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Panasonic DMP-BD50 Blu-ray Player Print E-mail
Wednesday, 01 October 2008
Article Index
Panasonic DMP-BD50 Blu-ray Player
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Blu-ray and DVD Performance
Like the DMP-BD30, this Panasonic model has quicker startup, load times, and navigation than many standalone players currently on the market, especially with discs like Ratatoille (Buena Vista Home Entertainment), War (Lionsgate Entertainment), and Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (Buena Vista Home Entertainment) that feature dense BD-Java menus that can really bog down the user experience. Both Panasonic models are faster than any other Blu-ray player I’ve used – although, admittedly, I haven’t personally tested the PlayStation3, which is reportedly much faster than any standalone model. Beyond speed, the DMP-BD50’s performance was reliable, with no freezes, reboots, or audio dropouts. It also had no trouble playing the DVD-Rs, CD-Rs, and JPEG CDs I fed it, and it cues up JPEG thumbnails very quickly.

As is the case with most of the players that pass through my door, the DMP-BD50 did a great job displaying the native 1080p/24 signal from Blu-ray discs like Pirates of the Caribbean, Ghost Rider (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment), Kingdom of Heaven (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment), and The Prestige (Buena Vista Home Entertainment). The level of detail was excellent, fine black and white detail remains intact, and colors were well saturated. Where players usually distinguish their performance is in the processing realm, when outputting 1080p/60 (or, in the case of component video, 720p or 480p) instead. In this regard, the Panasonic also did a fine job with high-definition source content, passing all of the 1080i tests on my HQV Benchmark Blu-ray disc (Silicon Optix) and cleanly rendering my real-world 1080p test from Mission Impossible III (Paramount Home Video).

For my high-resolution audio tests, I mated the DMP-BD50 with Denon’s AVR-4308 receiver, which has onboard Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD decoding. The Sunshine Blu-ray disc (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment) is a nice test disc because it includes both a DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack and picture-in-picture bonus content. I experimented with all three audio output options over HDMI – Quality, Secondary, and Custom – and everything worked exactly as the manual said it would. At the Quality setting, the DMP-BD50 passed the DTS-HD Master Audio bitstream for the Denon receiver to decode, but it did not play PIP and the menu’s navigational sound cues. Next, I tried the Secondary setting; here, the player passed 5.1-channel PCM and played the PIP audio track. The Panasonic remote includes handy PIP and Secondary Audio buttons that make it easy to cue up the PIP video and audio. Finally, I went with the Custom audio mode. With PCM audio selected and the secondary audio function turned off, the player passed 7.1-channel  PCM to my receiver. When I compared the internal versus external decoding, the audio quality was very similar, with the Denon’s decoder perhaps offering a bit more LFE output. Ultimately, I stuck with the Quality setting and let my receiver handle the decoding.

All in all, I was thoroughly pleased with the DMP-BD50’s handling of Blu-ray discs, but its performance with standard-definition DVDs isn’t quite as consistent. With my HQV Benchmark DVD (Silicon Optix), the player failed the jaggies and text-crawl tests, it could not handle any complex cadences beyond the traditional 3:2, and even with 3:2 it was a little slow to clean up the signal. However, real-world DVD demo scenes from Gladiator (DreamWorks Home Entertainment) and The Bourne Identity (Universal Home Video) were generally free of deinterlacing artifacts, and the player’s real-world performance with video-based signals was on par with recent players I’ve tested. Upconverted DVDs had a solid level of detail, but the picture was noisier than I’ve seen elsewhere, which lessened the overall experience. The DMP-BD50 does have internal noise-reduction settings; but, when I enabled them, it caused the player to add deinterlacing artifacts to my Gladiator test, which was an odd result. Ultimately, the DMP-BD50’s DVD performance isn’t questionable enough to land squarely in the downside category, but it could be better, especially given the player’s step-up price. If you already own a good upconverting player, you might want to hold on to it for DVD playback.

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