Blu-Ray Über Alles!

So, Toshiba has given up the ghost, thrown in the towel, jumped the shark and called it a day. HD DVD is dead, officially. Blu-Ray is the de facto winner in the Hi-Def format stakes. So can you finally buy a Blu-Ray player without regret?
Well, yes and no. Blu-Ray is still an evolving standard. As such, a player you buy today may or may not support discs you buy in the future, which sucks but there it is.
I already own an HDTV LCD from Westinghouse (that, unfortunately, suffers from some HDMI 1080p bugs that produce blue sparkles whenever I send those signals to it) and just upgraded to a new Denon 3808ci that supports Dolby TrueHD and DTS Master Audio for lossless 7.1 surround, so I’m mostly set to start watching Blu-Ray movies. After some due diligence, I have ordered the Panasonic DMP-BD30K, the first stand-alone player to fully support Blu-Ray 1.1, the “final standard profile,” the main benefit of which is BD-J (Blu-Ray Disc Java) for picture-in-picture video playback, meaning you can do things like compare two different versions of scene, or watch the director give his commentary in addition to listening to it.
For what that’s worth to you.
Why didn’t I buy the PS3, which is pretty much what anyone recommends when considering a Blu-Ray player? Two reasons, mainly. First, it’s really noisy. Not as noisy as an Xbox 360, but noisy enough that watching quiet passages in a movie would be hampered by my knowledge of that annoying fan noise coming from somewhere. Secondly, the PS3 uses Bluetooth to receive remote control commands rather than infrared, so you’re forced to either use the game controller to figure out how to watch a movie, or buy their cheap plastic Bluetooth remote instead of being able to simply program your handy-dandy universal remote, which I find ludicrous.
If you’re thinking of getting a Blu-Ray player, and those two idiosyncrasies don’t seem like a bother, the PS3 is kind of a no-brainer. It has an Ethernet port on it so Sony can send it regular updates to comply with the evolving changes in the Blu-Ray standard, and it has copious internal memory so anything you want to download as part of the upcoming 2.0 standard (mostly involving online toys like “play a video game based on Alien vs. Predator against your friends! (who also own a 2.0 compliant Blu-Ray player)”) will be able to find space.
Or, simply wait until around June when Panasonic issues the DMP-BD50, the upgraded and likely more expensive version of the BD30 that will include 2.0 support natively.
I’ll let you know, once I have the Panny 30 plugged in, whether it’s worth the trouble.

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