Panasonic's DMP-BD30 was one of the first Blu-ray Disc players to support BonusView, the Blu-ray specification for watching picture-in-picture content.

Unfortunately, the Panasonic DMP-BD30 displayed washed-out images on our 50in Pioneer plasma television. One of our jurors noted a tendency to "lose detail" in chapter 3 of the Blu-ray Disc version of 'Phantom of the Opera'; another juror noted that John Wayne's shirt and suspenders lost their three-dimensionality in a day-for-night scene from 'The Searchers' (chapter 20).

The Panasonic DMP-BD30 received a poor overall rating from our jurors in video performance scores; it fared little better in colour quality, audio, and brightness and contrast.

That said, the Panasonic DMP-BD30 doesn't look or sound bad when viewed in a vacuum. In fact, our jurors tended to rate it Good in one test after another, with the occasional Very Good and Fair ratings. But other players garnered higher marks; you don't buy a Blu-ray player for an image that merely looks good.

A big plus about the Panasonic DMP-BD30 is its speedy response times. The Panasonic powered on in a respectable (by Blu-ray standards) 23 seconds, and started playing a disc an additional 26 seconds later. While playing a disc, we noticed a very slight lag in the menus and when skipping chapters.

Another point in the Panasonic DMP-BD30's favour: we didn't have any trouble using the player, because menu navigation was clearly designed. The programmable remote has big, easy-to-read buttons and a curved back that fits nicely in the hand. The remote lacks a backlight, however, which makes those buttons less easy to read in the dark. The manual doesn't make for easy reading, either: its small text is densely packed into just 33 pages on cheap paper.

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