When Panasonic announced its two new Blu-ray players in early September--the DMP-BD35 and DMP-BD55--the press release was long on features but mum on pricing. Now Video Business (via The Digital Bits) is reporting that the BD35 will retail for $400 and the step-up BD55 will cost $500. (Except for the latter model's analog 7.1-channel audio outputs, the players--both of which will boast cutting-edge Profile 2.0/BD-Live capability--are largely the same.)
By comparison, the older Panasonic DMP-BD50 retails for around $600. The new models are said to deliver improved video quality, faster disc-loading times, and lower power consumption, but otherwise they'll be very similar to the previous models. Considering that the BD50 is currently the top-rated standalone (that is, non-PlayStation) Blu-ray player on CNET, that's hardly a bad thing.
When we contacted Panasonic for confirmation of the Video Business story, the company representative stated that "the price has not been set yet," and that it won't be confirmed until October (which is when the players are scheduled to hit stores). A quick Google search indicates that they don't yet appear available for pre-order, either. Assuming the leaked prices are correct, though, we'd say they're still about $100 too high. With the PS3 still looming large over the Blu-ray market--and the whipsawing economic landscape encouraging belt-tightening all around--standalone players need to be heading far south of the PS3's $400 price tag in order to effectively compete with Sony's do-it-all game console, which is still a great deal. With older and no-name players already retailing below the $250 mark, we're guessing Panasonic will get there sooner or later. In the meantime, we'll let you know when the company officially prices these models.