Just when we got excited about seeing Panasonic's fourth generation top of the line player (the DMP-BD55) available for pre-order for $399, Amazon and Panasonic have outdone themselves offering its little brother, the new BD-Live-enabled DMP-BD35 model for $299 (update - price has dropped to $248.84 as of 11/10/08).
Both players feature the same advanced Uniphier video processor with PHL Plus chroma processing as well as on-board decoding of next generation high bit rate audio codecs (e.g., Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio).
The two major differences between the BD55 and the BD35 (also known as the DMP-BD35K) are that the BD35 does not include support for DivX file playback, nor does it have a multi-channel analog audio output. If you don't know or care what DivX files are and if you have a receiver or preamp/processor with HDMI audio support, then the BD35 is the player for you.
Here's the link to pre-order the BD35 on Amazon, Circuit City and Vann's for $299.95 (or less) with free shipping:
Also, available on Sears.com (in stock as of 1/23/09):
You can also get two free Blu-ray Disc movies from Disney by mail with the purchase of the BD35 - "The Nightmare Before Christmas" and "Ratatouille" - both of which have been noted for exceptional audio and video performance.
In terms of features, the BD35 offers support for BonusView and BD-Live, using the integrated SD/SDHC card reader for storage of downloaded BD-Live content (requires an optional SD or SDHC card). It also supports all of the HBR (High Bit Rate) surround sound codecs including Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby TrueHD, DTS-HD High Resolution Audio and DTS-HD Master Audio. Since the BD35 does not include a multi-channel analog output, support for the HBR codecs is strictly via HDMI output. It can pass the raw bistream or decode these advanced lossless codecs to multi-channel L-PCM. This means that any Audio/Video receiver with HDMI audio support will play nicely with the BD35.
If you have an older receiver or preamp/processor with no HDMI (but with multi-channel analog inputs), then you'd be better off ordering the BD55, but the rest of us can save a hundred clams and pick-up the BD35 instead.
NOTE: Now we've reviewed the DMP-BD55 and it's a winner! The BD35 should offer comparable video performance. Check out our DMP-BD55 review.
DMP-BD35K Key Features