I have to confess that I jumped on the HD bandwagon a while ago and have used the Toshiba HD-A3 for a while. Since HD DVD lost and Blu-Ray won, I have been looking at the newer Blu-Ray players. I had good experience with Panasonic DVD players as well as other A/V gear, so checking out the new Panasonic BMP-BD55 was a logical step to take.
No longer priced in the stratosphere, newer Blu-Ray players that conform to BD profile 2.0 are also faster in operation than the previous models. I got the BD55 for $340, shipping included.
I did not expect anything less than stunning image quality, but hoped for better load times than the earlier models' as well as better usability and better standard DVD playback (although I can use my Toshiba HD-A3 for that).
About the Panasonic DMP-BD55
The Panasonic DMP-BD55 is a high-definition Blu-Ray DVD player with HDMI (up to 1080p resolution, including 24 fps), component video outs (up to 720p/1080i), standard-resolution DVD upconversion through HDMI 1.3 (720p/1080i/1080p), S-Video, stereo analog audio and 7.1 analog audio as well as coaxial and optical digital audio outs.
The player plays Blu-Ray DVD, DVD-Video, CD-Audio, MP3 CD, JPEG Photo CD and DVD-Audio. It plays CD, CD-R, CD-RW, DVD-Video, DVD-R, DVD+R, DVD-RW, DVD+RW and DVD-RAM. It also decodes Dolby Digital, DTS and Dolby Digital Plus.
It also features onboard decoding for the Dolby True HD and DTS-HD Master Audio. There is even an SD card slot for easier sharing of photos.
I was surprised with how light the player is, at least comparing to earlier designs. The build quality is pretty solid though. It looks quite stylish. I connected the player through its HDMI to my Hitachi P50H401 50-inch plasma TV and watched Mission Impossible-III Blu-Ray disc. A pretty bad movie, but a good test for the player.
First of all, the load time is very short, both comparing to earlier BR players and my Toshiba A3. IN about 20 seconds the player is on and the disc is playing. Standard DVDs are as fast as in a regular DVD player.
The player supports playback at the material's (BR DVD) native resolution through either component video out (up to 1080i) or the HDMI out (in other words, 1080p is only available through HDMI). The player supports all the latest features, including 24 fps video output and Dolby True HD as well as DTS-HD.
I discovered that if you have an HDMI-equipped player that cannot decode newer audio standard, you have to use "PCM" output option of the player, so that it converts the new formats into PCM and passes them to the receiver over HDMI. Make sure you experiment and get the best possible option that your receiver supports. Maybe subjectively (most likely not), but PCM output of newer audio format sounds better over HDMI converted to PCM than does regular DD or DTS.
Performance and Image Quality
Just as I expected, the image quality when watching Blu-Ray discs is excellent and is pretty much amazing. I cannot see much difference in playback quality of the BD55 and the HD DVD Toshiba A3, but that is no longer relevant since HD DVD is pretty much dead, although I can still get HD DVD discs through Blockbuster Online. So it is more like a living dead/zombie. Still scary.
But back to the BD55. The images are three-dimensional, comparing to DVDs that look somewhat flat (even upconverted in any of my players). Also, there are details you would never see on standard-resolution DVD. The colors are great and the sound is better than what I get from regular DVDs.
Unlike the earlier Samsung BR player I tried a while ago (Samsung DB-P1000 Blu-Ray High-Definition DVD player ), this Panasonic excels at standard DVD playback as well. The standard DVD playback (with upconversion or without, but still over HDMI) is simply excellent. Although no match for true high-definition DVD playback, the player produces excellent detail level, which is as good as with better standard DVD players I have seen and my Toshiba HD-A3.
The layer change is pretty fast as well. Overall, the player is very impressive.
The remote control is pretty good (although not backlit or of the "glow in the dark" type). It is similar in button shape and color to other recent Panasonic remotes, including the remote of Viera TVs and my Panasonic SA-XR57 receiver. And although the remote is not backlit, the button layout is very intuitive and the buttons are large and easy to find in darkness.
I use the following connections: the player is connected to the Panasonic SA-XR57 class-D receiver using an HDMI connection (through a passive HDMI switch, along with the Toshiba HD-A3 and the Pioneer Elite DV-48AV, since the receiver only has one HDMI input). The HDMI out of the receiver is connected to my TV. Both HD players output PCM over HDMI. Pioneer can output DD/DTS and DVD-Audio over HDMI (up to 192 KHz).
Pros: Features, performance, picture quality playing both Blu-Ray and standard DVD, good remote
Cons: Could be cheaper still
If you want an excellent Blu-Ray DVD player that also excels playing standard DVDs, the Panasonic DMP-BD55 is an excellent choice. In addition to solid performance it is also easy to use, loads discs fast and has a good remote control.