Blu-ray Players

Panasonic BD-60 Blu-ray Player

ARTICLE INDEX


Introduction

Panasonic has a long tradition of producing well regarded, competitively priced disc players. Many of their DVD players were among the best at producing a 480p image, and at a very reasonable cost. Panasonic was at it again with Blu-ray, being one of the main companies out there with a large line of affordable players for consumers, with some extra features that other companies don't include. How would their BD-60 stand up for day to day use was what I was about to find out.

Specifications

  • Design: Blu-ray Player
  • Supported Formats: BD-Rom, DVD-ROM, DVD-R DVD+R, CD, CD-R/RW.
  • Codecs: Internal and Bitstream Dolby TrueHD, DTS-HD Master Audio, Dolby Digital Plus
  • Supported Video Resolutions from HDMI: 480i, 480p, 1080i, 1080p60, 1080p24
  • Dimensions: 1.9" H x 16.9” W x 9.8” D
  • Weight: 5.7 Pounds
  • MSRP: $199.95
  • Panasonic USA

Design

The Panasonic BD-60 is a very compact Blu-ray player that will be easy to fit into your AV rack.

Lightweight and shallow, but still feeling reasonably solidly built, you'll find the majority of the connections that you are looking for on a Blu-ray player: HDMI, Component and Composite video, RCA and Optical audio outputs, and the BD Live required Ethernet jack.

On the front panel you have SD HC and and USB ports that are hidden behind the front panel. The one missing feature that some people might want are multichannel analog outputs, which would be nice considering the BD-60 can decode TrueHD and DTS-MA HD audio internally and transmit it as PCM over HDMI. However, Panasonic does offer this feature on their step-up BD-80 model, so people that don't need this feature won't have to pay extra for it to be built into their player. I do wish that Panasonic would provide the internal memory for BD Live instead of relying on an SD card, or including the SD card in the package, but since most other entry-level players seem to require this as well, it's not a deal breaker by any stretch.

One thing that I did like was the included remote. While not backlit and fairly lightly constructed, it has a nice, simple layout with large numbers and icons on the commonly used buttons and felt good in my hand. Since the remote is one feature that so many companies seem to get wrong on Blu-ray players, it's nice to see that Panasonic got it right by keeping it simple and easy to use.


Setup

I'm sure all reviewers, just like myself, are grateful for HDMI when hooking up new components. Hooking up the Panasonic was as simple as plugging in the power cord, hooking up a spare HDMI cable to my receiver, and connecting an Ethernet cable. Once I had it connected, the first thing I always do is check for an updated Firmware, a process made much easier now that almost all Blu-ray players and other components contain Ethernet jacks. The Panasonic player connected quickly to the website, pulled down a new firmware, and updated the player quickly while I waited for a couple minutes. I would advise that people do the same with any new piece of electronics as an issue that you might into later might have already been fixed with an updated firmware release.

Once the player was updated, I continued into the setup menus, which were well designed and easy to follow. The player supports 1080p/24 playback, so I selected that for my output, and then chose to have the player decode TrueHD and DTS-MA HD for me and send it as PCM, instead of bitstreaming. I also recommend that other people do the same since the only drawback you will have is the lack of a TrueHD or DTS-MA HD light on your receiver, but you gain better support for alternate audio tracks on the Blu-ray and potentially room correction on your receiver. Once I had my audio and video settings configured, it was time to start by watching some movies.


In Use

The first thing you will notice with the BD-60 compared to other players (such as a PS3 or an Oppo BDP-83) is that it is a bit slower to boot and load BD-Java than those players are. However, it's quicker and more responsive than some more expensive players that I have tested in the past, and the speed wasn't so slow that I was annoyed by it, it was just slower than my usual player.

The Dark Knight

My initial test disc was The Dark Knight, which I almost always come back to for it's fantastic image quality and soundtrack. During playback, the Panasonic did not disappoint. The image looked as good as it should, with deep blacks and lots of detail, and the 24p feed was perfect. The BD-60 did a fine job with the audio as well, sending a lossless PCM stream to my receiver with all the thunderous explosions and sound effects that I expect to hear in the film. The Panasonic might lack some of the detailed picture controls that a player like the Oppo will have, but with a pristine source like this, none of those extra controls were needed by me. As I mentioned, the load times were not as quick on this BD-60 as on other players, but responsiveness in the menus was fine, and once the movie started you would not have noticed a difference.

The BD-60 features some extra internet connectivity options that helps to differentiate it from the other entry level players out there. The VieraCast menu gives you the options to connect to YouTube, Picassa, and Amazon On Demand, as well as weather updates. Panasonic is also able to keep adding new features to this with future firmware updates if they wish. Trying out the YouTube access, I was able to easily log into my YouTube account and browse my movies, as well as movies that I had previously tagged as my favorites. Searching for other movies was a bit harder since you have to use a remote instead of a keyboard, but I was able to watch a few movie trailers fairly easily. Of course, most things on YouTube look pretty bad when shown on a 50" plasma, but there's nothing the Panasonic can do about the image quality of the source.

Accessing Picasa was quick and easy as well. I logged in and looked around at the pictures of my friend's recent vacation, and at a few of the images that I had recently uploaded as well. Image quality here was better than on YouTube because the source material was so much better, and it made for a really nice way to show friend or family pictures when they come over. The simple weather update applet worked just fine for me, and I was unable to test the Amazon On Demand feature as I do not have an account with any content there. Overall, aside from starting up a bit slower than other players, the Panasonic was a competent player in day-to-day use and lacked any glaring weaknesses.


On the Bench

Measurements were taken with our Tektronix Oscilloscope from the component analog video outputs at 1080i resolution. The BD60 didn't exhibit any problems with Y/C delay and measured a white level at a perfect 100 IRE. The BD60 passes below black and also passed our pixel cropping tests. The BD60 was measured to have a near ruler flat frequency response curve which translates into it displaying superb picture quality.
In our HD section of the benchmark the Panasonic exhibited only a few hangups. Although, the BD60 failed our tests for proper 1080i/p conversion as artifacting was witnessed on some material it did pass our test for banding. Since the BD60 doesn't employ any advanced noise reduction techniques it got a failing score on our noise reduction tests. On the upside, the BD60 had very good diagonal filtering and passed all of our "jaggies" tests and also was able to display the full 1920x1080 image without cropping any pixels.

Standard DVD Performance

The Panasonic BD60 has very good standard DVD performance with the exception of a couple minor hangups.

In our standard DVD deinterlacing tests the BD60, connected via HDMI, sailed through all of our film based deinterlacing tests. Using component video connections some minor flaws were present as the player failed our bad edit test and our 3-2 cadence video flags test.

On video based material the BD60 is motion adaptive but fails our 2-2 cadence test and also has difficulty recovering back and forth between film and video.

On the usability portion of the benchmark the BD60 had good overall response and clocked in at a little over a second for a layer change, which gives it a borderline score on our test.


Conclusions

The Panasonic BD-60 is a well designed, good performing Blu-ray player that is trying to stand out in the crowded field of entry level Blu-ray players. With a compact design, good video and audio performance, added Internet content, and a well designed remote it offers a good value for what you are paying. It doesn't have some of the features of higher-end players (analog multi-channel outputs, WiFi, Netflix, integrated memory), but it is a good entry level player for someone looking to take the plunge into Blu-ray that doesn't need any of those things.