The Panasonic DMP-BD50 ($599.95) is one of the first Profile 2.0 players to hit the market. The Profile 2.0 designation means it contains the secondary audio and video decoders needed for picture-in-picture playback, and it supports the BD-Live feature that allows you to view Web bonus content on applicable Blu-ray discs. This is Panasonic's third-generation player; the step-down DMP-BD30, which is priced at $399.95, is a Profile 1.1 player that offers many of the same audio and video specs but lacks the BD-Live functionality found in this newer model.
In terms of video connections, the player offers HDMI, component video, S-video, and composite video outputs. For HDMI, the output-resolution options are Auto, 480p, 720p, 1080i, 1080p/60, and 1080p/24. This model does not have a dedicated Source Direct mode to view 1080p/24; you must enable 1080p/24 output in the setup menu, after which all 24p Blu-ray films will be output at 1080p/24 instead of 1080p/60. For component video, the output-resolution options are 480i, 480p, 720p, and 1080i; 1080i the maximum output resolution for Blu-ray, and 480p is the maximum output resolution for standard-def DVDs. In the audio realm, the DMP-BD50 offers HDMI, coaxial and optical digital audio, and two- and 5.1-channel analog audio outputs. You can bridge the analog outs to create a 7.1-channel setup. The DMP-BD50 has onboard Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD decoding, and it also passes these high-resolution audio formats in their native bitstream form over HDMI, for your A/V receiver to decode. In this respect, the DMP-BD50 has more flexibility than the less-expensive DMP-BD30, which will pass the high-resolution audio bitstream over HDMI but does not have onboard decoders.
The DMP-BD50 supports BD, DVD, CD, MP3, and JPEG playback through its disc drive, and this year's model adds Divx playback, as well. There's also an SD card slot through which you can view JPEGs and AVCHD high-def video. The fact that it's a BD-Live/Profile 2.0 player mandates the inclusion of an Ethernet port on the back panel; through this port, you can not only access Web features on Blu-ray discs, but you can perform quick firmware updates.
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