Panasonic DMP-BD35 £300
6th Nov 2008 | 10:00
The BD55 undergoes a redesign and becomes an entry level spinner
The DMP-BD35 is Panasonic's first budget Blu-ray player and that alone is cause for great celebration.
The BD-Live-capable deck is a scaled down version of the BD55, which adds multichannel analogue outputs and more advanced audio circuitry. But in all other respects the two players are identical.
One of the slimmest Blu-ray players on the market, it's not bad looking, either, with a fetching black finish and minimal clutter on the fascia. You'll find an SD card slot on the front panel for storing BD-Live content and other updates, and it also lets you play back JPEG and AVCHD files.
Multichannel analogue output is the main absentee on the rear panel, but the other key sockets are all present and correct. There are HDMI, component, composite and stereo audio outputs, plus an optical digital port for feeding Dolby Digital and DTS bitstreams to your amp.
The HDMI output can be used to feed Dolby True HD, DTS HD Master Audio and Dolby Digital Plus bitstreams to an AV receiver, and the player can also turn all three formats into PCM if your receiver lacks the relevant decoding.
The BD35 also spins DVDs and CDs, upscaling the former to 1080p if need be, plus it decodes DivX and MP3 files.
The BD35 also offers 1080/24p, Deep Color and HDMI CEC support, but what makes it distinctive is the inclusion of Panasonic's P4HD processing, which carries out all the key video duties and boosts the sharpness of the picture in the process.
This is backed up by PHL Reference Chroma Processor Plus, which makes its debut on the BD35 and BD55. It colour compensates every pixel of the Blu-ray picture in order to make the image look more vivid and realistic.
User-friendliness comes easily to this deck; the menus are so clear and straightforward a child could use them, and the remote boasts large, idiot-proof buttons and no-nonsense labelling.
It takes Java-heavy discs in its stride, the menus are responsive and, although disc loading isn't as fast as the LG BD300, it's well within acceptable limits.
Armed with the killer processing technology already mentioned above, the DMP-BD35 delivers some of the most impressive pictures of any Blu-ray player at this price point and some costing considerably more.
P4HD processing brings an extra dimension of sharpness and focus to the deck's pictures, doing a magnificent job with fine detail and tricky patterns. The feature also works hard to keep edges clean and smooth, and eliminates noise from the picture superbly.
Movies look effortlessly rich and cinematic, with superb black depth and contrast, plus colour reproduction is of the highest order – skin tones are utterly convincing, but stronger colours are delivered with dazzling vibrancy. It's a tour de force of hi-def picture presentation and proves that you don't need to pay high-end prices to get the best picture quality.
DVD playback isn't quite as impressive though, with some image artefacts and softness spoiling the overall quality, but it's far from a disaster.
There are no problems with the deck's sound quality, and Dolby True HD and DTS HD Master Audio soundtracks are sensational through a decent AV receiver.
Even with the output set to PCM you get sharp, clean and expansive multichannel sound, and if you want to use the BD35 as a CD player you can get some very pleasurable sound quality out of it.