In our lab’s tests, the DMP-BD55K did not receive a single grade of less than Very Good from any of our judges. Jurors’ notes were filled with praise, especially when comparing it with our reference player, the Sony PlayStation 3. In a shot of the Vatican in Mission: Impossible III, I noted that columns in the background looked sharper. The opening sequence in Cars was so vibrant that it made the image on the PlayStation 3 look washed out. In Good Night and Good Luck, another judge noted the scene’s pleasing handling of film grain. And in The Phantom of the Opera, our test scene exhibited a great sense of dimensionality.
The DMP-BD55K had no issues with upscaling standard-definition DVDs to 1080p. In fact, the DMP-BD55K bested all comers we’ve tested in its handling of DVDs.
This Panasonic player distinguishes itself in other ways, too. It’s sleek, and measures less than 10 inches deep. The unit’s buttons are convenient, with large Power On and Open/Close buttons in the corners, angled upward for easy access. The buttons on the programmable remote are also nicely placed, with the playback control buttons (Play, Pause, and so on) done in blue to help them stand out. Unfortunately, they’re not backlit.
You won’t have any trouble figuring out the compact, attractive setup menu. An illustration at the bottom of the menu screen shows you where the remote’s OK and Return buttons are. The menus don’t explain everything, but they do explain the complicated audio options.
Press the remote’s Display button while you’re watching a movie, and you see more than a few numbers and facts; you get a menu, where you can pick subtitles or turn on repeat play. But you don’t get what people normally press the Display button for: to see how far they are into the movie.
The DMP-BD55K is fast, although it’s no record breaker. It took just over a minute to start playing a disc, and lagged only slightly when skipping chapters and barely at all when pausing.
Packed with features, the DMP-BD55K can play Divx files, AVCHD movies, and other media formats. An SD Card slot sits in front; you can use the card slot to view photos, but when I tried it, the images stretched horizontally, making everyone look fat. This BD-Live player has an ethernet port in the back, but no built-in memory: You have to bring your own memory in the form of an SD Card, annoying considering the otherwise premium qualities of this player.
The player offers audiophile features, too. It has 7.1-channel analog and HDMI audio-out, and it can decode both Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio if your amplifier can’t.
Macworld’s buying advice
If you’re willing to pay a lot for a Blu-ray player, you deserve one as good as the Panasonic DMP-BD55K.
[Lincoln Spector is a contributing editor to PC World.]