Why would anyone want a portable Blu-ray player? Answer: when it's as good as Panasonic's one-of-a-kind DMP-B15.

Those looking to exploit the hi-def format with a huge plasma or projector will doubtless balk at the idea of its tiny 8.9in LCD screen, but that view rather misses the point. What Panasonic has produced is a fully featured player that just happens to be portable.

Plug it into an HD Ready TV and serve up some cutting-edge 1080p pictures, and it could easily operate both as your main Blu-ray deck and a portable home entertainment system. No wonder it costs an arm and a leg.

Feature rich

Panasonic is fanatical about Blu-ray, and it obviously hasn't been able to bring itself to cut any corners from this portable deck. Inside the B15 you'll find both BD Live and its own Viera Cast online portal (both via a LAN port).

The former can download extra content to an SD card, while the latter will stream videos from YouTube and play slideshows from Picasa from within Panasonic's own online portal.

The appearance of PHL Reference Chroma Processor Plus (P4HD) technology is the final proof that there's little difference between this portable deck and the brand's excellent, dedicated Blu-ray players. Obvious differences include the headphone socket for on-the-go use, while accessories are provided in the box that enables you to strap the B15 to a car seat headrest for passenger entertainment.

The small LCD screen only has a 1,024 x 600-pixel resolution, but if you'd rather watch Blu-ray as it's intended, the B15 also has a regular HDMI output on its side that outputs 1080p video at 24fps.

Side
HDMI happy: The HDMI port on the side allows you to use the DMP-BD15 as a normal Blu-ray player

Its gloss-black screen surround is reminiscent of standard Viera TVs, and the tiny remote control can also operate your TV when the B15 is attached (if it's a Panasonic set) via HDMI, thanks to Viera Link. Other kit can also be connected to the B15 via its basic composite video-quality AV in and out port.

Simple to use

Despite its near perfect specs, we do have a few criticisms of the B15 in action. Firstly, it takes around 20secs to come to life and a further 40-90secs to load a Blu-ray disc.

Unusually, the screen is designed to swivel and fold out like a picture frame, which does make this 1.7kg package bulkier than a portable DVD player. This position is practical for desktops, but it's not ideal for watching on a lap

remote
REMOTE CONTROL: The B15 comes with a dinky little remote control

The B15's SD card slot is a letdown. Able to take SD and SDHC cards, it can only play JPEG photos and MPEG2 or AVCHD files, both uncommon video formats (the latter from the brand's HD camcorders). During our test it refused to play MP3s, despite its claims to be able to, while DiVX files can only be played from a disc and not an SD card.

When you attach a LAN cable, insert an SD card and access the BD Live menus from a disc, the player immediately switches to 'BD-SD' mode and makes downloading extras as easy as on a standard Blu-ray player.

Viera Cast is even more impressive. While limited to just YouTube streaming and Picasa online photo albums, these two functions are nevertheless carried out with perfection; kudos to Panasonic for having created such easy to use and ultra-fast menus