Summary I take my home theater hobby pretty seriously, that's why when it came time to invest in a Blu-Ray player (finally the wait is over!!!), I did a ridiculously great amount of research. I was willing to spend much more money on a blu-ray player, but the prices have come down so much, you don't have to! I narrowed down my extensive search for the right player to the Panasonic DMP-BD35K and the Sony BDP-S350. **I BOUGHT THEM BOTH AND DID A "SIDE-BY-SIDE" TEST!**
I have some nice equipment, so I feel that the test was an excellent representation of the capabilities of these two players. My equipment includes a 100-inch Stewart screen with a 1080p Sony Pearl front projector, an Integra 9.8 DTC processor (with all the latest surround sound goodies), an NAD amp, 7 Paradigm Signature speakers, and a dual M&K subwoofer (for full 7.1 surround sound).
I do understand electronics, but the Sony manual was really hard to follow. After only one call to Sony, I eventually got the player set up properly. After I set up the Panasonic, everything became much clearer. The Panasonic manual is so much better. But, who really cares about manuals? How do these two players perform side by side?
Audio for BOTH Blu-ray discs and standard DVDs: The Panasonic unquestionably has better audio. Compared to the Sony, the highs were much clearer. The 7.1 surround sound put me right in the middle of the "explosion" (my first test blu-ray disc was National Treasure I) when the Charlotte blew up. The biggest Audio difference was the bass. The bass in the Panasonic was so much better than the Sony. In fact, my old Sony standard-DVD player had better audio than the Sony BDP-S350. I'd give the Sony 3 stars with the audio. The Panasonic had outstanding treble, bass, and surround: 5-star audio!
Video for BOTH Blu-ray discs and standard DVDs: The Sony's video was ok, but the Panasonic's video was fantastic. The skin tones were more realistic and the colors were more vibrant with the Panasonic. The Sony seemed to have a thin gray film over everything -- like looking through a filmy-dirty window. The Sony had 4-star video, the Panasonic and its upscaling gets an easy 5 stars!
Both my wife and I did the "side-by-side" test by going back and forth between Blu-Ray discs and standard DVDs. We didn't discuss any of our thoughts until we each independently formed our own conclusions. After seeing and hearing both players, we were both in complete agreement that in every way the Panasonic DMP-BD35K was superior to the Sony BDP-S350.
By the way, the card slot on the Sony for BD-Live is very hard to get to. I do like Sony as a brand for some things, but not Blu-Ray players.
For those of you who are doing your research, hopefully I can save you some time to answer if you should buy the Panasonic DMP-BD35K or DMP-BD55K. I called Panasonic and asked the differences; besides the price, there are only two differences. The 55K plays DivX's. If you don't have any DivX's like me and most of the people on planet Earth, this doesn't make any difference to you. The only other difference is that the 35K can only output Dolby True HD and DTS HD Master Audio to a receiver/processor that has an HDMI input. If your receiver doesn't have an HDMI input, you won't be able to get them out of the 35K. If your receiver does have an HDMI input and you'll be using an HDMI cable, then you have absolutely no need to buy the 55K. With the 55K, if you have an older receiver that does not have an HDMI input, you can use the 55K's analog audio outputs so that you can have Dolby True HD and DTS HD Master Audio. That's a nice feature of the 55K if you have an older receiver but want the latest surround sound formats.
Also, to save you some research time, I've already checked out all of the professional reviews including the ones on CNet.com: The Sony is considered ok, and CNet liked the Panasonic so much that it is the first Blu-Ray player EVER to receive CNet's "Editor's Choice Award."
I have to go to the store now and return the Sony player that I bought. I'm keeping the Panasonic!! :-)
Hopefully you found this review helpful!
Pros I think this is the perfect player for those who don't want to purchase an PS3. Great Picture quality and the Sound Decoding is everything that you would ever need.
Cons It is a bit taller than my older Phillips standard DVD Player
Summary I like this player mostly because it incorporates the latest in Blu-Ray technology and audio output to date. It is a snap to install. With the HDMI output/input it was replaced in my system in less than 10 minutes. So far very very few complaints. CNET's review on this product is RIGHT ON.
Pros Impressive HD video playback, onboard DTS-HD and TrueHD, the first level of fast forward plays understandable audio, upgradeable firmware, well designed remote, very light and relatively small footprint (I originally thought that the box was empty).
Cons Standard def DVD upconversion may produce artifacts, requires purchase of additional external memory, limited onboard memory functions, screen saver does not work, Blu-Ray movies are ridiculously expensive and under featured.
Summary Before using this, or any other, player it would be advisable to update firmware as some of the changes do affect playback and operation. As of December 1, 2008 the current firmware is version 1.5.Panasonic responded via email to me and stating that the screen saver works as designed. I disagree based upon what is written in the Operating Instructions but don't plan to use the screen saver anyway.
Found this at big box store with a short HDMI cable included for $229 before Black Friday which is a good price for Blu-Ray although still slightly overpriced as a high definition DVD player. I will not repeat what others have already said concerning the vast improvement in high definition video over standard definition but this is what I have found:
The profile 2.0 standard permits manufacturers to provide insufficient onboard memory to support BD-Live and popup functions but fails to specify minimum and maximum requirements for movies making it impossible for users to determine if they need to purchase a class 2, 4 or 6 SDHC card and of what capacity. Incorporation of BD-Live content in movies is inconsistent and to date seems to be more prevalent in horror and more violent type flicks. A user will probably have to frequently erase old files to free memory on the SDHC card.
Pressed the fast forward button during playback and learned that the first setting is more of a rapid play with audio also being speeded along.
Tested the upconversion of some standard DVD and found that standard definition DVD produced more than a few years ago suffer some artifacts whereas newer do not appear to. Specific examples were some vertical blues wavy lines against a blue sky background with a large number of planes flying in simulated combat when playing Battle of Britain and occasional choppy scene transition when going from a brightly scene immediately to another brightly lit scene in The Santa Claus 2 and these same movies did not have these artifacts when played in either a previous HD DVD player or standard definition player. I did adjust settings to verify that these artifacts were repeatedly created and not the result of my choice of settings. These artifacts did not seem to occur when playing newer or more recently produced standard definition DVD. Otherwise upconversion seemed to be adequate and close to what my HDTV already provides.
Disc formats that cannot be played include DVD-ROM, SACD, Photo CD, DVD-Audio, SVCD and WMA discs so it might be better to use Blu-Ray (or at least this player) as the primary playback device and keep an existing DVD or HD DVD player to continue to play other media formats that you may own.
Each manufacturer has to decide what features are to be included but these players have limited ability to resume play once the Stop button is pushed - resume only occurs on standard definition DVD playback. Bookmarks are lost when a disc is removed. When jumping to a scene or bookmark the lag time to resume audio is a bit excessive, not enough to be a problem but close. According to the Operating Instructions there is a screen saver after periods of inactivity but it appears that this was disabled in firmware updates but I do not yet have a response from Panasonic to determine if this was intentional or is to be corrected. However, the screen saver would be inoperable with most Blu-Ray discs as they load Java and, again, I do not know why this is.
Since I previously owned a Toshiba HD DVD player (A30) I was not overwhelmed by the high definition playback but was underwhelmed by Blu-Ray?s extremely slow development of standard player features which has resulted in continued inflation of media prices since licensing fees are so high and production lines had to be replaced whereas HD DVD would have required only modification of production equipment as HD DVD was more of DVD on steroids. Overall, the two new Panasonic players finally bring Blu-Ray up to the features that were standard in HD DVD two years ago. Admittedly I am not happy with the fact that the decision between the basically equal formats was not allowed to be resolved by consumer choice.
Updated on Dec 13, 2008
Right now Logitech does not have correct information in their database for programming their universal remotes for the DMP-D35K or DMP-D35K. Logitech responded that if enough people corrected the errors by using the learning functions of their universal remotes they will eventually update their database. Logitech errors include many commands related to multiple discs (this is a single disc player) and missing commands needed to bookmark spots, top menu, etc. They have a bookmark command but it doesn?t work, it needs to transmit the ?B? key code. Seems that Logitech should be paying us for creating the correct programming for their devices. Not a player problem since the Panasonic remote is so well designed, just keep it handy.
Pros When the player works properly, it does what its supposed to do. Play blu-ray movies.
Cons Freezing, poor navigation, incredibly slow, random inability to read the same clean discs, random copyright violation notices with no reason (have only used legitimate store bought discs).
Summary Aside from the terrible loading time slowness and waiting just to get a movie up and running, this product just does not work properly most of the time. It goes in to "freezing" modes where it makes longer and longer pauses in the video stream until it dies, and an operation throws you back to the main menu. This behavior is random, and may or may not be fixed by cycling the power or ejecting the disc.
There is little rhyme or reason. The problems can affect any disc and then go away if you are lucky. If not, you just can't watch that movie. Sorry, too bad.
These problems got increasingly worse after about a 9 months to year of owning the product.
Panasonic offers little help. Aside from doing firmware updates, all I got was that in order to fix this device I would need to ship it to some address with a description of what is wrong.
Instead of wasting my time on that, I will just never buy another Panasonic product again, ever. Defects this bad should be fixed for FREE and a replacement shipped out with a RMA for shipping the defective product back free.
Clearly Panasonic does not care one whit about customer satisfaction, and I encourage anyone who reads this to seriously consider avoiding their products.
Pros Excellent standard DVD image quality and terrific blu-ray features. User controlled image output.
Cons No independant speaker settings for HDMI (the BD55 has it)
Summary Researching Blu-Ray has been an obsession of mine and review after review was substandard. Reading this review I knew I had found a solid buy, but I had no idea how terrific this player would be. Standard DVD image quality is above and beyond anything I could have expected, functionality is terrific and Blu-Ray image quality is as advertised. I couldn't be happier with this purchase.