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HD Disc Players:
Toshiba HD-XA2, Panasonic DMP-BD10,
Pioneer Elite BDP-HD1, Sony Playstation 3

Bill Livolsi, June 25, 2007

Panasonic DMP-BD10

The long-awaited Panasonic DMP-BD10 Blu-Ray drive has finally arrived on store shelves everywhere. While it's a little quirky at times in the user interface department, video performance is nothing short of stellar.

The BD10 has a slick, glossy front panel with no buttons, no ports, and not even a space for the Blu-Ray drive. All of the important workings are hidden behind a flip-down panel, giving the player a very elegant, clean appearance. However, since the BD10's only disc eject button is behind this flip-down panel (the remote has no eject button) you'll find yourself having to open and close the panel a lot. It is also glossy and shows fingerprints easily, so you may find yourself leaving the front panel open.

The remote control has large, easy to find buttons, but no backlight. Instead of a standard four-direction pad it has a jog wheel, which will scan forward and backwards in video. However, to navigate the menus one must also use this wheel, and it is all too easy to send the video speeding away in fast-forward or rewind by accident.

Video output is 1080p/60 maximum (no 1080p/24) over the player's HDMI link. Video quality is top shelf -- there is no softness or lack of detail to speak of, and a good source disc will guarantee some of the most beautiful HD video you'll ever see.

The BD10 is the only player released thus far with full 7.1 analog output. There is no HDMI 1.3 on this player, so if you're planning on upgrading your sound system to an HDMI 1.3 receiver soon, the BD10 may not be for you. However, If you have a 7.1 system, the BD10 can make use of the entire set of speakers like no other player on the market. The downside is that the BD10 cannot presently decode Dolby TrueHD or DTS-HD, the new high-definition audio codecs. Panasonic has promised a firmware update in April of this year, but this far they have not confirmed that TrueHD support will be added. Even if it is, since the BD10 lacks HDMI 1.3, you'll be stuck transcoding the HD audio streams onboard - they can't be fed natively to your receiver.

Without a doubt, the $1300 price tag is steep, but the BD10 has the potential to be the best player around for audio if the April firmware update delivers TrueHD and DTS-HD support. With crisp, clean 1080p/60 video and 7.1 analog out, the DMP-BD10 is a fantastic player with some relatively minor user interface issues.

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Review Contents: Introduction Toshiba HD XA2 Panasonic DMP BD10 Pioneer Elite BDP HD1
  Sony Playstation 3