Panasonic’s 2009 Blu-ray line includes two standalone players: the entry-level DMP-BD60 and step-up DMP-BD80. (The line also includes a Blu-ray/VHS combination player, the DMP-BD70V.) The more expensive DMP-BD80 has all the features found in the DMP-BD60 and adds Divx playback and a more comprehensive set of audio connections. We have not performed a hands-on review of the DMP-BD80, but here is an overview of the player’s features. This Profile 2.0 player supports BonusView/picture-in-picture playback and BD-Live Web functionality, and it offers both onboard decoding and bitstream output of Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio, plus 7.1-channel analog audio outputs. The big addition to this year’s Blu-ray line is Panasonic’s Viera Cast Web platform that first appeared in some of the company’s plasma HDTVs last year. Viera Cast allows you to stream Amazon video-on-demand content (including HD titles), access YouTube, view Picasa Web albums, and more.
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In terms of video connections, the DMP-BD80 offers HDMI, component video, and composite video outputs. For HDMI, the output-resolution options are Auto, 480p, 720p, 1080i, 1080p/60, and 1080p/24. The setup menu includes an option to enable 1080p/24 output if your TV accepts this signal type; once you enable the feature, the player will always output 1080p/24 when it is available on Blu-ray discs. For component video, the output-resolution options are 480i, 480p, 720p, and 1080i. If your TV’s picture adjustments are limited, the DMP-BD80 offers five picture modes, including a user mode in which you can adjust contrast, brightness, sharpness, color, gamma, and 3D/integrated noise reduction.
The DMP-BD80 has the full suite of audio outputs: HDMI, optical and coaxial digital, and both 2- and 7.1-channel analog. (The less expensive BD60 model omits the coaxial digital and 7.1-channel analog audio outputs.) The inclusion of multichannel analog audio outputs makes this model a good choice if you own an older, non-HDMI A/V receiver. As I mentioned, the DMP-BD80 has onboard Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio decoding, and it also passes these high-resolution audio formats in their native bitstream form over HDMI, for your A/V receiver to decode. The player offers a few specialized audio controls, such as Virtual Surround, Night Surround, and Dialogue Enhancer.
The DMP-BD80’s disc drive supports BD, DVD, CD audio, AVCHD, Divx, MP3, and JPEG playback. The back panel features an Ethernet port for BD-Live and Viera Cast Web features, as well as quick firmware updates. The DMP-BD80 has no internal memory, so the addition of an external storage device is required to download BD-Live features; an SD card slot is provided for this purpose, but Panasonic does not include an SD card in the package. The SD card slot also supports playback of JPEGs and MPEG-2/AVCHD video. This year’s Blu-ray models also have a USB port, but it is not an option for BD-Live storage; rather, it only allows for playback of MP3, JPEG, and Divx files. The DMP-BD80 lacks advanced control ports, such as RS-232 or IR.
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