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Monday, 27 October 2008 12:12

LG and Panasonic release sub $500 BD-Live Blu-ray players

The latest Blu-ray players have arrived at AUD $499 and $495, undercutting the PS3 in price but without all the PS3’s other features. Do Blu-ray players need to drop below $200 before they really take off with consumers?

Blu-ray players still cost vastly more than DVD players, the cheapest of which sell for well under the $100 mark, but come with one killer feature: true full HD 1080P playback, or at least for those with full HD 1080P television sets.

The newest Blu-ray players from LG and Panasonic were announced earlier today, and come with an important feature all their own, beyond a sub-$500 price point: BD-Live compatibility, part of the BD-ROM Profile 2.0, which lets you connect your player to the Internet via Ethernet to “download video images, subtitles and other data, as well as enjoy related quizzes and multi-player interactive games”.

Sadly these gaming features aren’t anywhere near the standard of the PS3 or an Xbox 360, and are at best fluffy extras that make the sale of Blu-ray players slightly easier for the sales people in stores.

After all, you’re not buying a Blu-ray player so you can download images and subtitles, or play quizzes or games, but to watch full HD content on a full HD capable television.

Still, the feature has been promised for some time, with initially only the Sony PS3 guaranteed of being BD-Live capable, so it is nice to see some Blu-ray players arrive at cheaper pricing with this feature enabled.

LG’s Blu-ray player is called the LG BD300, its RRP is $499 and it's due to be available in "October", which is now. Panasonic’s Blu-ray player is the “DMP-BD35” and it will sell for $4 less at AUD $495 from "mid-November", although street/in-store pricing for both will no doubt be lower as we get closer to Christmas.

LG boasts that its new player features “enhanced picture and sound quality”, including “the latest advanced digital audio formats such as Dolby True HD and DTS-HD”, promising sound that is “bit-for-bit identical to the studio master”.

Warren Kim, Category Marketing Manager, LG Electronics said: “Following on from the launch of the world’s first dual format disc player by LG, we continue to set trends in the industry with the BD300. On a local level we also look to add value with the bonus BigPond DVD Rentals promotion, offering consumers four months worth of DVD rentals when they purchase a BD300. Owners can kick start their Blu-ray viewing by choosing from 32,000 DVD titles including over 300 Blu-ray titles.”

LG’s BD300 also counts DivX playback along with DVD and Blu-ray, and promises faster “booting, loading and tray opening faster than rival Blu-ray disc players”.

LG’s has a “SIMPLINK connectivity” system which” conveniently allows users to operate all functions with a single remote control”, while a USB port lets you playback JPEG, MP3 and WMA files.
More information on Panasonic’s new Blu-ray player is on page 2, please read on.

Panasonic’s DMP-BD35 aims to impress by being ultra-slim at “just 49mm” high.

Sophie Barton, Product Manager, DVD and Blu-ray, Panasonic Australia, said: “Amazing Full High Definition (FHD) home cinema is assured with high-quality sound from advanced formats and Panasonic picture technology designed for outstanding viewing.  With this Blu-ray player and the latest VIERA FHD TV, you can enjoy the full potential of Blu-ray movie viewing.”

“With quick start-up time, an easy to use menu and VIERA Link - plus connectivity with your digital camera and camcorder via an SD Card slot – the BD35 is a convenient, stylish model for the Australian loungeroom.”

Panasonic boasts that it uses a single LSI chip for signal processing, which helped to deliver a slim design and lower power consumption that the model it replaces, while offering better video and audio.

Just as LG has its SIMPLINK, Panasonic has VIERA Link, which lets Panasonic TVs and other Panasonic equipment (such as a home theatre system) to be operated by a single remote.

The DMP-BD35 also supports Dolby TrueHD, Dolby Digital Plus and DTS-HD Master Audio Essential which enables “7.1-channel surround sound newly adopted in Blu-ray discs”.

Panasonic has included lots of additional detail in its press release promising superior video, so if you’re not interested in a PS3 and want a standalone player, you should check out both models in store connected to an identical TV to see which one your eyes say looks better.

The thing is, in these newly economically troubled times, do households want to buy a $500 movie player if the DVD player is still working nicely?

$500 could also buy you a brand new smartphone, a netbook or a big pile of DVDs instead, so sales of all the latest tech will be very interesting to watch over the next few months, with GfK stats sure to show where consumers ended up spending their Christmas money.

If only Blu-ray players could sell for around the $200 mark – they’d be a much each purchase and a no-brainer to replace a broken DVD player with, but we probably won’t see that price point until 2010.

So, spend wisely, and if you’re still yet to join the HD revolution, perhaps the first thing you should buy, if you haven’t already, is a full HD 1080P television, because without one of those you won’t get the best that any Blu-ray player will offer.


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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

One of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.



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