It doesn't seem like two minutes since we were slapping a ‘five star hot buy’ sticker on Panasonic’s DMP-BD30 Blu-ray deck. That was back in May, but now there's a new kid on the block. Say goodbye to the BD30 and hello to the new and improved DMP-BD35, which goes on sale in the UK from October 2008.
But improved in what way? Well, for starters, the BD35 is smaller in stature. Panasonic has knocked a whole centimetre off the player's height (down to 4.9cm) and it's also 8cm shallower.
The new player is Profile 2.0 enabled and BD-Live compatible. This means you're able to access special features and content that's available on compatible discs. There's an Ethernet socket on the back for accessing online content and any future firmware updates. You'll need to take advantage of the onboard SD Card slot to access disc-specific content and BD-Java applications.
There is, however, one slight drawback compared to its predecessor. Panasonic has seen fit to do away with the 5.1 multichannel analogue output. We know that this is a cheaper player, but it would have been nice to have – owners of old-school receivers that don't have any HDMI inputs would then be able to enjoy the benefits of HD audio too.
It's a real shame, especially when you consider that the new player can decode all the latest HD audio formats onboard – something that the older player couldn't do.
Inside the BD35 there's a brand-new version of Panasonic's proprietary picture processor. It's called the PHL Reference Chroma Processor Plus and has been designed to produce a clearer and sharper picture than its predecessor.
The player can output a 1080p/24fps Blu-ray signal, but it's also compatible with DVDs that have been formatted in 24fps too. Apparently, it's entirely possible to engineer DVD discs with 24fps (although we don't currently know of any discs that meet this specification) and it's the first time we've ever come across this feature in a Blu-ray player.
But the proof is in the picture performance and, to put it mildly, the BD35 leaves us scrambling for superlatives. The player paints a glorious, punchy and vibrant Blu-ray picture, handling rapid movement with ease and giving colours natural balance.
The BD35 is also one heck of a DVD upscaler. Pop in an old school disc and you’re treated to a vibrant picture that’s detailed and sharply defined.
HD audio sounds clear and open too. It doesn't quite have the solidity of Sony's BDP-S350 player, but we found decoding onboard the player can bring it closer to matching the Sony's sonic character.
In sum, the Panasonic DMP-BD35 is a feature-packed and exceptionally talented Blu-ray player, and runs the Sony BDP-S350 very close for the budget Blu-ray crown.