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Blu-ray And Beyond
Member Name: savvyshopper6476
Date: 13/04/11, updated on 03/06/12 (90 review reads)
Advantages: USB, SD Card, internet access, simple to use, cheap
Disadvantages: USB only supports Panasonic products, some commands are a little slow
My technical knowledge is not great and so I embarked on an epic journey to decipher the overwhelming abundance of information, a daunting task for a near technophobic. Like a sponge I absorbed every technical detail but alas, it wasn't long before my brain had been rung out and some of the information I acquired was lost. The result. I opted for a blu-ray player in the best way I could think of. Eeny, meeny, miny, moe and I chose the Panasonic DMP-BD65 because, at £91.00 (in the sale) it was more expensive than the Technika and cheaper than the Samsung that were beside it on the shelf in Tesco's electrical department! In the past few months that I have used the player it has become clear that this is as simple a piece of technology as I could ever have hoped to get.
*** In General ***
Dimensions are considerably smaller than it's redundant predecessor. 43cm long x 20cm deep x 4cm high weighing just shy of 2 kilograms. the player is glossy black and although reasonably smart in appearance certainly not as sleek as my previous player. Silver would have been a much more stylish alternative, in my opinion. The transition to Blu-ray was a simple installation procedure. Gone is the chunky scart, in it's place a new cable called a HDMI (not included but I purchased a one meter cable from Tesco for £4.99). From what I understand the HDMI allows high definition data to travel through the cable providing clarity of both sound and picture. I was lucky enough to already own a television with a spare HDMI terminal, however the player does offer alternative connectivity using an audio/visual cable or component video terminal. The DMP-BD65 also supports play of standard DVD's along with music CD's, CD-R, CD-RW, DVD-R, DVD-RAM but will not support HD-DVD's.
Panasonic claim that the player boots up in a speedy 0.5 seconds although from my experience one possibly two seconds would be more accurate. Disc loading can take anywhere from twenty seconds to a frustrating minute or just over. It's an annoyance, but not enough for me to mark down my final score. I have noticed a trend of the more bonus features and data on the disc the longer it takes to load. The noisiest aspect of the player is when reading discs as you can hear the player click in and out and the discs whirring round although it's not particularly noisy it's more just noticeable but once data is loaded the player is quiet.
Light weight, the included remote offers clearly labeled function buttons, a welcoming relief from the almost hieroglyphic symbols previously favoured by the manufacturers making using the remote even easier. The remote can also be programmed to be used in conjunction with with other Panasonic products eliminating the need for multiple controls and requires 2 x AA batteries already supplied and installed. The remote is reasonably responsive although, at times slightly slow with some commands which tends to depend on the function you require. Basic disc controls are instant but menu scrolling always seems to have a slight time delay.
*** Sound And Vision ***
I have to be honest, despite my initial reservations regarding blu-ray there is a noticeable difference in the audio and visuals in comparison to watching DVDs on my standard DVD player although I am sure some of the HD qualities can also be attributed to our flat-screen which is also fairly new. The clarity of the pictures are phenomenal. Every intricate detail can be viewed on screen (whether you want to see it or not!). The player up scales images to 1080p which is all to do with pixels but what it actually means to me is that individual images are sharp, clear and defined. Colours are bright, crisp and vibrant which has led me to ask the question: if a budget blu-ray player can produce such outstanding quality then why does anybody bother to buy the more expensive ones? I can't fault the images in any way, even standard DVDs appear on screen near crystal clear. Sound has also had a make over thanks to Dolby True HD which provides equally clear sound and 96khz surround sound remastering also improves audio quality. You can link through a surround sound /home cinema system although I have found that through the telly speakers is perfectly satisfactory.
*** Features ***
Although I did not purchase with additional features in mind, and took no great notice in store of the general specifications other than the price, I was surprised, upon removing from the packaging that the DMP-BD65 offers several interesting features beyond simply just playing discs.
Located at the front of the unit, neatly hidden behind a drop down panel is a USB port and SD card slot. I attempted a connection using two separate digital cameras (Nikon and Olympus) as well as an iPod Touch, none with any success and after consulting the user manual it appears that the USB will predominantly only support Panasonic products. For me, it's one feature that will certainly be under utilised considering I don't own any other Panasonic goods. The USB port is a good idea and a step in the Right direction but considering Apple hold the market for small portable devices I should think most users of this player will be in the same position as me. An oversight by Panasonic or a deliberate move I couldn't say but either way completely useless for me.
Next to the USB is a SD card slot. A simple procedure of inserting the card part way into the slot and within a couple of seconds a menu to the right hand side appears on the screen. Selection of the SD menu allows you to view all photos and videos or any data held on the card. It's a nice way of viewing photos (particularly useful if showing to family and friends and far more convenient than passing a laptop from person to person!). The downside of the feature has to be how imperfections are far more noticeable. I have a 52inch flat-screen linked to the blu-ray player and photos I had previously viewed on my laptop and deemed to look clear appeared slightly out of focus, so it's fair to worn that even the slightest imperfections are enhanced. The navigation of the features is fool proof and simplistic.
Panasonic's Viera Cast is accessible via a network connection from my blu-ray player's ethernet directly to my broadband router (again cables are not supplied) or by using a wireless mobile connection through the USB. For anyone unfamiliar with Viera Cast (like myself) in Layman's terms it's basically a way of streaming multimedia directly to the player bypassing the need for a PC or laptop, allowing access to a number of sites that include Youtube, Amazon On Demand and Netflix amongst others. Set up for either internet connection is via simple on screen instructions and I can assure that absolutely no technical knowledge is necessary as Panasonic's instructions are child friendly. The service is ok, I can't really get excited about it as I don't really use my laptop too often for watching movies or TV on demand and I'm not about to start on any other device, however, my son uses frequently. I think to him it's more a novelty using social networking sites on a big screen.
*** Overall ***
I waded through the jungle of technical jargon and a emerged none the wiser. A childish mode of choice led me to the Panasonic DMP-BD65 and despite all of my original reservations about blu-ray players I feel like I triumphed with my purchase and can honestly declare I am now a total convert. There's no doubt that blu-ray enhances the viewing experience but, for me anyway, sometimes embracing new technology is just a little scary. Panasonic have managed to eliminate any fear. Everything about this player oozes simplicity. Set up, the use of the functions, the on-screen instructions, the simple remote and it all seems like it's geared up to appeal, not just to those who live and breath technology but also for those, like me who just don't have a clue! I wanted a device to play blu-ray discs and for the money that's all I expected but I also got so much more. It's really great value for money. Yes, the USB poses limitations. Yes, responses are sometimes a little slow on the uptake but neither of these minor inconveniences should detract from the fact that this blu-ray player, right at the budget end of the spectrum manages to deliver premium features at a fraction of the cost of it's more expensive alternatives. For anyone who wants to make the jump into the unknown of blu-ray, this is a great machine and one that now comes highly recommended by me.
I would not hesitate to recommend this blu-ray player but I do it with one word of caution. I paid £91.00 in the electrical sale at my local Tesco superstore. It appears that prices for this particular device fluctuates greatly. Amazon £149.99, M&S £169.00, Ebay £129.99 to name a few and then consideration must be made for postage and shipping costs.
Summary: A budget player with premium features