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If you're a regular reader, or a friend/family member, you've listened to me whine about the fact that Blu-ray players are under-powered and over-priced.
When Sony bought themselves the High Definition home video market back in December and killed off HD DVD (the value proposition by a long margin), my whining got even louder. With HD DVD out of the picture, a less expensive and equally performing option was no longer available, and here we are five months after the CES announcements of upcoming Blu-ray players, and none have surfaced yet.
Yes, I'll take cheddar with my whine. Thanks.
The Sony PlayStation 3 remains the only Blu-ray capable device worth buying, as I've said a few times including my Journal article titled "Looking for a Blu-ray Player? The Only Good Choice Right Now Is..." Many people don't need a machine with all the capabilities of the PS3, and they would like to pay less than its $399 sticker price (which almost never goes on sale). What they want is a decent standalone Blu-ray player capable of Bonus View (aka Profile 1.1) and BD-Live (aka Profile 2.0) so that they can play all the features on currently-available discs, at a price around $250 - $300.
Only the PlayStation 3 handles the features with aplomb, but it exceeds the target price. So what to do?
The best option that has was announced at CES was the Panasonic DMP-BD50. Its predecessor was well-regarded, and Panasonic has a good reputation for making quality products.
It sounded like it was going to have all the great features anyone could want, but the feature list was so rich, that I was concerned that its list price would exceed the limits of what most people would be willing to pay. Unfortunately, I was right.
Panasonic issued a press release today that gives the DMP-50 a release timeframe of "Spring," which means some time between now and June 19th, I guess. Its MSRP (Manufacturer Suggested Retail Price) is $699.95.
That's right, a decent, well-featured, standalone Blu-ray player is going to cost you $700. Kinda makes that $400 PS3 look like a bargain, now doesn't it?
Sure, the Panasonic is nice in that it will output both Dolby TrueHD and DTS HD Master Audio lossless audio formats across analog outputs (something the PS3 cannot do), but there's no word on whether it will be able to bitstream those formats to capable A/V receivers via its HDMI port.
The press release even refers to BD-Live as something that's going to be added to discs "in the future" which was the case back in March, since the first BD-Live discs were released in early April. Something tells me this press release has been sitting for a while...
It would appear that the general public will need to wait a little longer for a Blu-ray player that has the features at an attractive price. The Sony BD-S350 should be released in June or July, so perhaps Sony will garner an even larger percentage of the Blu-ray market.
A little distressing, as well, is this article on PC World from Melissa Perenson, who says that she got an in-person demo of the DMP-BD50. According to her article, the player will not have the 1GB of memory necessary for full BD-Live functionality, which just doesn't make any sense. I'm hoping she was mistaken, or the rep at Panasonic that she was talking to was mistaken. $700 for a high end Blu-ray player, and now you're supposed to go out and buy a memory card? Sheesh.
For what it's worth, the full press release appears below.
PANASONIC INTRODUCES THIRD GENERATION BLU-RAY DISC PLAYER AND ANNOUNCES PRICING
DMP-BD50 Continues Advancement of 1080p High Definition With Inclusion of BD-Live Function
SECAUCUS, NJ (May 6, 2008) - Panasonic Corporation of North America, the principal U.S. subsidiary of Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., Ltd. (NYSE:MC), announces the introduction of the anticipated DMP-BD50, Panasonic’s third generation Blu-ray disc player - the ultimate playback source for high definition 1080p content. Blu-ray media offers a wide range of functions that foster the transition to HD - including 1080p image quality, lossless Dolby® TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio™ and versatile Picture-in-Picture applications. The BD50 adds the new BD-Live function, which uses the internet to further enhance the consumer’s entertainment experience and employs VIERA Link,™ a technology that allows the consumer to operate VIERA Link equipped home theater components with a single remote. The DMP-BD50 will be available this spring and will have an SRP of $699.95.
BD-Live opens up a myriad of interactive possibilities for the consumer. In the future BD-Live will allow users to connect the DMP-BD50 to the internet to download such data as images and subtitles, and to join in multi-player interactive games that are linked to bonus movie content contained on Blu-ray discs.
For optimum image quality the DMP-BD50 features the PHL Reference Chroma processor and P4HD i/p conversion processor, which combine to create Uniphier®, a precise digital video processor that produces sharp, crisp, natural colors that are extremely faithful to the original movie. Uniphier reflects the advance encoding and authoring technologies developed by Panasonic Hollywood Laboratory.
The true to the original source images are complimented by an exceptionally pure, accurate sound achieved through Audio Re-master and integrated decoders for the lossless Dolby True HD and DTS-HD Master Audio formats. Furthermore, the DMP-BD50 can be combined with a 7.1 channel amplifier and speakers for full 7.1 channel surround sound.
Networking is an essential product of the DMP-BD50. The included SD Memory Card slot allows for easy transferring of images from an HD camcorder or digital still camera via an SD Memory card. The consumer simply inserts the SD card into the BD50 and then can view the images on a large screen HD flat panel television with AVCHD format video images or JPEG stills in full 1920 x 1080 resolution. In addition the DMP-BD50 has been awarded the Energy Star certification.
“Panasonic was the first to bring a Blu-ray player with Bonus View (Final Standard Profile 1.1) to market and now with the DMP-BD50 we are again leading the industry with the inclusion of BD-Live,” said Paul Sabo, Panasonic, National Marketing Manager Entertainment Group. “The beauty of the Blu-ray player is that we can now see movies the way the film maker intended, in glorious HD video and audio. The consumer can now combine the new generation DMP-BD50 with a VIERA flat screen televison to create a true living in high definition experience.”
About Panasonic Consumer Electronics Company
Based in Secaucus, N.J., Panasonic Consumer Electronics Company (PCEC), a market and technology leader in High Definition television, is a Division of Panasonic Corporation of North America, the principal North American subsidiary of Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. Ltd. (NYSE: MC) and the hub of Panasonic's U.S. marketing, sales, service and R&D operations. Panasonic’s exclusive Panasonic Plasma Concierge customer support program (888-972-6276) is administered through its Virginia-based Call Center, recognized as a Certified “Center of Excellence” by the Center for Customer-Driven Quality™ at Purdue University. Information about Panasonic products is available at www.panasonic.com.
Source: Panasonic Corporation of North America
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