Everyone has times when they feel restless and unable to settle on decisions, but those good folks over at Panasonic have got it bad. It seems like only yesterday that the BD30 and BD50 players arrived and now the company has replaced them with new and exciting models.
The DMP-BD35 and BD55 seem to have been on a radical diet, looking thinner and -- dare we say it -- even more beautiful than before. The changes aren't merely cosmetic. These players are both profile 2.0 compliant, which means you'll get the very best out of interactivity. Previously, only the BD50 was ready for online content, meaning BD30 owners wouldn't be able to access hilariously useless features like putting themselves in the action in Starship Troopers 3.
As with previous Panasonic Blu-ray players, you also get DivX support, so you can play SD content encoded in the popular Internet format on your TV. Sadly, Panasonic is showing no sign of including HD decoding for MPEG-4 or MKV container support. This is a crying shame, because these Blu-ray players all have the capability to become great media streamers -- especially now they have Ethernet sockets knocking around, doing very little for most of the time.
Both of these players support Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD for lossless audio joy in your living room -- indeed, both can decode internally and send via HDMI if you have an external surround-sound receiver. If you really want analogue audio out, the BD55 is happy to oblige, and this seems to be the only real difference between the two machines.
If you're thinking of putting your hand in your pocket, you'll be pleased to know that the BD35 costs around £300, with the BD55 sitting up at the £400 mark. At these prices, the PlayStation 3 is still much better value, but at least these players offer profile 2.0 functionality, and hopefully they'll also be quicker than past hardware. -Ian Morris