,649
Reviewer: Thomas Bartlett
If the model number of this Blu-ray player seems familiar, that’s because it is identical to Panasonic’s first Blu-ray player. Except for the addition of an ‘A’ on the end. Rather than being an entirely new player, it is more a revision and an upgrade to the old one. But it also scores a price reduction of over a thousand dollars, which makes it an attractive proposition.
The unit plays CDs and DVDs in addition to Blu-ray, as well as DVD-Audio discs. It has component video and HDMI outputs for high definition video, along with composite and S-Video. And it is unique in having 7.1 channel analog audio outputs. That means that all those home theatre receivers out there with matching inputs can make use of the very best audio quality available, eventually, on some Blu-ray discs.
As I write, I have not yet found a Blu-ray disc actually encoded in 7.1 channel sound, but it is nice to cater for the future. What are finally emerging are discs encoded in Dolby TrueHD which, with DTS-HD (both the High Resolution and Master Audio varieties), should offer just about the best conceivable sound quality. And the Panasonic Blu-ray player now decodes both of these, along with Dolby Digital Plus.
The unit can output high definition video all the way up to 1920 x 1080 pixels in progressive scan format. The video output is still set via the setup menu rather than on the fly, so experimenting with different outputs on the unit is a somewhat tedious exercise.
One ‘minor’ change, but one that improves the user experience considerably, is a revised remote control. This has all its keys on the surface instead of burying them under a panel, so you spend far less time fiddling around.
One thing that is still not included in this model is version 1.3 of the HDMI output, so it cannot deliver the new audio formats in bitstream format to a suitable home theatre receiver (via a single digital audio connection rather than the eight analog connections supplied). That shouldn’t matter too much with the internal decoding (it will turn these into CD-like PCM format, but with the necessary number of channels).
The picture quality produced by this unit was absolutely glorious, except only for the lack of the 24 frames per second output provided by some of the competition. This frame rate reproduces exactly the way the film was made, and with a suitable display avoids the jerkiness that results from conversion to 60 frames per second.
On the subject of frame rates, may I suggest that if you are mainly going to be using this unit for Blu-ray playback, go into the setup menu and set the video output to NTSC. Otherwise the unit will switch from 60 back to 50 hertz operation every time you stop your disc, which causes most displays to lose sync for several seconds.
The unit still will not play recordable Blu-ray discs, so in that sense it’s like a very early DVD player.
Nevertheless, the Panasonic DMP-BD10A is a fine Blu-ray player that is also faster than most of the competition (16 seconds to fire up and open the tray, 35 seconds to start playing a BD).