Now that HD-DVD has gone the way of the dodo, it's time for the real format war to begin: Blu-ray versus DVD. We've long lauded hi-def's retina-scorching visuals but Panasonic's first Blu-ray player, the BDP-10A, was a big disappointment – and, at £700, far too expensive to consider trading in our upscaling DVD player.

The DMP-BD30 is the next instalment in Panny's Blu-ray assault and, at half the price of its predecessor, is immediately more appealing. It also looks a lot better. While most Blu-ray players have all the subtlety of a double-decker bus, this is shorter and more compact than most. We like the greeny-blue light on the front too.

You're the 1.1 we want

Where the BD30 really lights our hi-def fire, though, is on the tech front – it's the first standalone player we've seen to conform to the new 1.1 specification. The Blu-ray format is still in development, but this latest update gives you access to some of the extras studios are packing onto discs, such as having a video commentary appear in a pop-up window while you watch the film.

Admittedly, you also get access to some woeful extras – such as the 'Car Finder' game in Cars where you're sentenced to scouring the film and 'catching' vehicles – but in general the BD30's support for the new profile adds a tasty pinch of extra value to your flicks.

The same applies to audio – the BD30 streams all known incarnations of high-definition audio. You'll need a pretty new AV receiver to take advantage of this, but it makes it more talented than many of the current crop of hi-def spinners.

Special pictures

Most importantly, though, the BD30 is highly capable on the picture front. Its black levels are seriously impressive and in 24fps mode – the rate most films are screened at the cinema – it's excellent, with no visible motion blur and the kind of smooth, glitch-free performance that's still beyond most players.

The BD30 is exactly the kind of Blu-ray belter that Panny should have kicked off its HD campaign with. It still struggles to compete with the PS3 for performance-per-pound but, if you want a serious Blu-ray spinner that's got the latest spec and doesn't say 'I still play Pro Evo in my pants', this is as good as they come.  


Stuff says... 

Panasonic DMP-BD30 review

A highly capable performer and the best-value Blu-ray player so far