I've been wringing out my new BD35 for the past few hours and I have a few comments I'll share.
For reference, the BD35 is configured for bitstream audio output to a Denon AVR-4308CI (HDMI 1.3). Video is 1080/24p to a Sony VPL-VW60 1080p projector shooting on a 106" diagonal screen. Other players in the system for comparison of various performance characteristics are an LG BH200 combo player, Toshiba HD-A35, and a PS3. Discs used for evaluation are...
Spiderman 2.1 (load time, seamless branching)
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (load time)
Ratatouille (load time)
How The West Was Won (non-Java load time)
Die Hard 2 (audio output)
Shoot 'Em Up (audio output)
Iron Man (BD Live)
Transformers (BD Live, and, well, just because I like it)
As has already been discussed, the new BD35 obviously benefits from the economies of SoC (system on a chip) design. The player is about the size and weight of the average $100 DVD player and appears to be about the same build quality. Overall operational characteristics are the closest to a standard DVD than any other Blu-ray player to date, which is a good thing.
Boot time is quick at about 20 seconds. That's the time from hitting the eject button with the player off to the appearance of the splash screen and opening of the tray. Setup is relatively simple and straightforward with the possible exception of the menu selection to turn off secondary audio to allow native bitstream audio to be output. This selection is located in a third layer menu that one has to be looking for to find.
Other than video performance, perhaps the most discussed aspect of Blu-ray players is the time it takes to load a disc. Of course, this varies based on how much Java programming has to be loaded to get to what is actually on the disc, and here are some comparative times. Load times are measured from the point that the disc tray closes, or the disc is inserted in the case of the PS3, to the first video image on screen not counting Java load icons or messages telling one that one might have to wait for the disc to load.
Disc load times I measured:
BD35 - 50 seconds
BH200 - 65 seconds
PS3 - 37 seconds
Pirates of the Caribbean DMC
BD35 - 49 seconds
BH200 - 68 seconds
PS3 - 40 seconds
BD35 - 50 seconds
BH200 - 69 seconds
PS3 - 45 seconds
How The West Was Won (no Java)
BD35 - 28 seconds (!)
BH200 - 45 seconds
PS3 - 30 seconds
Conclusion - the Cell processor in the PS3 obviously runs Java apps faster than anything else out there, as one would expect. Without the Java resource hog, the new Panny is as fast or faster as a disc player than any other BD player out there, including the PS3. On standard DVD, the BD35 is faster than many DVD players I have used.
Speaking of standard DVD, I know DVD performance is often discussed for BD players, but it is not a terribly important factor for me personally. I am satisfied with merely adequate SD performance as standard DVD has become a very small part of what I watch. None the less, I found DVD quality to be above average for a Blu-ray player. Bear in mind I did not get into DVD test discs for deinterlacing and the couple of discs I put in were the usual film-based material, not torture test stuff. On these discs, I actually liked what I saw. Very good color rendition, and the image processing seems to keep the usual MPEG-2 nasties to a minimum. By the way, if anyone is interested, the BD35 will not play a PAL DVD.
BD Live seems to work just fine right out of the box. I had a 2 GB SD card ready for the player and with that inserted, network setup was automatic when the player was turned on the first time. BD Live worked as advertised on Iron Man and Transformers, though the download for the Iron Man disc seems to be rather slow (possibly a server issue).
On some of the discs with quirks on some other players...
Seamless branching on Spiderman 2.1 played flawlessly. Not the slightest stutter in video or audio at branch points.
DTS-HD MA 7.1 as on Shoot 'Em Up plays flawlessly.
The player appears to be reading and passing audio header flag information as the DTS-HD MA track on Die Hard 2 displays "DTS-HD Hi Res". This disc does contain a DTS Master track, but is incorrectly flagged as DTS-HD Hi Res. A couple of players apparently ignore header flags and the bitstream is analyzed and indicated as DTS-HD MA on some receivers. Not with the BD35. Not really a defect, just letting you know.
Lastly, and most importantly, video performance.
In a word, spectacular.
To be fair, the worst Blu-ray player out there is pretty damn good on Blu-ray playback, but there are differences. Between the very good and underrated BH200, the very good and overrated PS3, and the BD35, I give the edge in overall video performance to the BD35. Differences are usually subtle, but at 106" of 1080p goodness, any difference is still a difference. The BD35 excels at color reproduction with the best display of subtle shadings and fine color detail that I have yet seen from any consumer device. Excellent image sharpness without any sign of "ringing" and very good contrast adds a bit more depth and dimensionality to video coming out of the BD35. This varies depending on the program material, but what really jumped out at me was the CG rendering of Iron Man in the menu of that disc. Very noticeably more depth to this image than either the LG or the PS3.
Having gone through nearly every BD player released in the past two years either as an owner or a dealer, I have to say I am mightily impressed with Panasonic's latest effort, at least as a first impression. I'm looking forward to a bit more testing, and a lot more movie enjoyment as I learn more about this player going forward. Right now, the DMP-BD35 looks like a keeper.