Panasonic DMP-BD60 Blu-ray Player

Price: $300 At A Glance: Viera Cast delivers ho-hum connectivity experience • Exceptional video processing • Full interactivity and audio decoding

It seems like just yesterday that I reviewed the DMP-BD35 and DMP-BD55 players (HT, December 2008). But Panasonic spared little time getting its replacements out into the market. This was almost a blink, and you’ll miss the window for the DMP-BD35 and DMP-BD55. Panasonic just introduced the DMP-BD60 and DMP-BD80, which are nearly identical to the models they’re replacing. But this time around, Panasonic has jumped into the streaming video craze and added Viera Cast to both players. This widget-based portal to Internet-derived content is similar to what Panasonic includes in its flat-panel HDTV line.

For this roundup, I’m looking at the DMP-BD60 ($300). It lacks the DMP-BD80’s 7.1-channel analog outputs, but it still shares many core components and features with its big brother.

Aesthetically, the DMP-BD60 is similar to the DMP-BD35 with the exception of the Viera Cast sticker. The tray is in the center of the front panel, and there’s a small flip-down panel on the bottom right with buttons for Play, Stop, and Pause. The sleek lines still work well and give the player a nice look for the price.

The DMP-BD60 has a strong feature set; the only limitations are on the analog side of the house. To get the most out of the DMP-BD60’s advanced audio capabilities, you’ll need an HDMI-equipped A/V receiver or surround processor, since the analog audio outputs are limited to two-channel. The HDMI output is version 1.3a, with Deep Color compatibility and onboard decoding of Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio (to PCM). It has the ability to transmit both lossless formats as native bitstreams. The DMP-BD60 includes component video, S-video, and composite video connections, along with a TosLink digital audio connection.

Like all of Panasonic’s recent Blu-ray offerings, the DMP-BD60 is fully compliant with the BD-Live specification. It has a LAN connection that lets you link up the player with your home network and download Blu-ray features and firmware updates. However, this does mean you need to purchase an SD card, since the BD-Live spec requires 1 gigabyte of local storage. While SD cards are quite cheap right now, I’m disappointed that Panasonic still hasn’t thought to include a card with the player. Consumers who don’t realize the external storage requirement may scratch their heads when the BD-Live features on their Blu-ray Discs don’t work.

The DMP-BD60’s load times were about average for the newer players I’ve reviewed. Various manufacturers have definitely made improvements in this department, but there’s still room to grow. The DMP-BD60 was a bit sluggish with BD-Java-intensive titles, like those from Disney and Fox. This is still one of the biggest complaints I hear about Blu-ray, and it remains one of the biggest steps back from DVD (along with not being able to resume a disc if you hit Stop). I’m still at a loss as to why this next-generation format didn’t put usability farther up on the priority list.

Thanks to Panasonic’s streamlined setup, it was fairly simple to set up the player. The menus walk you through the basic setups for video, audio, and player features. You’ll also find network and firmware update options.

It was quite easy to update the player online, and the download didn’t take that long. I had to tinker with the Internet settings a bit to get it all up and running, but the menus are intuitive, so the process is pretty painless.

The DMP-BD60 provides video output resolutions up to 1080p/60 via HDMI and 1080i/60 via component. It also supports DVD upconversion to 1080p via HDMI and is among the few players that offer an upconverted 1080p/24 output from DVDs.

As I mentioned, the player offers internal decoding to PCM and native bitstream output for Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio. The internal decoding to PCM is convenient for Bonus View titles since the picture-in-picture audio needs to be mixed with the main soundtrack. This mixing must be done in the player. By decoding to PCM internally, the player can seamlessly combine these two tracks for a PCM output. The audio setup menu provides clear options on how the player handles audio (internally decoded or output as native bitstreams). It even separates the options based on the audio format. This allows for different settings of Dolby and DTS flavors.

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