Price (RRP): $495
Reviewer: Thomas Bartlett
In many ways the Panasonic DMP-BD35 is the same as the Yamaha BD-S2900, except that it is of a much lighter build, lacks the system integration features, and is a generation more advanced.
This last point is due to the addition of two things: a BD-Live implementation, and decoders for all the audio standards including the high definition ones.
For BD-Live you use the usual Ethernet port, and persistent storage is provided not with a USB memory stick but with a Secure Digital card slot on the front. This is under a flimsy panel, and so is not visually intrusive. You can also display JPEG photos and run AVCHD video from SD cards. You have to buy the SD card for yourself.
The BD-Live functions worked precisely as they should, allowing me to download some trailer clips for Sony titles, and interesting (and relevant) supplementary material for such Paramount titles as Iron Man and Transformers.
The other area in which it shone was that, of these players, it was the only one that could decode DTS-HD Master Audio sound during BonusView PIP playback of Blu-ray discs.
The decoding on offer is called DTS-HD Master Audio Essential, which apparently omits the ability to decode DTS Neo:6 from Blu-ray. No great loss there. That also makes this Panasonic unit ideal for those with an older home theatre receiver with support for HDMI audio, but lacking high definition audio decoders.
This player was like the Yamaha with PAL DVDs, except that it also includes a setting to force film mode deinterlacing, allowing perfect high resolution performance with these discs.
The unit also has some stuff that I like: like a comprehensive information display which tells you what formats are being used by the video, plus five slow motion speeds and single frame stepping (both forwards only). Less conveniently, it lacks dedicated keys on the remote control for changing audio and subtitles, instead requiring you to arrow around an onscreen display.