If ever there were a player designed for people who've heard about Blu-ray and like the idea of high-definition movies, but don't know much about the format, the Panasonic DMP-BD45 is it. This Profile 1.1 model offers virtually no special features, looks the same as every other Panasonic Blu-ray player and will do the job of playing movies just fine.
The problem is that the DMP-BD45 has the most ridiculous retail price we've seen since Blu-ray players first launched. Panasonic thinks it's worth £200, and the cheapest you'll currently find it selling online is around £150. Considering what other players in this price range offer, we were dubious about the DMP-BD45. So is it worth the money?
Keep it simple
If you want to buy a simple Blu-ray player as a gift for relatives, or you're the sort of person that doesn't care about having tonnes of extra features, then the DMP-BD45 is very likely to suit you. The back of the machine is bare, apart from an HDMI output and an optical digital audio connector. You also get composite video outputs, but we can't understand why Panasonic has bothered with these -- no budget-conscious consumer is going to spend £150 on this machine only to use it as a standard DVD player.
On the front, there are USB and SD-card sockets. These are primarily intended for playing back photos and video captured by Panasonic camcorders and cameras. This is great if you live in the Panasonic universe, and we're always pleased to see joined-up thinking from companies keen to give users a good experience. The player also supports DivX HD video, but we're struggling to think of a real-world use for this frankly, as not much video uses this format.
Like its siblings, the DMP-BD45 is a good-looking player. It's compact and won't eat up too much of the valuable space beneath your TV. It's also a half-depth design, so stacking stuff on top of it is out of the question, unless said stuff is also half-depth.
The front of the machine looks neat and tidy. The disc tray is hidden behind a drop-down covering, which keeps the player looking uniform and well-balanced. There are two buttons on the top -- the one on the left-hand side is a power button, and the other ejects the disc tray. It seems odd that the eject button is on the opposite side of the player to the disc tray itself, while the power button is above the tray. Surely this is going to lead to people switching the player off when they actually want to get the disc tray back in.
On the front, alongside the player's basic LED screen, are a pair of play and stop buttons, which will prove handy if you just want to stop and start playback and can't lay your hands on the remote control. The remote supplied with this player is exactly the same as every other remote Panasonic has ever made. In a word, it's fine.
Panasonic claims a 'quick-start' time of 0.5 seconds. But, please, don't for one moment be fooled into thinking that you'll be watching a movie half a second after putting a disc in the tray. The actual load time for our test Blu-ray disc, Vantage Point, was actually 1 minute and 4 seconds, which is decidedly average. Such load times can become frustrating when you just want to watch a movie.
The figure of 0.5 seconds relates to the quick-start mode, which, when in use, essentially means your player is never actually switched off -- it just looks like it is. So, when you turn start it up, the display lights up and the Panasonic disc menu appears straight away. This is possibly the most diabolical marketing nonsense we've seen this year, and you'd be advised to snort with derision whenever you encounter it.
Despite this, once you are using the player, the menus are very snappy, and respond very quickly. Although Blu-ray Java is still a millstone around the neck of the format, the DMP-BD45 does a pretty decent job of dealing with it, and menus load with minimal fuss and work as expected.
The DMP-BD45 delivers perfectly acceptable picture quality. In fact, it's very good indeed. As with other Panasonic Blu-ray players, images look very natural, featuring plenty of colour and detail, and there's no excessive edge sharpening.
The fact that this machine doesn't support Profile 2.0 is strange. It wouldn't be a disaster if the player came in at under £100, but it doesn't. In fact, based on the RRP -- and even the street price -- the DMP-BD45 is one of the most expensive mass-market Blu-ray players we've seen for a while. We're sure that this has a great deal to do with the recession and the weakness of the pound, but it's still quite irritating.
Will you miss Profile 2.0 functionality, such as BD-Live? Probably not. The issue, however, isn't that you'll regret buying a player that doesn't support Profile 2.0, but that you appear to be paying a premium for a machine that's missing a key feature.
As much as we like the Panasonic DMP-BD45, there's not much that would make us recommend it. Even if you buy it for £150, we think that's still £50 too expensive. Without support for Profile 2.0 and Internet features like YouTube access, it's hard to image why you'd choose this player over the LG BD370, for example.
Edited by Charles Kloet