After the Samsung BD-P1000 came out in July, it seemed like an eternity before anyone brought another Blu-ray player to market. Actually, it was about six months before the Panasonic DMP-BD10 appeared, which is close to an eternity in the fast-paced world of consumer electronics.
As with most new product introductions, the DMP-BD10 was in short supply at first, and most units went to retailers rather than reviewers, so I was pleased when Panasonic called to say a unit was on the way.
The DMP-BD10 is an attractive unit with a clean look thanks to its flip-down front panel. Good thing there’s no Eject button on the remote—that could spell disaster if the front panel was closed! Overall, the unit has a lightweight feel to it; in particular, the disc tray is a bit flimsy.
One of the most important features of this player is its ability to play many types of discs, including BD-Video (the discs movies come on), BD-R (write-once recordable), and BD-RE (rewritable), as well as all types of CDs and DVDs—even DVD-Audio.
As with all Blu-ray players, this one can send 1080p from its HDMI output. However, it is limited to 60 frames per second, with no ability to send 1080p at 24fps. As a result, the frames of a 24fps movie are repeated in an alternating four/six/four/six sequence, which can cause the image to appear a bit jerky to sensitive eyes—a phenomenon known as judder. The component output can be set to send signals up to 1080i.
On the surface, the remote is among the simplest I’ve ever seen. It’s not illuminated, but the buttons are very large and easy to find in the dark. It has a few basic buttons to control a TV and AVR, but these are not at all intrusive. The four-way cursor rocker serves double duty as a jog wheel, which is a nice touch. Also present are four color-coded “soft” buttons, which are becoming ubiquitous on remotes these days.
The top half of the remote flips up to reveal less-used buttons, including a numeric keypad and several picture controls (Contrast, Brightness, Sharpness, Color, and so on). Also under the panel is the Setup button, which opens the main menu system. All in all, this is one great remote.
The Setup menu is quite comprehensive and very well-organized. A basic menu is also available by pressing the Display button. Very slick.
The DMP-BD10 took 21 seconds to power up with no disc in the tray and 53 seconds to load a disc. When powering up with a disc in the tray, it took just over a minute for the image to appear onscreen. These times are much shorter than the Toshiba HD-A1 HD DVD player, but they’re longer than most DVD players.
The Panasonic generally performed quite well on the Blu-ray test disc I got from Stacey Spears, software design engineer at Micro-soft. The finest lines of resolution were less visible than I’d like, especially the color lines in the horizontal direction, which means fine color detail in normal program material might look a bit soft. The player’s processor compensated for the conversion from film’s 24 frames per second to video’s 30fps almost instantaneously—a very good sign.
I started my Blu-ray session with Pearl Harbor, one of the best-looking BD titles yet released. The colors were gorgeous, as evidenced by the rich red lipstick worn by the nurses, naturally green fields, and olive military uniforms. Skin tones were just a bit ruddy, but not bad. Detail was likewise excellent, with no hint of softness, despite what the test disc revealed. The rivets in the hull plating on the Queen Mary were sharp and crisp, and I could see an amazing level of detail in the battleships during long shots of Pearl. There was no macroblocking in the many explosions, which looked smooth and deadly.
Training Day looked as sharp as the HD DVD version I often use to evaluate TVs—skin texture, the L.A. skyline, and the grille on Alonzo’s car were all crisp and clean. Foliage was a believable green, and skin tones were generally natural, though perhaps a touch on the ruddy side.
I particularly enjoyed Stealth, with its terrific detail in the desert terrain—I could easily see every rock and boulder. The decorations on the officers’ dress uniforms and the produce in the floating marketplace were equally sharp, with each individual item clearly discernable. The multi-colored computer displays were vivid and beautiful, and the green foliage of Myanmar looked just right. Again, I saw no macroblocking or breakup in any of the many explosions.
Turning to DVD, The Fifth Element looked even better than usual, indicating that the DMP-BD10 is an excellent upconverting DVD player. The detail in the complex cityscape as Leeloo jumps into Korben’s cab was sharper than I recall seeing it in a long time. And the colors of variegated browns in the desert were deftly rendered.