Panasonic DMP-BD50 Blu-ray Player Setup & Tests
Utilizing the Panasonic's HDMI output made hookup a breeze. The only other connections I needed were an Ethernet cable from my hub and the detachable power cord. Although some lament the HDMI cable because of its propensity to come unplugged, you can't argue with the simplicity of setup, especially for someone who swaps out equipment frequently.
The Audio Setup parameter provides three settings: Secondary, Quality, and Custom. Secondary decodes all audio codecs internally and outputs them as PCM. The benefit of this setting is that secondary audio, such as PIP commentaries and menu sounds, is heard, but soundtracks with more than six channels are limited to a 5.1 output. The Quality setting allows for bitstream output, but secondary audio defaults to "off." Finally, the Custom setting lets you customize the audio streams. To enjoy 7.1-channel PCM over HDMI, secondary audio must be set to "off."
The Panasonic does an excellent job of deinterlacing a 1080i signal to 1080p. Using Silicon Optix's HQV Benchmark Blu-ray, the BD50 performed admirably. It passed the video resolution-loss test as well as the two jaggies tests with flying colors, but on the film resolution-loss test, there was slight shimmering in two of the vertical bursts. The slow-panning test didn't reveal any other issues. Chapter 8 of Mission: Impossible III didn't exhibit any moiré at either 1080p/60 or 1080p/24, although 1080p/24 produced a sharper picture. If your display accepts 1080p/24, it is best to enable the player's 1080p/24 output.
DVD playback was a different matter altogether. The standard-definition HQV Benchmark DVD revealed some significant shortcomings with the BD50. The one-bar jaggies test barely passed, but the player failed the three-bar test. The flag sequence was passable, and jaggies were only noticeable when I was very close to the screen. The film-detail test (car sequence) showed moiré for almost a second until the player locked onto the cadence. Mixed 3:2 content with scrolling subtitles and credits both failed with distorted text. Real-world tests, including the opening of Star Trek: Insurrection and the Coliseum flyover in Gladiator, didn't show any adverse effects.