With CES behind us, it's time for manufacturers to start releasing this year's line-ups. Panasonic is the first to get us all excited, with its new range of Blu-ray players. This year, the company is launching a 3D model, a new high-end machine, and a pair of entry-level machines, with some impressive eco-friendly credentials.
There's plenty of buzz about 3D this year. Not all of it is positive -- some of it constitutes tutting and groaning from those who aren't sold on this new craze. But, however you look at it, the new Panasonic DMP-BDD300 is likely to cause much excitement when it launches. There isn't much information about this player yet, but it will include DLNA, and 802.11n wireless, as well as having 'cinema quality' video and audio support.
The DMP-BD85 (pictured) is a high-end player for those not bothered about 3D. It will have a pretty comprehensive specification, including 802.11n wireless, the ability to connect to your home PC and play media, and support for DivX HD, which suggests MKV containers might be playable too. Its 7.1-channel analogue audio output means you can connect your existing AV receiver to the player and still get Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD MA, even if your receiver can't decode these new HD audio formats.
At the lower end of the range, you'll find the DMP-BD65 and DMP-BD45. These players boast some green credentials that will keep penny pinchers and polar-bear fans happy. The simplest improvement is a reduction in the player size. That may not sound like a big deal, but reducing the size means the packaging can be more petite. Diminutive boxes reduce shipping costs and carbon output.
The players are also more efficient electrically -- the DMP-BD45 uses only 19W in operation and 0.2W in standby. Compare that to players from 2007, which used 45W in operation, and you can see that the company is doing an impressive job. These two players also boast a quick start time, with Panasonic claiming they 'boot' in 0.5 seconds. We'll have to wait and see how that affects the overall Blu-ray load times.
Blu-ray is starting to look more mature every day. There are still some problems to be ironed out though, mainly the ludicrous load times and idiotic interactive functionality that adds little apart from frustration. 3D is likely to be a big driver for this technology, assuming people are interested in investing in a new player and TV. Movies, after all, are the primary source for 3D at the moment, and DVD can't cut the mustard, while broadcast 3D is a considerable time away for most TV networks.