By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
Panasonic's first home theater in a box (HTiB) system with integrated Blu-ray player will ship in June at a street price of $999, and the company's third-generation Blu-ray player will ship in late spring at a $699 street price, company executives announced.
The $699 DMP-BD50 player, which joins the $499 BD30, will be the company's first stand-alone player with embedded decoders for all of the optional surround-sound formats authorized for use on BD discs. The optional formats are Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby Digital TrueHD, DTS-HD High Resolution, DTS-HD Master and 7.1-channel 96kHz/24-bit PCM.
Among the optional formats, the BD30 offered only 7.1-channel PCM. Mandatory formats in BD players are 5.1-channel PCM, Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1.
The BD50 also complies with the Blu-ray 2.0 profile (a.k.a. BD Live), whose bi-directional capability lets players download additional extras content via an Ethernet connection for playback. It also enables interactive applications such as playing video games over the Internet or engaging in online polling and ordering. On the BD50, downloaded BD Live content is played back from an optional SD memory card, inserted in the player's front panel, instead of from embedded memory.
The BD30, in contrast, does not allow BD Live applications but does include the BD profile 1.1 spec (a.k.a. Bonus View), which allows for playback of additional content stored on Bonus View BD discs or on external flash memory to which downloaded content has been transferred from a PC.
Another BD50 feature not available on the BD30 is x.v. color support for AVCHD camcorder video played back from an SD card and for future BD discs.
Carryover features include Deep Color support and the ability to deliver Blu-ray Disc video in its original 24 fps form, eliminating the need for conversion.
Neither player supports DVD-Audio, nor does the SC-BT100 HTiB.
The player in the BT100 HTiB differs from the BD50 stand-alone player in that it incorporates the Blu-ray 1.1 profile, but like the BD50 player, it offers 24 fps output from Blu-ray discs, Deep Color support, decoders for all mandatory and optional Blu-ray surround-sound formats, and SD card slot with support for playback AVCHD camcorder video.
The BT100 is equipped with a 5.1-channel speaker system that includes two wireless surround speakers, but the system can be upgraded to a 7.1-channel speaker system with the addition of two more wireless speakers available at a $199 street price, including wireless receiver. With only 5.1 speakers installed, the system will deliver phantom back-surround channels to deliver a 7.1 soundfield.
The system also features embedded flip-out iPod dock that displays an iPod menu on a connected TV and, according to national marketing manager Paul Sabo, "plays iPod video from all generation iPods except for the iPhone."
In comparison, a new Blu-ray HTiB unveiled by Samsung, the street-priced $999 HT-BD2S, comes with wired 7.1-channel speaker system and conforms to the Blu-ray 1.0 profile; it lacks memory card slot, iPod dock and DTS HD Master decoding. It's available, joining a street-priced $1,499 HT-BD2.
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