Panasonic DMP-B500 Portable Blu-ray Disc Player $720
What gift could possibly bring a bigger smile to a gadget hound’s face than a portable Blu-ray Disc player? How about one with a large, relatively high-rez screen that can also wirelessly stream movies from Netflix and music from Pandora? Panasonic’s DMP-B500 does all that and more: When it’s not being used for movies or music, the DMP-B500 can also serve as a digital photo frame, displaying pics via SD cards or USB thumb drives, or streaming them straight from Google’s Picasa Web Albums.
First and foremost, the DMP-B500 is a Blu-ray player, with features like an HDMI jack, 1080p/24 video output, and built-in Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio decoding. There’s a LAN port for connecting to a wired home network, and it comes with a USB Wi-Fi adapter. Panasonic also gives you a full-size remote as opposed to one of those silly credit-card ones.
A/V performance is up there with the other excellent players in Panasonic’s Blu-ray lineup: When I hooked it up to a TV and compared it with the company’s standalone DMP-BDT350, I didn’t see much difference between the two beyond the portable’s lack of 3D support. Pictures looked bright, punchy, and crisp on the 10.1-inch, 1024 x 600-pixel LCD screen. Its grayscale leans toward the too-cool side, and all video presets other than Night tend to blow out details in the picture’s darkest and brightest parts, but things still can’t help but look great when you start out with a high-quality source like Blu-ray.
Panasonic’s DMP-B500 is such a multipurpose product that it reminds me of those Transformers kids used to go nuts for in the 1980s. Now that those kids are grown up, they’d probably prefer something along the lines of the DMP-B500. And they could use it to watch the Transformers movies on Blu-ray. — A.G.
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