Pros: Picture and sound quality, Stability, Durability, Easy to use, Versatile, Price, Good clean looks, connectivity, USB/SD card slot.
Cons: RELATIVELY Slow loading compared to newer units, slow GUI, no sub-title button on remote
The Panasonic DMP-BD65 features the obvious capability to play Blu Ray discs and play and up-convert DVDs; The player also handles Audio CDs, as well as MP3 discs, and CD-R, DVD-R discs. It does feature Bonus-BD Live features, but I have only experimented with it a few times, as I am one of those people who'd like to go straight to the movie, which is not to say that this feature is not useful. We have occasionally used the USB and SD card slot to view pictures and it does a great job of displaying the pictures.
In addition, the BD65 has internet connectivity via Ethernet jack. Via the VIERA connect feature, one can access a host of streaming services, and so-called 'apps'. We mainly use the player for Blu Ray and DVD playback with up-conversion to 1080p, Netflix and Amazon instant/prime streaming. We do enjoy some of the other apps like the 2 German news feeds, and the weather app.
The player itself is black, small, slim and light, (Dimensions: 16.95 x 1.95 x 8.2 inches) and the heavy Monoprice HDMI cable can easily push it around. However, build quality seems to be solid, and has given us excellent service so far. The looks are understated but classy. The back panel has connections for HDMI output, Component video, SD card slot, USB port, Ethernet, Analog audio out(2-channel), Digital audio out.
I have connected the BD65 to our Samsung 1080p 40" LCD (LN40A series from 2008) via HDMI. I am more of a music fan when it comes to audio, and my main living room set up is an analog 2.1 channel system comprising of a Music Hall int. amp, Onix Reference monitors and an Onix x-sub. Thus, the Panasonic is connected to the stereo int amp via analog RCA cables. The BD65 is connected to the internet via a CAT5 cable directly, to one of the ports of our old Linksys router. The player can obtain wireless capability via a separate dongle but I never felt the need for it, and I like my electronics hard-wired anyway. I have set the picture mode on the player to 'cinema' and output to 1080p 16:9. The TV is set to 'just scan' aspect ratio, which will automatically give you an automatically adjusted wide-screen picture without any cut-offs. The TV itself is professionally calibrated and we use the 'cinema' mode on it as well.
(I am not reviewing any digital audio options as my player is only connected to an analog 2.1 channel system)
OPERATION / USER INTERFACE / REMOTE:
The player has on/off and eject buttons on the TOP of the player, which I find useful, especially in the dark when I don't use the remote to open the tray. Most of the time, I have to switch on my Music Hall amplifier manually before watching a movie anyway, so I find myself using the top eject button a lot. The tray has a front flap which folds down when opening. Tray mechanism itself feels solid and quiet. Loading of blu ray discs can be slow at times - it's not SUPER slow, but depending on the disc, it can take a while, even in the 'quick start' setting. This does not really bother me, and I hesitated before adding this to the 'cons' list; Perhaps I am getting old, but by the time I turn on the amp, and make myself comfortable it's almost starting time, so it's fine. But for the sake of comparison, i know there are units that are faster.
The VIERA Cast interface / menu system looks dated, and blocky and just plain 'old' - however, it's easy to navigate, and find what you need and make the player do what you want it to without any confusion - which is a plus, even if the menus don't look modern and 'slick' - The remote operation of the VIERA Cast is OK. It's not fast and can sometimes randomly become a bit laggy.
There have been about 5 instances in the 3 years we have owned it where the BD65 'froze' while loading a blu ray disc. Quick 'reboot' always fixed this. On the same discs, there were some lag during fast forward/rewind also. But considering how many discs it loaded and played flawlessly, the player deserves a 'solid' rating for reliability.
The remote does not have a dedicated 'sub-title' button and this is a rather large con, as we watch a lot of foreign movies which we prefer to watch with sub-titles. The placement of buttons on the remote is so-so, definitely could use an improvement.
PERFORMANCE - Picture/Sound quality:
Blu Ray picture quality is nothing short of amazing. I compared several other players before I decided on the BD65. The colors are sharp and vibrant without ever being unnatural or 'gaudy' - I know that the TV plays a role, too, but the BD 65 is a huge step up in the PQ department compared to my previous player from a different brand. in 'The Reader' blu ray, there are few scenes where i could see individual fine strands of Kate Winslet's hair, with absolute clarity and sharpness. The images in 'Coraline' looked so sharp and clear, i remember my wife commenting that some scenes almost looked '3D-like'. I remember the same experience with the 'Sunshine' Blu Ray. But it's not just the high-contrast, bright scenes the BD 65 excels at: The darker shades of night scenes in 'Pan's Labyrinth' could be seen with excellent black levels, without hiding any details. I had the chance to compare DVD performance of the BD65 to our previous dedicated DVD-only player, and in short, the up-converted image of 'Sideways' DVD showed more detail and vibrancy - example: the image of the wine glasses where Miles and Jack first sample some during their road trip.
I can only describe analog sound quality as I mentioned before; My main audio system is a pretty decent 2.1 channel system meant more for music than movies: However, I found the dialog and general audio quality of the 2-channel audio of BD65 excellent - In the opening scene of 'Sin City' there's a scene with dialog and the sound of rain in the background...with my previous BR player, I could hear dialog pretty well, but the sound of the rain drops was almost muffled (with the same audio set up) - But with the BD65, the rain drops were crystal clear and MUCH more prominent. It was amazing. In the brilliant movie 'Let the right one in' (Swedish original), the movie is filled with sounds of melting snow and crinkling of frost...and the BD65 delivered these noises flawlessly, which I found admirable from a player that only cost $90 brand new when I bought it.
Streaming performance is good - this depends on the quality of the internet connection, and whenever our connection is good enough for HD streaming the pic quality is not that much different from what I described for BR disc quality - it's not as 'in depth' and 'visceral' as with a good blu ray perhaps, but still excellent. The load times for Netflix and Amazon streaming is a bit slow compared to the speed of the Roku 3 we have - but pic quality wise, I couldn't tell a difference.
I once played an Audio CD with the BD65 and it sounded pretty decent - the sound was clear, good with vocals on my all-time 'test CD' of Fiona Apple's 'Tidal' - it did not sound like my dedicated NAD player sounds, full-bodied and deep but with such clarity that you can hear Fiona's breaths, but this is an unfair comparison; all-in-all, for someone who needs to play some audio CDs for an emergency, the BD65 does it well and won't disappoint, unless you're somewhat of an audiophile.
When it comes to AV equipment, I always put picture and sound quality before features, and seeing from this perspective, I am immensely satisfied with the performance of the BD65 when considering the price. The player is still going strong, and still amazes us with its picture and sound quality. What it lacks in speed and slickness of GUI, it makes up for by providing an excellent picture and sound that one can still marvel at.