The styling is almost indistinguishable from last year's model: the unit is is a slim, black affair with a shiny exterior. The only real difference is that the disc drawer flap has a slightly different shape to the squared version on the older machine. Connectivity remains unchanged, too: the back of the machine features an HDMI A/V output, a LAN port, Component video outputs, a Composite video output (who knows why), analogue Stereo audio outs, and an Optical audio output for AV receivers that can't accept audio over HDMI. The player can output all of Blu-ray's audio formats (Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby TrueHD, DTS, and the DTS HD formats) as-is (Bitstream), or expanded to PCM.
1080p BD Playback
There's also an option for cadence detection (labelled as “Progressive”), which for some reason, appears even when 1080p discs are being played. What's stranger is the fact that it actually has an effect on the picture. If you set it to “Video”, the player will throw away resolution and introduce jaggies on movement, but leaving it at “Auto” or “Film” will treat the content as Film and avoid any deinterlacing.
1080i BD Playback
There are two basic possible scenarios when it comes to 1080i content on Blu-ray. One is that the content was originally shot on Film (or on a device with Film-like motion) which has simply been edited and treated as Interlaced; a plausible scenario in the case of material destined for television rather than cinema. The other is that the content was shot using video cameras, and both Fields of the interlaced signal contain unique motion (50i or 60i). The BD60 handles both scenarios very competently, as was evidenced when it was fed the 1080i tests on the Silicon Optix HQV High-def Benchmark BD. The Video Resolution Loss Test had absolutely no untoward issues, as the BD60 correctly identified and processed the moving parts of the picture, leaving the static background untouched. It also quickly found its feet when shown the Film Resolution Loss Test, locking on to the correct cadence and processing the video correctly with only about half a second of delay. And, the “Jaggies” tests were about as free of blemishes as one could hope for on an inexpensive machine (in other words, very good, but not at the highest possible end of the scale).
Playback of DVD titles was great, although as with older Panasonic BD players, I found that the “0” Sharpness setting (entirely suitable for Blu-ray titles) was a little too harsh for DVD, and only served to emphasise high frequency mosquito noise in the image (I dropped it to -2). Of course, I had to set this back to “0” to avoid blurring Blu-ray movies, once I was finished with DVD playback. It'd be nice to have individual picture presets for DVD and Blu-ray on a future player to avoid this little annoyance.
The quality of the scaling/upconversion is good. The Uniphier chip appears to use a more standard linear process, as opposed to an edge-adaptive algorithm, like you'll see in the Playstation 3 and Sony's own ES-Series Blu-ray player. Both of these approaches have their merits (the latter sometimes makes more convincingly HD pictures, but can also make things look smoothed-over and artificial). In any case, the BD60 is capable of reproducing the entire range of details present on just about all DVD-Video discs without any severe ringing, which is exactly what I would hope for.
In terms of Cadence detection (that is, optimising the motion handling for Film material), the DMP-BD60 is no improvement on the previous DMP-BD35. This means that with the default settings, PAL (UK/European style) Film DVDs lose some of their film-like motion quality and display flickering on fine details, as the PAL 2-2 cadence isn't automatically detected and compensated for. As with the BD35, the user can choose to force the “Film” deinterlacing mode beside the “Progressive” option to eliminate the problem. It's not as convenient as the player detect the correct cadence by itself, but it's a lot better than players without this level of control at all.
American-style NTSC contents fared slightly better in terms of cadence detection, which will be appreciated by owners of Region 1 DVDs. The common 3-2 cadence passed at all times, whereas the more unusual ones, such as 2-2 and the “Anime” cadences failed in all cases, even when “Film” was forced on. The performance overall with DVD playback is better than many other players, but still not at the level of dedicated high-end processors or machines.
Let's be honest, the selling point of VIERA Cast is probably the access it gives you to YouTube. This way, users can conveniently watch videos of people setting their hair on fire and hitting their friends in the face with a wet fish easily on their Blu-ray player, without having to go to the trouble of mastering AVC encoding or Blu-ray Disc authoring. Of course, there's also the Picasa Web Albums service, which lets you do the same thing in still-frame form.
Currently, that's all there is to VIERA Cast - services like Bloomberg and Eurosport aren't featured here yet. However, Panasonic assures us that these will appear shortly.
To measure these times, I loaded a disc (in this case, Sony's Region A release of Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist), turned the player off, and measured how long it took from pressing the Power button to seeing moving video on-screen (in this case, the Sony logo).
Quick Start OFF: 1 minute, 38 seconds
Quick Start ON: 1 minute, 26 seconds
Panasonic DMP-BD60 Blu-ray Disc Player Review
Unless you have more specific requirements from a Blu-ray Disc player, such as analogue surround audio outputs or an RS-232C port for home theatre integration, then there really is almost no reason not to consider the Panasonic DMP-BD60. Granted, the DVD playback could still be improved, but I imagine most readers of a site like this one will have a favoured DVD playback system already in place, and will only be looking to add Blu-ray functionality into the mix.
The typically excellent performance of the Uniphier chip is especially evident when it's actually required to intervene, as is the case with 1080i content (although this is still a rarity on Blu-ray). It's a nice reminder that Panasonic's engineers have their heads well and truly screwed on and are making actual performance improvements in areas which are lacking in other machines, rather than tinkering with the image for the sake of it, and charging you extra for the high-end “privilege”. Likewise, 1080p content is handled as it should be, by being decoded and sent to the display without obvious interference.
There is no shortage of affordable Blu-ray players on the market which produce exceptional picture quality from the common 1080p/24 discs, but Panasonic's machines go a step further by offering stellar 1080i performance, too, which is always welcome. The DVD playback, while not free of faults, is still above average because it allows for the user to intervene and force Film deinterlacing mode: a little annoying, but far less so than being stuck with jaggies. As a result of all of this, my end word on the DMP-BD60 is plain and predictable: it works as you'd expect to and it's a fine choice if you need a BD player to connect to a digital AV system.
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