Damn! I take a few hours to wring the new player out a bit and come back to a thread 4 pages long
For reference, I have had a PS3 for nearly a year now, and have tried nearly every model BD player released to date with the exception of the previous Panasonic models. In just the pst 4 weeks or so, I have had the following players in my system for anywhere from one day to one week...
Samsung BDP-1400 (3)
Of these players, I was most frustrated by the Sony S500 as it had the best video performance, and was almost perfect on audio except that Sony inexplicably chose to not enable bitstream output of DTS-HD MA, despite having bitstream capability for TrueHD. I was most disappointed by the Pioneer as I had the highest hopes for that player only for find it to be the slowest loading and most lethargic on Java based material. So slow, in fact, that I could not live with it despite excellent video performance and proper bitstream audio support.
Enter the surprisingly unheralded Panasonic DMP-BD30. Officially announced less than two weeks ago, the player looked, on paper, to be just what I have been looking for. With my very frustrating experience trying to find a BD player I could live with over the past several weeks, I was actually afraid to hope the Panasonic would perform up to the expectation the spec sheet set. My trepidation quickly turned to anticipation following a phone conversation yesterday with Brad Ley when he received his player a day before mine was to arrive.
Brad's review covered most of the bases, and I concur with completely. As he mentioned a few posts back, I do have a display that scans 24p natively so I can atest the new Panny is flawless in this regard. 24p is available as an "auto" resolution and is detected and output perfectly. Video based material switches to 1080/60p. Since 24p is set by the player based on the connected display, those that have problems with other players that do not "force" 24p where an incorrect EDID or a receiver that does not properly pass EDID data is present will likely have an issue with this player also. I use a Sony Pearl with a Denon receiver (4308) and all is well.
I'm going to make a comparison, and don't take this as a format swipe, but for those familiar with the performance of the latest Toshiba HD DVD players, you will know what I mean. To wit, Blu-ray, and specifically, Panasonic, has finally delivered a player that performs as well as HD DVD. Just as I am completely satisfied with the new Toshiba HD-A35 for HD DVD having perfect 24p output as well as advanced audio bitstream output, the new Panasonic does everything right. While some will claim the lack of internal advanced audio decoding is a "flaw', I will point out this is by design and is stated clearly by Panasonic. The absence of internal audio decoding for TrueHD and DTS-HD is intentional, therefore, not a flaw, and I would even speculate this may be one of the reasons this new player performs so well with Java material. Without internal lossless audio decoding, more of the player's processing resources are, perhaps, being brought to bear on the resource-intensive Java processing. That is a guess on my part, but I think a logical one. This player is the first without any internal decoding of advanced audio, but is the absolute best performer on advanced disc authoring.
Video performance is top tier among all Blu-ray players. My previous "favorite" for just video performance has been the Sony S500 followed very closely by the PS3 and Pioneer Elite 95FD. I rate the BD30 at least equal to the Sony S500. The picture is very sharp with excellent fine detail while maintaining a smooth, film-like image. There are picture controls offering more adjustment than just about any other player, though I find Panasonic's "standard" setting preferable.
Disc processing, ie, menu loading/playing, navigation, chapter stepping, audio sync when skipping, etc., is virtually perfect. The only player faster on Java material is the PS3, and it isn't that much faster. No standalone can touch the new Panny for functionality in this area. Add the flexibility of IR control (think universal remote controls) and I put the BD30 ahead of the PS3 for overall functionality.
Physically, the BD30 is one of the smallest BD players. Similar in size to the Sony S300, it is lighter even than that player. Very similar in size and heft to the Toshiba HD-A35. Ironic that it is also similar in performance.
After spending the past few hours with this player, I am actually feeling the most positive about the Blu-ray format in general than I have for, well, ever. Can one player fix everything wrong with Blu-ray? Of course not. However, in the more narrow context of a single user with specific desires in hardware performance, the most perfect player to date is now available. There is nothing about the new BD30 that I can realistically say I dislike, and I am, for the first time, completely satisfied with a piece of Blu-ray gear.
Some will say this player cannot be considered a top performer because of the lack of internal audio support. Perhaps, in the broadest sense. However, assuming one has the requisite audio equipment matching the technology of this player, I consider the new Panasonic DMP-BD30, the ONLY top performer to date. If you are Blu and want something besides a game console in your rig, there is the BD30, and then there is everything else.
Go git 'em, boys.