We're already massive fans of Panasonic's entry level Blu-ray player, the DMP-BD30 (£350), but this model brings even more new features and added benefits - and the price isn't too steep, either.

The DMP-BD50 is BD ROM Profile 2.0 enabled, and it's equipped with an Ethernet connection so you can access all the interactive features of BD-Live online and download updates. It also has an SD memory card slot - so you can download content for compatible Blu-ray titles, including subtitles and BD-Java applications.

Onboard decoding for HD audio

Want a treat, sound-quality fans? The DMP-BD50 now features on-board decoding for Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio. This means that those of you who don't have a receiver equipped to decode these formats can still enjoy high-definition audio via HDMI or the player's 5.1 multichannel analogue output.

As with the DMP-BD30, this new model is equipped with an HDMI (V1.3) output, can upscale standard definition DVDs to 1080p and output a 1080p/24fps signal.

Excellent edge definition and crispness

And it certainly appears to do the job, Blu-ray images having excellent edge definition and crispness, and creating a fantastic sense of realism.

Play the construction site chase scene from Casino Royale and the level of detail the Panasonic unravels is spectacular. It's impressive whether we're watching on one of our reference flatscreen TVs (in this case, the Sony KDL-40W4000) or projectors (the InFocus IN83).

Switch over to the animated action of Cars and the results are breathtaking. Colours are punchy without appearing overblown and the picture is crystal clear.

Even when upscaling standard-definition material such as The Bank Job, the DMP-BD50 Don'creates an inviting, detailed image that's easily among the best in class.

It's great that the player can decode high-definition audio formats by itself, but we preferred sending the raw audio data as bitstream over HDMI and letting our Onkyo TX-SR606 receiver do the decoding. It produces a more dynamic, powerful and spacious sound that really excites the listener.

Better than the PS3

This Panasonic is certainly superior to the PlayStation 3 when it comes to both picture and sound quality. Only the likes of Pioneer's more expensive Blu-ray player, the BDP-LX70 (£1000) can bring a greater sense of refinement and marginally better Blu-ray picture quality. If you've money to burn, of course, then go for it.

Of course, the Panasonic's CD playback is nothing to shout about and wouldn't rival a stand-alone CD player at even half the price, but that's hardly surprising.

Accessing BD-Live and BD-Java features is pretty simple - plug the player into your router via Ethernet, test your connection through the on-screen menus and away you go. In a matter of minutes we were hooked up to the internet and playing the mildly amusing Yakuza Fighter game, found on the War Blu-ray disc.

The DMP-BD50 not only talks the talk but also walks the walk, combining excellent specification with equally spectacular performance. If you buy a Blu-ray player this summer, make it this one.

Stuff says... 

Panasonic DMP-BD50 review

A great player that proves the format is finally coming of age – at only £500, it's a no brainer