The Panasonic DMP-BD30 Blu-ray player we checked out recently was terribly exciting, but we're even keener on the company's DMP-BD50, which adds one important feature to the Blu-ray arsenal -- BD Live. This means that the BD50 -- or 'Fiddy' as we've decided to call it -- is basically a profile 2.0 player, making it one of the few announced players to support what is probably the final Blu-ray profile.
BD Live is essentially the Blu-ray equivalent of the functionality found on some HD DVDs. Films such as Blood Diamond, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and Transfomers all feature Web interactivity on the now defunct format. Hopefully BD Live will bring these features to Blu-ray eventually. It's worth pointing out that there aren't many BD Live discs at the moment -- Saw IV does boast some interactivity, but we aren't entirely sure what.
The DMP-BD50 has a few other tricks up its sleeve too, especially in the audio department. It has, of course, the ability to decode and output all of the lossless audio codecs such as Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD. But it also features something called audio re-master, which Panasonic claims compensates for data lost in the lossy compression systems such as Dolby Digital and DTS found on DVD. Apparently this re-mastering can create a fuller, more faithful sound reproduction.
Of course Fiddy offers 1080p/24 and both Deep Colour and x.v.Colour support over HDMI 1.3. Panny claims x.v.Colour has 1.2 times more colour than regular old sRGB. So if your TV supports x.v.Colour, you'll be in for a rare -- and brilliantly coloured -- treat. Like the BD30, the BD50 supports DivX, and can play files recorded in the format from both CD and DVD.
We're also pleased to see the BD50 has analogue 7.1 audio outputs, for hooking the player up to an existing surround-sound system. We're a fan of analogue audio outputs because of the flexibility they offer, plus they don't require an external processor to decode the TrueHD and DTS-HD soundtracks.
There's no word on when the Panasonic DMP-BD50 will be hitting the streets, or how much it'll set you back. We suspect it's some way off yet, but as soon as it's available we'll be testing it to the max. –Ian Morris