Panasonic's US$500 DMP-BD30 (price as of 4/24/2008) was one of the first Blu-ray Disc players to support BonusView, the Blu-ray specification for watching picture-in-picture content.
Unfortunately, the DMP-BD30 displayed washed-out images on our 50-inch 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 DMP-BD30 received the lowest overall rating from our jurors in video performance scores; it came in second worst in color quality, audio, and brightness and contrast.
That said, the 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 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, I noticed a very slight lag in the menus and when skipping chapters.
Another point in the DMP-BD30's favor: I 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.
One nice design touch: A panel on the front hides the basic controls, giving the DMP-BD30 a sleek look. It also hides an SD Card slot--a rarity on Blu-ray Disc players. You can play music files, JPEGs, and AVCHD high-def camcorder video off of an SD Card in this slot.
Sadly, extras like these don't make up for this model's relatively lackluster image and sound quality.