Sony BDP-S300, Samsung BD-P1200, and Panasonic DMP-BD10A Blu-ray Players Panasonic DMP-BD10A
Does this player look familiar? It should; it looks identical to the DMP-BD10. And, like a report card, that "A" makes all the difference. It's half the price and furthers Panasonic's trend as the audiophile choice of Blu-ray players. It features Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD decoding, along with still having DVD-Audio playback.
Old Panasonic Guts
New Panasonic Guts
Probably the most fascinating aspect of the DMP-BD10A is that, if you crack it open, the insides are identical to those of the DMP-BD10. I found only one chip of any consequence that had a slightly different number than on the original, but that could have just been a serial number.
The remote is the same bulky, "nice personality" big-button type as the DMP-BD10, although it's now thankfully clothed in a dark-gray suit. It looks far less Fisher-Price. The player takes about 50 seconds to go from off to video, the fastest of the bunch here, and probably the fastest standalone player (nothing beats the PS3).
The menus will make you long for the days of Windows 95. There are selections for everything here, except for 1080p/24. While this isn't a big deal for most people, it's disappointing.
The M:I:III scene looked about the same as it did on the Sony, as did the amount of detail in upconverted DVDs. That was the last of their similarities. The DMP-BD10A picked up the 3:2 sequence and deinterlaced 1080i correctly. The waving flag off the HQV DVD looked better than the Sony but not quite as good as the Samsung. And that was more or less how the picture looked across the board.
This player is an excellent value. It offers decent video performance and excellent audio options (some that no other Blu-ray player offers at all). Sure, the Samsung performs slightly better on the picture side of things, but, unless you have a really big screen, you're not going to see it.
Wait for Gen III?
I find it interesting that none of these players comes with anything other than composite cables in the box. How many people are going to hook them up with that and then return the player because it looks terrible? Or worse, how many would proclaim to their friends: "Behold. . . Blu-ray!" Oh well, at least I know the confusion wrought by the manufacturers will keep me employed and Noel Lee rich.
In all three cases, these players perform better, faster, and easier than their predecessors. They're also significantly cheaper. After a rocky start, the Blu-ray posse seems to have settled in for a long haul with decent players at better and better prices.
That said, the PS3 is still the best value in the Blu-ray world. For $500, it won't upconvert quite as well as the Samsung, and it lacks the audio options of the Panasonic. For many people, however, it will do everything they need, and more. But if you don't have a receiver with HDMI inputs, go for one of the above instead.
• Excellent value
• Does the next-gen audio formats