Among the first-generation Blu-ray players, Panasonic's DMP-BD10 was remarkable for its higher-than-average price tag ($1,300 versus the $1,000 norm) and the company's promise of a future firmware upgrade that would unleash the full sonic power of Blu-ray audio soundtracks. Having made good on the firmware upgrade in April, Panasonic has now shaved 54 percent off the price. In addition to sporting the upgraded firmware, the newly christened DMP-BD10A will retail for $600 and include five Blu-ray movies--Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, Transporter, Fantastic Four, and Crash. Not coincidentally, all five films are Blu-ray exclusives; barring a major sea change in the high-def format war, it's unlikely they'll be seen on HD DVD in the foreseeable future.
While the newly discounted DMP-BD10A will be the exact same price as the Blu-ray-capable PlayStation 3, its audio capabilities may give it a leg up on Sony's console--at least for home theater buffs who appreciate such subtleties. Panasonic is pledging that the DMP-BD10A will deliver onboard decoding for Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio, a feature that would distinguish it from rival players such as the Samsung BD-P1200, which cannot decode those bleeding-edge better-than-DVD audio soundtracks or even pass them to an external AV receiver. And the Panasonic's 7.1-channel analog outputs would, in theory, be able to deliver those top-notch soundtracks to most run-of-the-mill AV receivers--no fancy HDMI ports required.
We'll be putting the DMP-BD10A to the test as soon as we can get our hands on a sample.