* Prices may differ from that shown
I had wanted to try out the Blue-Ray machines for a while, but had never actually gone for it, mainly because of the price and the fact that dvd had always done a great job for me and my family. We have stacks of dvd''s in our house that we have bought over the years, and buying something I could not play these movies on did seem a little daft to me. But with technology moving on at the speedy rate that it is, I started to think maybe we should try it, before even newer more modern entertainment systems hit the high street, plus with my partner liking to be well involved in the rat race of life, it was about time I splashed out on something that we didn''t really need. So after deciding to purchase a Blue-Ray player, I just had to decide which one I was going to buy, I did not want to spend to much cash, but at the same time, I didn''t want a rubbish player, so I turned to my trusted review sites online, to help me make the purchase. Panasonic is a brand which I have been using for years, I trust it and have had many good quality products by them. So when I saw this Panasonic DMP-BD35EB-K Blu-Ray Player for a reasonable price, along with some great reviews written about it online, my mind was made up fast, and it did not take me long to make my purchase. This player is really light, that is the first thing I noticed about it, upon getting it home, and it is so light because height wise, this Blue-Ray player is very slim. The machine itself looks really good with a modern design, and no buttons all over it like the dvd players I am used to using, instead there is a flap that can be dropped revealing the controls needed to work the player. This Blue-Ray player is very easy to set up, and with me not being very technical it was still easy to set up which I was very happy about. As I am not all that technical I can not explain all the amazing things that this Blue-Ray player can do, but what I can tell you, is that compared to my older dvd player, the Blue-Ray wins hands down, the quality when watching movies is noticeably better. Blue-Ray may be more expensive, but that''s because your paying for quality, and the Panasonic DMP-BD35EB-K is a top quality product.
I run my Panasonic Blu ray player with a Panasonic TV.
The player is very smart looking, slim, with a flip down front, hiding all the controls but it is rare for me to use the controls on the device itself so the flap always stays up.
When turning on it even says hello and good bye when you turn it off, a nice little touch.
The control is one of best best I have used that come as standard with a product, nice and compact, with just the right amount of buttons, it doesn't confuse you with loads of buttons that never get used.
It has all the features the average user and even the above average user could want, it supports TrueHD, has BDlive which enables you to take advantage of the extras on Blu ray disks if they have been added to the Blu ray you are watching.
You can even play CDs, DVDs.
It supports the Panasonic viera link, which means turning one on will turn the device linked, so turn the Blu ray on, the TV will also be ready to watch the Blu ray, the only trouble with this feature is, it can be a bit of a pain if you want to listen to a CD and not have the TV on, turn the TV off and the music stops, so sad to say it's turned off on my devices, a shame as it is a good idea, but can get in the way more that it helps.
This is excellent, play a Blu ray and you are reminded why you have spent the money on all this new kit, it also upscales SD, so play a DVD and it will do it's best to improve the quality of the picture to give you the best image it can on your HD TV.
A tip, don't go spending loads on an HDMI cable a cheap one is just as good, you don't need a fancy cable for this device to do it's thing.
You can also update the device, connect to wifi and the update takes care of itself, just click "yes" for it to start.
It has all the options most people could ever want, will play 7.1 if your blu ray disc has it, also TrueHD.
A great Blu ray player, I use mine with an AVR and it has all the features I could want and more, it will work just as well in the hands of a casual user and the more experienced user won't feel short changed...just remeber to turn on viera link if you have things turning on or off when you don't want them to.
The format war between Blu-ray and HD DVD has finally been won, with Blu-ray the only survivor after most of the film studios backed just that format, about a year ago. Both formats output "Full HD" (1080p resolution) and Full HD televisions are also quite affordable, so now could be the time to upgrade from DVD. With a suitable television Blu-ray is quite stunning in comparison and even "upscaled" DVD cannot compete.
The Format War Continues
Unfortunately the format war continues because Blu-Ray exists in three different forms: profiles 1.0, 1.1 and 2.0. I won't go into the full specifications of each, but the main difference is that 1.0 is capable of playing the film, 1.1 has additional memory and computing power to allow some extra features that might be on the Blu-Ray disk to be played simultaneously with the film (e.g. picture-in-picture) and 2.0 has limited internet access allowing up to date material to be down loaded from the studio web-site or interactive games to be played etc. It also allows bug fixes to be downloaded automatically. In theory I just needed profile 1.0, but these are no longer being made, so an inexpensive 1.1 seemed the the ideal choice, until I discover this Panasonic model, which is about the same price as many profile 1.1 players, just £189 (from Amazon). This should completely future-proof my purchase. The internet connection requires an ethernet cable connection and does not support WiFi, but then you don't really need it anyway just for watching films.
What is the catch?
This is the budget 2.0 player, with only limited connectivity. It has HDMI output for connection to an HD Ready or Full HD TV or component/composite output for older TVs and just stereo analogue sound instead of the 7.1 or 5.1 channel output available on it's more expensive rivals. So it appears to be a bit compromised in the sound department, given the far superior sound quality available from Blu-Ray, but it does also have one optical digital output, which output 5.1 channels which can be decoded by any reasonably good surround-sound amplifier made with-in the last few years (be careful to check that you have the appropriate input - my old Denon can cope with this, but it was quite an up-market decoder in its day and some all-in-one decoder/amps don't have any optical inputs) You can also use the HDMI output to connect to the latest surround sound amplifiers or straight to the television if you are only going to use the TV's speakers.
If you have a 1080p ("Full HD") or 720p ("HD Ready") TV and you are using it without a proper HD source (e.g. Freeview or DVD) you are really missing out; the TV will upscale any input to fit the huge number of extra pixels, but it is only guessing and in some cases the picture will look quite processed or pixelated (in the modern meaning of the word) especially if you are going from 480p (DVD) all the way up to 1080p. With Blu-Ray the result is stunning and this Panasonic is no exception. Do not however use the cables that come with the player. There is no HDMI cable provided, just a triple composite/left/right cable which gives awful results, which may be improved a bit if you use the three cables in the component inputs and outputs instead, but this is still unacceptable. Buy an inexpensive HDMI (digital) cable for far better results. Colours are vivid and the details seems far sharper than even the best upscaled DVD. Using a DVD disc in the Panasonic Blu-Ray player gives a good upscaled result (e.g. better than my old DVD player connected via SCART cable) but still not as good as with a proper Full HD source.
If you have a good home-cinema system with an appropriate digital optical audio input the sound can also be stunning. My system has never sounded so good, with incredibly controlled deep bass and fine imaging and detail even during the quieter sequences. This is not really a reflection of the player which is just outputting the digital signal from the Blu-ray disk, but it was easy to set up and does demonstrate that you really don't need to have the analogue electrical output (these are actually restrictive anyway and for optimum results you probably want to decode using a surround sound system customised to your room)
The Build quality is excellent. The player is black and very slim, with simple clean lines and minimal buttons and information displayed on the front. It is a full width player made of metal and high quality plastic.
Remote control and ease of use
The remote control is simple to use, very similar to a DVD player control. Most of the functionality is access through menus on the TV screen. Playing DVD or Blu-Ray disc is as easy as with any DVD player. Simply put it in the draw (which takes quite a while to open) and press play and follow the on-screen menus as usual.
This is an excellent inexpensive profile 2.0 player that has a stunning picture quality and with the appropriate external amplification sound quality too. Buy a HDMI cable and don't use the cables provided. Shame it doesn't have WiFi.
This review is also published on Ciao.co.uk under the same name and Squidoo:
Having just bought a new TV, initially I'd got no further plans to expand into the world of Hi-Definition, assuming that the so-called Blu-Ray players were still priced at around £300 (I hadn't paid them much attention for months). I'm still adamant that Sky will grace my lounge the day hell freezes over.
Blu-Ray is the winner in a recent 'format war', its main rival having been HD-DVD, a mainly Toshiba-promoted system. However, it would seem that thanks to an awful lot of hype, wining-and-dining and cash from Sony, presumably to get the major studios on board, Blu-Ray emerged as the winner, despite not actually being the final version at that point*.
It all starts to smack of VHS versus Betamax. Yes, VHS won, but in reality, Betamax was widely thought to be technically superior.
Still at least this time Sony is on the winning side!
(*Early adopters will no doubt be licking their financial wounds, feeling a little like beta-version testers and finding that they can't access all the Blu-Ray disc content now potentially being enjoyed by those that hung back for 'Profile 2' machines to appear. At least HD-DVD was more or less a ready-to-roll system).
By the way, the 'Blu' refers to the blue laser light used. Blue is a higher wavelength than the normal red used for reading CDs and the like, and can therefore read finer detail off the disk, meaning that disks can now be crammed with much more information, i.e. that needed by movies with a lot more lines of definition.
Anyway, be that as it may, Blu-Ray has now matured, and more to the point, many players are now 'sub 200 hundred quid' which came as a pleasant surprise to me, considering I paid £350 for my first DVD player.
Initially, I'd thought of buying the cheapest branded one I could find, for example, the Samsung BD-P 1500, but it gets such mixed reviews (good here and bad on Ciao) that I discounted it. Anyway, my TV is a Panasonic, and there are certain advantages to sticking with the same make - less fumbling for yet another bloody remote control being the main one since the TV remote will handle basic 'transport' functions on the Blu-Ray player.
As luck would have it, the Panasonic BD35 gets rave reviews and only costs about 15 quid more than the Samsung. Having a 'Dooyoo voucher' credited to Amazon, where the machine costs £185, helped too!
The machine is the usual 'hi-fi width' but extremely slim, height wise. Apart from almost flush on/off and open/close switch, there are no visible controls, although a drop-down flap conceals some basic transport buttons (stop, start, pause etc. and more significantly, a slot to read SD digital camera cards). However, if your hi-fi stack now resembles a club sandwich, these top mounted buttons could preclude the BD35's use as anything other than the upper slice of toast!
The remote seems a well-built enough affair with LOTS of buttons, admittedly some of which can be used to control not only a Panasonic 'Viera' TV quite comprehensively, but, and this is a first for me, the volume of my Yamaha home cinema amplifier. Woo-hoo, even less time off the sofa!
For anyone with a home cinema set up, there's very little to making the connections. The so-called HDMI (Hi-Definition Multimedia Interface) output goes to the new telly, and the digital sound connection (optical-only) is fed to the amplifier. Apart from three phono connections that can be used for progressive scan output, there are no other audio-visual connectors. The next version up, the BD55 also contains a 7.1 digital decoder for those that prefer to feed up to 7 phono sockets to a 'dumb amplifier' but not the BD35.
There's an initial puzzlement in so much that there's also an Ethernet connection, but perusal of the instruction manual only uncovers two potential uses for this. One is to update the current firmware version of the machine, but there's no urgency in doing this if your machine hasn't been in stock at the shop too long since it's highly likely to have a recent firmware version anyway, this being one use for this port.
I'll come on to the second use later.
I was lucky - the default settings once plugged into my router confirmed that a suitable internet connection existed. I really didn't want to get involved in finding out how to fill the various boxes in - MAC numbers, DND servers, IP address. I mean to say, I might have had to get off the couch!
After accessing the Firmware Update page, it did indeed use the new connection to the outside world to ascertain that I had firmware version 1.1, whereas 1.2 was available, so within minutes my machine was bang up to date. I don't suppose this will need doing very often.
If you really can't make an internet connection to it, you can access the Panasonic web site to download the latest firmware version, and then burn it onto a CD-ROM so it can be uploaded to the player manually (or in other words, once a year).
As for the rest of the set-up menu, I stuck mainly to default values, except that I knew my home cinema set up was strictly 5.1 channels, not 7.1 channels, and that I knew my video output was going to be HDMI-only.
The manual, it has to be said is quite complicated, and is somewhat frustrating as it tells you what all the options are, but fails to tell you why you might want to choose one over the other. It also seems to be full of double negatives. My advice would be to stick to basics for the disk types you're likely to play. There's no point in agonising over DivX options if you don't even know what a DivX disk is (I don't , he admitted). All I know is that it's taken everything I've thrown at it so far:-
CD-ROMs full of .jpeg files, CD-ROMs full of mp3 files, audio CDs, movies copied to DVD-R, movies copied to DVD+R (dual layer), digital camera pics via the SD card slot, oh yes........ and it plays Blu-Ray disks!
I bought a copy of the BBC's superb Planet Earth series from www.play.com for £25 (5 disks) just to 'show-case' my new purchase, and it's breathtaking. This does however raise one concern.
Will I now start buying rubbish movies just because they're technically superior?
Actually, I don't think there's much risk of that, given the current price of Blu-Ray disks, and given that the new telly/player combination plays my existing DVDs so well that it'll be some time before I've finished re-viewing them all in a new light, which brings me to.......
THE ALL-IMPORTANT PLAYBACK QUALITY
Well of course the limiting factor for me now is actually the new TV, which is not 'Full HD Ready', only 'HD Ready'. This means that it can only handle 1080 lines in their 'interlaced' mode (hence 1080i), rather than in the progressive scan mode (1080p). The highest progressive-scan rate it will stand is 720p. To me there are a few reasons why this doesn't matter much.
a) A lot of Blu-Ray disks are only of the 1080i/720p standard anyway and,
b) At 37" screen size, seated 10 feet from the TV, I'm doubtful if I'd know the difference.
c) If I weaken and get Sky HD (not likely) or maybe Freesat HD (more likely), these only transmit HD as 1080i/720p anyway at the moment.
d) There is no (d), on account of the fact that no-one's holding their breath for any HD output from Freeview any year soon!
Being a 'Profile 2' player, means that the Panasonic will interact with Blu-Ray discs having 'BD-Live' content; just as long as an internet connection is present (there's that second use I mentioned).
How 'exciting' a prospect this is depends on you and whether the disc concerned has any such thing. Personally, I've never had much time for DVD 'extras' so BD-Live is dead in the water as far as I'm concerned - I'm certainly not going to go upstairs to turn the router on to find out what I'm missing (well maybe the once to confirm I'd rather watch the movie). The manual does at this stage make ominous mention of distant servers logging your disk collection, and the even more ominous possibility of money changing hands!
Strangely enough, my TV reports that an HD 1080p connection has been established, despite not being rated for this height of definition (Maybe it is for Blu Ray players, or does it downscale this to 720p or 1080i? Thinks: Why am I asking you?).
What is equally important when viewing movie-based material is the ability to output movies in their native 24 frames per second, and have the TV accept them as they are. This obviates the need for a cumbersome conversion to 60 fps (24s into 60 goes...errrr....2½ times)
Between them, the BD 35 and the Panasonic TV can do this, resulting in smoother action especially on 'panned' shots which under normal viewing frequently baulk at intervals as if the camera tripod was jamming a bit.
As I said before, my one Blu-Ray purchase, at time of writing, looks truly wonderful with vibrant colours that don't 'bleed' around the edges and with almost jerk- and flicker-free motion. Better than a back-seat at the movies, and no annoying paper-rustling or tortilla-chip-and-chilli smells.
THAT 'UP-SCALING' THING
You hear a lot about how Blu-Ray players can enhance an ordinary DVD by 'up-scaling' it, in my case to the 720 lines of my new TV. As it happens, any HD TV will up-scale any input that isn't already up to its maximum number of lines anyway, merely because a stripe of 576 lines (that's the viewable bit of a 625-line picture) would look silly in a screen of 720 or 1080 lines. All the Blu-Ray player does above and beyond this is to keep the signal 'digital' via its HDMI output all the way till your body's audio-visual receptors (that's yer lug'oles and mince-pies) demand otherwise, thereby leaving analogue conversion till it's absolutely necessary.
If your existing SCART connections were already set to their very best output quality (usually RGB, not S-Video or Composite), there's little or no perceptible difference except possibly to the colour depth.
Those that claim great things for their newly 'up-scaled' DVD collections possibly haven't been viewing it to its best advantage in the first place. The 'upgrade' to my DVD collection came with the new TV, not the Blu-Ray player although it's becoming ever-more difficult to separate the two especially as they arrived within three weeks of each other. The morale is: If you already have an excellent picture from your DVDs, don't expect up-scaling to do much more.
Having an internet connection to enhance Blu-Ray disc content and to keep the machine up-to-date with firmware enhancements is all very well, but why couldn't it have been a wi-fi one, rather than the more 'industrial' Ethernet hard-wired connection? After all, the Sony PS3 games consoles can do it. This player is far more likely to be finding its way into a lounge rather than an office. For me, I did it using the 'Homeplug' system that allows Ethernet connections over the house mains to my router upstairs but some people are going to have to go to greater lengths to achieve this if they want to screw the last drop of content from their Blu-Ray purchases.
I think it's safe to say that Blu-Ray won't be around as long as the DVD format, which is by no means dead anyway, before something else sweeps it under the carpet. Maybe solid-state memory chips like today's flash drives will be big enough, or maybe we'll all have such fast broadband that no-one bothers storing their own movie collections any more. One thing is for sure - this is probably the last audio/visual format that will involve being spun on a turntable to be read, unless of course you count hard disks. Thus end decades of 'rotating media' or "here endymold rotaty filmydiskloaders - oh, deep folly" as Prof. Stanley Unwin never once put it.
A leading light at Samsung who market their own Blu-Ray products (so these are no sour grapes) is reputed to have said that he 'gives it 5 years'.
Methinks I won't be replacing my DVD collection wholesale and I may just stick to hiring Blu-Ray disks. At current prices, I certainly won't be buying many.
However, whatever happens to Blu-Ray, I'll still have a damned fine DVD player!