We hardly ever get a chance to enjoy a Panasonic Blu-ray player being on the market before it gets cruelly snatched away from us and replaced with a new one. That's what's happened with the previous model, the DMP-BD35, one of our favourite players of last year, which vanished not long after being released.
In some ways, though, this is a good thing, because it means Blu-ray players are outselling expectations. We can only hope that Panasonic is making enough of its DMP-BD60 players, priced at around £250, to go around this time.
Like all Panasonic hardware, the DMP-BD60 is a stylish-looking machine. It's doesn't look particularly exciting, but it certainly won't upset the style dynamic of your lounge.
At the back, you get access to an HDMI socket, Ethernet port, component video output and optical digital connection. Sadly, there's no 7.1 analogue audio output. Panasonic leaves this feature off its base models, probably to upsell you to the more advanced model, the DMP-BD80.
The remote control isn't much changed from previous iterations. It's a perfectly useable design, and is more than pleasant to use. The buttons are big enough even for our chubby fingers to use. We do get confused sometimes between all the different menu buttons though.
The most distinctive new feature is the Viera Cast functionality. The idea of this is that you can connect to the Internet and enjoy content from a number of Panasonic partners. At the moment, the service offers access to Flickr and YouTube. It's expected that more content producers will join in later, and plenty of people are hoping that the BBC will hop on-board with iPlayer.
Of course, this being a modern player, you get access to profile 2.0-specific content too. We've yet to see much that grabs our attention but, if you want access to it, the DMP-BD60 can provide it.
You also get an SD card slot for viewing photos. This will appeal to Panasonic camera owners, who get the opportunity to shoot in 1,920x1,080-pixel resolution, especially for TV display. We can't see it being a feature you use every day, but, sooner or later, you might use it and be glad of its presence.
DivX support is also included. We'd like to see access to MKV-format video included in the future, but players that support this modern format seem thin on the ground. Still, the DivX support is good, and there is plenty of material out there to take advantage of.
Blu-ray movies like The Dark Knight looked very good indeed. Detail was exceptional and, at times, jaw-dropping. Sound too, via our Onkyo decoder, was a real treat, although the DMP-BD60 doesn't really have much to do with that. We'd like to see analogue 7.1 outputs on these machines, but that seems to be something of a pipe dream.
The DMP-BD60's DVD upscaling also impressed us. We thought Jurassic Park looked the part and, despite the usual MPEG noise found on DVDs, the picture looked bright and detailed. Of course, the picture quality doesn't bear comparison to Blu-ray, but, if you're a DVD fan, it's better than a kick in the discs.
The DMP-BD60 won't win any speed awards, sadly. It took the player 1 minute and 17 seconds to load and play our test movie, Vantage Point. This is a great shame. Seeing the Samsung BD-P4600 complete the test in 43.5 seconds has proven that fast load times are possible with the right hardware. We'd like to see Panasonic step up to the challenge and speed its players up.
Once it's loaded a disc, the player does a good job of handling interactivity on Blu-ray. We didn't suffer any crashes or other compatibility problems. Navigating through the menus was quick, especially compared to our clunky old Sony BDP-S500.
The Internet functionality is the usual fare. If you have a decent Internet connection of 2Mbps or more, you'll be able to use the YouTube streaming functionality. Flickr is probably slightly less bandwidth-hungry, however. Both seemed responsive enough to us. We were slightly annoyed with having to enter searches on the remote control, though. It's a tedious way of entering letters but it does work and we can see it improving a great deal as time goes on.
What the Viera Cast system really needs is more content. European broadcasters seem keen to get involved with Czech and German TV networks providing their on-demand content via the system. Hopefully, we'll see the BBC get iPlayer on there soon too -- it's crying out to be brought to TVs.
Like every Panasonic Blu-ray player we've tested, the DMP-BD60's a corker. For about £250, you get a well-specified player, with access to some additional material via the Internet connectivity. While we don't think that the online functionality is much cop yet, we have faith that Panasonic is going to do some brilliant things in the future.
The DMP-BD60 isn't the fastest player on the market. In fact, it was pretty sluggish when loading our test disc. If speed is what you need, get a Samsung machine. If a sturdy build, excellent features and awesome picture and sound quality are what you want, get the DMP-BD60.
Edited by Charles Kloet