Panasonic has followed up last year's DMP-B15 with the DMP-B100. Not only is the new player robustly-made, light and stylish, but it's also packed with features, many of which are on the brand's standalone players.
So anyone who baulks at the rather high price should remember that you're getting a pretty good player for the home as well as your travels.
The unit's built-in screen measures 8.9in and has an unusual resolution of 1,024 x 600 pixels, which isn't a huge jump up from a regular portable DVD player screen, but we found that's still big enough to show the HD difference.
Importantly, you can pipe 1080/24p Blu-ray pictures to your TV using the HDMI output, while an SD card slot that accepts high capacity SDXC cards, enables you to play AVCHD, JPEG and MPEG2 files. You can also play DivX HD, MP3 and JPEG from discs.
The DMP-B100 is a Profile 1.1 player, which means there's no Ethernet port or Wi-Fi . Not everyone will mind the lack of BD-Live access, but it would have been quite a novelty to sit in a Wi-Fi equipped café and download movie extras.
When watching Blu-ray discs on your TV you have the benefit of Panasonic's superb PHL Reference Chroma Processor Plus, which aims to reproduce accurate, smoothly gradated colours.
And if you plan to run the player through your sound system, rest assured that you can transfer Dolby True HD and DTS HD Master Audio bitstreams via HDMI, or convert them to PCM first.
Ease of use
For extra versatility, the screen can be tilted and lowered down onto the base, and little wheels let you roll it forward and back. The battery slots onto the back, offering around 3.5hrs of Blu-ray playback when fully charged.
The B100's main menu is basically the same as Panasonic's regular Blu-ray decks, simply laid out in bright blues and yellows. The setup menu is buried inside another one, and offers a generous amount of options, as a result of this deck's double life as a home Blu-ray player.
SD card contents are easily accessed from the main menu, while a playback Options menu stores the LCD screen tweaks and other useful settings.
Only the remote is a letdown; all the buttons are identical and the direction keys don't stand out. In action the B100 loads some BD discs quickly, but takes far longer with trickier movies such as Terminator Salvation.
During Blu-ray playback, brightly-lit images are beautifully sharp and detailed. Even though the screen is only capable of displaying just over a third of the pixels contained in a full HD frame, you can definitely see the improvement in quality from typical DVD player pictures.
When we load up The Dark Knight the movie's full-screen IMAX scenes look stunning. With the aerial shot of Hong Kong or the exploding hospital, you get masses of detail, entrancing depth, intoxicating colours and sharp, definitive edges.
The deck easily displays the intricacies of close-ups of faces and textured objects. But the picture doesn't always look this impressive. Darker interior shots lose their pizzazz, making it harder to distinguish them from the DVD equivalent.
There's also a slight reddish tinge to skin tones, which requires a bit of tinkering in the screen adjustments. But it's no disaster and well worth tolerating for those stunning daylight scenes.
Playing back through a TV however, none of the niggles apply. Detail retrieval, colour fidelity and motion tracking are faultless, making this almost as good as the company's standalone decks.
The built-in speakers don't do justice to the rip-roaring HD audio soundtracks of Blu-ray discs, offering a flat and bassless rendition of The Dark Knight's action scenes.
But plug in a pair of cans and there's a lot more bass on offer, and when combined with the sharp detail it adds up to a very enjoyable sound. But to hear the deck at its best, rig it up to an HDMI-equipped AV receiver.
While cheaper than its predecessor, the B100 still seems expensive, for a player that lacks BD-Live support.
The WSVGA screen may also be a turn-off for some. But Blu-ray pictures are crisp and detailed on the 8.9in screen, and rigged up to a full HD TV they look even better. There are certainly enough positives to make it worthwhile overall.
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