Good picture, strong range of features including Viera Cast and BD-Live, can be used as standard Blu-ray player, it's portable!
Screen is limited by its size and viewing angle, limited video/audio format compatibility, battery life not great
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that as technology prices fall, so too does its dimensions. With Blu-ray prices nudging the kind of outlay that would have been expected for a quality DVD player just a couple of years ago, Panasonic has come out with a portable Blu-ray player - the sort of thing you can easily shunt between bedroom and kitchen, or even take round to your envious mate's Blu-ray free house for some hi-res video action. On the way you could even plug it into your car's cigarette lighter.
'Portable' is something of a moot point with the DMP-B15 however. Yes, you can pick it up without much trouble, but you certainly can't stick it in your pocket, and it doesn't come with its own carry case. So it's not portable in the way that an iPod's portable but at 256x59x202mm and 1.7kg it's small enough and light enough to make carrying it around from room to room less than a chore. Its folding form factor helps here too, with its swivelling screen that folds flat on top of the disc tray to form a compact package. It's designed to sit upright on its own stand but it's a shame this isn't more flexible for finding your optimum viewing angle.
A serious question as to the wisdom of a portable Blu-ray player is of course the screen size. At just 8.9in you're never going to get the wow factor of pin-sharp, room-filling screens which Blu-ray was effectively designed for. Certainly not with a picture resolution of 1,024x600 pixels.
However, it's not limited to its own screen. It has an HDMI port (just the one, mind) which allows you to plug it into a big ol' screen and use it as a standard Blu-ray/DVD player capable of outputting Full HD 1080p at 24fps if that's your bag. If you have a Panasonic TV you can even control it through the DMP-B15's only slightly smaller than normal remote via Viera Link.
Panasonic hasn't skimped on the features though, with both BD-Live additional content and Panny's own web portal Viera Cast available through the DMP-B15's Ethernet port, though perhaps surprisingly for a 'portable' device, there's no Wi-Fi on board.
Viera Cast is still very much a work in progress, with YouTube videos, Picasa pictures and weather forecasts still the highlights in its not particularly broad offering. There's no onboard memory to speak of for downloading BD-Live content, but you can add an SD memory card of your choice.
So far so good for the specs. But the first whiff of compromise comes when you start it up and load a disc. Recent full-size players from Panasonic and others are capable of delivering load-up times of less than a minute, the DMP-B15 typically seemed to take around a minute and a half, which can get a little frustrating after a while, especially after the 20-30 seconds it takes to start up in the first place.
There are of course compromises to be made too with a smaller screen. The viewing angle is necessarily tight, colours are perhaps a little too in-your-face and the contrast isn't quite as subtle as we'd like. That said though, motion handling is particularly smooth, and we were pleased to see Panasonic's own PHL Reference Chroma Processor Plus (P4HD) which shows you're not just paying for the portable novelty with the DMP-B15. Even when we connected it to a 47in screen, movement seemed particularly smooth and detail noteworthily sharp.
The DMP-B15's own small speakers offer understandably limited fidelity but through headphones it's punchy and full-range. There are no analogue audio outputs for connecting to a 5.1 or even 2.1 speaker system, but it can deliver Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio through the HDMI connection.
The memory card slot wasn't as full-featured as we'd hoped though. Although it will take both SD and SDHC cards (and with a suitable adaptor, you could even use the sort of microSD card that may have come with your phone) we could only get it to accept JPEG and MPEG2 video files - it refused to handle our much more common MPEG4, WMV, or AVI video files, or our AAC, WMA and even MP3 files, though the specs claim it should be able to handle the latter.
Accessing BD-Live material proved straightforward however, with the menu option available when the player's connected to your network via Ethernet cable. Viera Cast was equally a breeze to use, especially with Panny's clearly thought out menu system for navigating.
The battery life isn't all that good, since it never seemed to quite deliver on its three hour promise - it always seemed to stall around the 2.5 hours mark, which will barely get you a single instalment of Lord Of The Rings.
Available for a shade under £500 if you shop around online, it's a hefty price to pay for a Blu-ray player, but its adaptability makes it worth considering. It's picture quality, connection options and technology specs mean it passes muster as quality Blu-ray player, and the portability aspect offers more than just novelty value. Upgrading every DVD player in your home may not be cost-effective just yet, but a device like this gives you the flexibility to watch wherever, on the big screen in the living room, in the kitchen, or the kids' bedrooms. It's a worthy addition to Panasonic's already hefty Blu-ray range.
If you consider that a high end portable is going to set you back anywhere from £300-£350/400?? £500 isnt realy very pricy at all. Especialy seeing it is blueray and not many people have a blueray player in their homes.If i wasnt financialy restricted due to disability i would certainly consider one.