Following Samsung's BD-P1000, which we reviewed recently, this is the second Blu-ray player to arrive in Europe. Blu-ray Disc's proponents have repeatedly told us that this is the real next-generation format for video, one that will take us "beyond high definition" and supply a far better movie experience than both DVD and Blu-ray's immediate rival, HD DVD. This player delivers hi-def pictures up to a resolution of 1080p, as well as 7.1-channel surround sound.
At £1,100 (at least), the DMP-BD10 costs around £200 more than the Samsung player -- which already seemed overpriced to us -- so it's got some real impressing to do to justify that outlay. Of course, it also plays DVDs -- upscaling them to hi-def resolutions -- so we'll take a look at its performance with those too.
While describing it as ugly might be slightly unfair, this certainly isn't among the best-looking disc-spinners on the market. The main casing is a fairly dull silver colour (it looks better in photographs than it does in the flesh), while the front LED display and disc tray look like something from a much cheaper device. Considering the premium price tag, we really expected more from Panasonic on this front.
The one eye-catching piece of styling is the thick glass plate that slowly flips down to reveal the front panel, but even that has to be done manually, rather than with the remote. Like the Samsung Blu-ray player, the Panasonic lacks the rock-solid build quality you'd get with a DVD player in this price range -- but at least the shiny black Samsung is a lovely piece of design.
The connections on offer, however, manage to outdo the Samsung's selection by virtue of the 7.1-channel analogue audio output (the Samsung only manages 5.1). This means that, given enough cables, you can output eight discrete channels of surround sound to a receiver with the corresponding inputs -- nice stuff if you have a Blu-ray disc with a 7.1-channel soundtrack. You also get optical and coaxial digital audio outputs, and a basic stereo analogue output.
In terms of video, the chief output is the HDMI socket. While this isn't a fabled v1.3 HDMI that will be able to carry lossless Dolby TrueHD and DTS HD audio in the near future, it can carry both surround sound and video, the latter in anything up to 1080p quality. (For the uninitiated, 1080p is the best form of hi-def Blu-ray is capable of delivering, but you'll also need a TV or projector capable of showing it -- any old HD Ready display will not do.) This, then, is the connection you really want to use. Other options are component video (capable of carrying up to 1080i hi-def), Scart, S-Video and composite video.
The biggest reason to get excited about Blu-ray at the moment is its hi-def abilities. Whereas DVDs have a native resolution of 576p, Blu-ray's extra memory capacity means it can deliver movies at 720p, 1080i and 1080p resolution -- that's up to four times the detail of a DVD.