|Panasonic DMP-BD30 Blu-ray Player|
|Home Theater Video Players Blu-ray Players|
|Written by Adrienne Maxwell|
|Tuesday, 01 April 2008|
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Television and Movies
For early adopters, one of the main frustrations with both HD formats has been the speed at which a player powers up, loads discs and navigates through them. We’ve grown accustomed to fast response in the standard-definition DVD world, and our impatient nature demands the same from Blu-ray. I haven’t tried PlayStation 3, which I’ve heard is the fastest of all the early Blu-ray players. However, compared with other Sony, Pioneer and Panasonic models I’ve used, the DMP-BD3030 is faster in all respects. Just to give you some numbers, the time from initial power-up to getting the “no disc” message on the display was 30 seconds. With the Gladiator SD DVD (DreamWorks Home Entertainment), the time from load to studio logo was 21 seconds, and basic Blu-rays with no interactive menus loaded in about 25–30 seconds. Even the excruciatingly slow Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl Blu-ray (Buena Vista Home Entertainment) loaded in 50 seconds, and the Panasonic consistently demonstrated that it could load complex interactive menus in a minute or less.
The player responds quickly to remote commands and can skip chapters fairly quickly without experiencing any hiccups or miscues, and it can be set to resume playback when you stop a Blu-ray or DVD. It supports Blu-ray-Java to play back interactive menus and features, like War’s “Yakuza Fighter” game (Lionsgate Home Entertainment) and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest’s “Liar’s Dice” game (Buena Vista). I already mentioned the player’s ability to quickly cue up interactive menus; it moved more fluidly through the interactive games than any Profile 1.0 player I’ve used.
The DMP-BD30’s faster operation doesn’t mean much if the player comes up short in its video performance. Happily, that isn’t the case. The inclusion of 1080p/24 output means you can send the film natively to your TV or video processor if you’d prefer to let it handle the conversion to 60, 72 or 120 Hertz. However, this isn’t mandatory, as the DMP-BD30’s internal processing is very good. With the player set for 1080p/60 output, I fed it the Benchmark HQV Blu-ray (Silicon Optix), and it correctly de-interlaced 1080i and picked up the 3:2 sequence. Chapter eight of the Mission: Impossible III Blu-ray (Paramount Home Entertainment) opens with a shot of people descending a long, wide staircase. With lesser-quality processors, the staircase is filled with digital artifacts and moiré, but the DMP-BD30 produced a clean image, with only a hint of shimmer. As for its ability to de-interlace and up-convert 480i DVDs, the player ably handled the Coliseum flyover in Chapter 12 of Gladiator, producing a little shimmer but very few jaggies in the rooftops and archways. It also passed the Venetian blind torture test in Chapter Four of the Bourne Identity DVD (Universal Studios Home Video), rendering a clean picture with no moiré in the blinds. SD DVDs weren’t as detailed as I’ve seen from the best up-converting players, but they weren’t lacking detail, either. Via the component video output, the player still correctly de-interlaces 1080i and picks up 3:2, and the Mission: Impossible III scene looked very clean. SD DVDs are displayed at a maximum resolution of 480p, and the de-interlacing was above average. All in all, I had no complaints with the DMP-BD30’s video performance. HD discs looked fantastic, and SD discs were clean and solidly detailed.
In theory, if a Blu-ray player supports the bit stream output of high-resolution audio soundtracks over HDMI, and an A/V receiver has internal Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD decoders, you should just be able to connect them via HDMI, hit play and enjoy. In practice, that hasn’t been the case with some receiver/player combos, but it was the case here. There were no HDMI communication errors between the Panasonic DMP-BD30 and Pioneer VSX-91TXH, and the receiver detected and played without incident the Dolby TrueHD track on Dave Matthews’ Live at Radio City (RCA), the DTS-HD hi-res on Reservoir Dogs, and the DTS HD master audio on Kingdom of Heaven (Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment). Just one cable from player to receiver—in this instance, the promise of HDMI is realized.
I experienced no compatibility issues when feeding the player a CD, a CD-R and several DVD-Rs I had on hand. When playing a CD, the player brings up the Direct Navigator menu and lists all the track numbers/times; this is fine, but I’d prefer that you could make it go away when you want. I also have a Panasonic Lumix camera that uses an SD card, so I took a few jpeg photos and then plugged the card into the DMP-BD30’s card slot. If there’s no disc in the tray, the player automatically cues the Direct Navigator and displays thumbnails. If a disc is playing, you can hit the remote’s Blu-ray/SD button to switch between the two mediums. The player lets you navigate quickly through photos, and a slideshow feature is available.