The DMP-BD85K is the midrange player in Panasonic's 2010 Blu-ray line, and it corrects many of errors the company made with last year's model by including a USB Wi-Fi adapter and adding Netflix--as well as Pandora in the future--to its VieraCast streaming content portal. On the other hand, Panasonic still seems to be a step behind the competition, as built-in Wi-Fi is now the norm. Also, Samsung and LG offer more streaming services, and the DMP-BD85K feels sluggish compared with other 2010 Blu-ray players. If you need 7.1 analog audio outputs, the DMP-BD85K is one of the few affordable players still offering it. Otherwise, we couldn't find much to recommend it over competitors such as the LG BD570 or the Sony BDP-S570.
Though most manufacturers update their designs every year to look sleeker and glossier, Panasonic's Blu-ray players tend to look the same every year. The DMP-BD85K looks a lot like last year's DMP-BD80K, with its boxy edges and relatively muted aesthetics. It has an easy-to-read LCD screen on the left and a disc tray under an automatic flip-down panel in the center. Under the flip-down panel on the far right are some bare-bones playback controls (only stop and play), an SD card slot, and a USB port. Aesthetics are always subjective, but we prefer the look of the more modern Sony BDP-S570 and LG BD570.
The remote control included with the package is largely unchanged from last year, although we were happy to see Panasonic took our advice and brought back the eject button. A number pad dominates the top of the remote, with large blue playback control buttons underneath. The stop button is somewhat oddly set off on its own, but once we learned the new position, we actually liked the button layout. On the other hand, some of Panasonic's button labels, like "Direct Navigator" and "Submenu," feel archaic and jargon-like; we think it's time for an update.
If, like us, you think the Blu-ray player's exterior looks a little old, then you'll think Panasonic's user interface feels even older. Nearly every other manufacturer has redesigned its menus with spiffy high-definition graphics, but Panasonic's menus look nearly identical to those it includes with its DVD players. We also couldn't understand the naming behind some of the menu options. Selecting "network" brings you to VieraCast, which is Panasonic's online content portal. Why not name that VieraCast, especially since Panasonic labeled the button on the remote as "VieraCast?" None of the menu labels are too difficult to figure out, especially for tech-savvy users, but you get the impression that not a lot of effort has been put into the user experience.
Luckily, the VieraCast interface looks more modern than the main menus, with high-definition graphics and large boxes for the available services. Panasonic still hasn't released the firmware update enabling the most recent, multipage VieraCast interface we've seen at product demos, so we'll wait to comment on it until we've had more hands-on time. We have a few nitpicks with the current VieraCast interface. Navigating between services can feel slow. Its Netflix interface is also a generation old, so you can't browse additional categories like "Movies You'll Love" and "New Arrivals" like you can on players from LG, Sony, and Samsung.
|Key Blu-ray features|
|3D Blu-ray||No||Onboard memory||No|
|Wi-Fi||Yes, with included USB dongle||Blu-ray profile||2.0|
We found setting up the wireless connection to be needlessly difficult. After selecting our wireless router, the DMP-BD85K quizzed us on some of the more difficult aspects of our router, like our authentication type (WPA2-PSK, WPA-PSK, Shared KEY, or Open system) and encryption type (TKIP or AES). We've never had to enter that information on other Blu-ray players, which seemingly are able to detect the settings. Even Panasonic's onscreen keyboard had an unusual matrix design that was more difficult to use.The DMP-BD85K lacks 3D Blu-ray support--you'll have to step-up to the DMP-BDT350 for that--and it's worth pointing out that the similarly priced Sony BDP-S570 is upgradeable for 3D support. The lack of onboard memory is annoying, but it's hard to get too upset given the paucity of exciting BD-Live content. We were more frustrated that the front-panel USB port couldn't be used as BD-Live storage; you have to buy an SD card if you want to use BD-Live.
|Streaming media features|
Panasonic was also slow to get onboard with streaming media features, but this year its players offer a larger selection of services. With Netflix and Amazon VOD, Panasonic covers subscription and pay-per-view streaming movie services and adds extras like YouTube, Picasa, and weather, which we appreciate. Pandora support is coming later, although other players already support it.
On the other hand, the lack of DLNA support is disappointing for those who want to stream music, videos, or photos from a connected PC. The LG BD570 and Samsung BD-C6500 are DLNA-compliant out-of-the-box and the Sony BDP-S570 is getting a firmware update for DLNA in the summer. Yes, the DMP-BD85K can read digital media files off an SD card or USB memory drive, but network streaming is a nice convenience.
|Audio decoding capabilities|
|Dolby TrueHD||Yes||DTS-HD Master Audio||Yes|
|Dolby Digital Plus||Yes||DTS-HD HR||Yes|
|Bit stream output||Yes||SACD/DVD-Audio||No|
Like nearly every Blu-ray player available now, the DMP-BD85K offers onboard decoding for both high-resolution Dolby and DTS formats. If you're looking to play back SACDs and DVD-Audios, you'll need to look to Oppo's competing players; Sony's competing BDP-S570 also offers SACD playback.
|HDMI version||HDMI 1.3||Stereo analog||Yes|
|Component video||Yes||Multichannel analog||7.1|
The DMP-BD85K's AV outputs are standard, with the exception of the 7.1 analog outputs. The 7.1 analog outs are a nice step-up for anyone who has an older HDMI-less receiver, as they allow you to take advantage of the full resolution of Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio soundtracks without buying a new receiver.