If you go to a supermarket and look for a cheap DVD player, the chances are that you'll find a very capable machine for about £30. Blu-ray players aren't at that level yet but there are still plenty of options that cost less than the high-end, all-singing, all-dancing models.
The DMP-BD75 is Panasonic's budget model. Even so, it costs around £140. That's a fairly high price for a Blu-ray player, even a fully featured one.
In terms of aesthetics, the DMP-BD75 isn't offensive, but neither is it especially enthralling. Like plenty of Panasonic hardware, it's solid and brilliantly put together, but looks dull. On the plus side, the DMP-BD75 is tiny. It's probably the shallowest and thinnest Blu-ray player on the market at the moment.
The front panel is home to just a few buttons and a USB port for playing media files like videos, photos and MP3s. The button layout is somewhat illogical, though. The power button is located near the disc tray. That may seem fair enough, but this leaves the button for opening and closing the tray over on the right-hand side of the player, well removed from the very thing it controls. This becomes annoying when you've just turned the player off for the 400th time, when all you wanted to do was eject a disc.
The display also uses a cheap-looking green LED. We can't complain about that on a budget machine like this, but we're not going to pretend we like it.
Viera Connect's gone AWOL
Panasonic has chosen to omit its Viera Connect online video portal from this player. We have mixed feelings about this. Although we don't think Viera Connect is quite as good as the alternative services from Sony and Samsung, it's still better than nothing.
That said, we can see how Panasonic might want to save money by leaving out the hardware that makes Viera Connect possible. We can also see that people who want a budget player might not actually be bothered about watching YouTube via the device.
Super media-file support
The DMP-BD75 regains some lost ground with its video-playback abilities. This budget player is more than happy to take your MKV video and play it on your TV. It can do this from any FAT32-formatted device plugged into its front-mounted USB socket. Do bear in mind, though, that FAT32 devices can only support file sizes of up to 4GB. If you're planning on watching long, 1080p movies, you might need to split them to view them via this player.
The quality of files played in this manner is excellent. A 1080p clip from The Dark Knight played smoothly and with its DTS audio fully intact. We've seen dedicated media players that have trouble handling that combination. In this area at least, the DMP-BD75 is worthy of our respect.
No sound or picture complaints
The DMP-BD75 also deserves respect for the quality of its Blu-ray pictures. We found them to be as sharp, detailed and vibrant as those of any other player. We certainly didn't feel like we'd been short-changed in terms of image quality, and picture quality is the most important element of a machine like this after all.
In terms of audio, the DMP-BD75 is more than capable. It understands the Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio codes, and can either output these formats via HDMI, to be decoded by an AV receiver, or downmix them to stereo for playback on any TV.
Unlike its high-end brothers, the DMP-BD75 doesn't offer particularly smooth or high-resolution menus. This is a minor point, though, since they're still graphically rich and easy to use.
HDMI or the highway
Here's an issue that causes us to punch ourselves in the face in frustration. There will be no component outputs on players that go on sale from the start of 2011. Why? Because it promotes piracy, apparently. That's the biggest sack of lies we've heard since millionaire politicians told us "we're in this together".
This may or may not affect you. Older TVs have few or no HDMI inputs, so component was a good compromise that offered HD at a slightly reduced resolution of 1080i, instead of 1080p. If you have an older TV and want to buy a new Blu-ray player, you'll need to upgrade your set. If you have a fairly new TV, you'll be fine.
We have no complaints about the Panasonic DMP-BD75's performance, but we think it's too expensive compared to the competition. The excellent Sony S370, for example, can now be found for around £120, and has BBC iPlayer, Demand 5 and LoveFilm streaming built-in.
Edited by Charles Kloet