Cigar Aficionado

Panasonic Portable Blu-ray Player

Blu-ray discs are made for viewing on big high-def TV screens, where their vastly superior resolution offers clear benefits over DVDs. Why, then, would anyone fork over good money for a comparatively petite-screened portable Blu-ray player? The answer isn't the screen, it's the discs. Sometimes you want that movie to move with you as you travel (parents with fidgety young 'uns who require a dose of digital distraction to avoid being ejected from a moving vehicle are nodding their heads in agreement right about now), and Blu-ray discs don't work in portable DVD players. Enter Panasonic to restore domestic tranquility and maintain highway safety with the first and only portable Blu-ray player, the DMP-B15.

At $800, this is a pricey piece of gear, but at least you get what you pay for. The DMP-B15 is a full-featured player, including support for the latest picture-in-picture and Internet-based Blu-ray content formats (there's an Ethernet jack to hop online when you're watching at home). When you're not playing a disc (Blu-ray, DVD or CD, of course), an SD memory card slot lets you view your favorite digital photos, one at a time or in an automated slideshow (particularly nice when hooked up to an HDTV). You can play digital video files from CD or memory card, though MP3 music playback is only available from CD, a design misstep. And Panasonic's Viera Cast online service lets you enjoy free content from YouTube and Bloomberg along with pay-per-view streams from Amazon Video On Demand.

As for the built-in display, it's a wide-screen LCD that measures 8.9 inches diagonally, with 1024 x 600 resolution. It may not be huge but it looks mighty tasty, with deeply saturated colors and plenty of brightness to support outdoor viewing.

Some peculiarities need to be ironed out, including the pivoting screen that has to be turned and folded flat to watch (i.e, it won't work when opened at an angle like a notebook computer display). The battery charge lasts for only about three hours. And for some odd reason, there's no mute key on the remote control. All in all, though, the DMP-B15 is full-featured and fun to own, whether it's headed for the back seat, out to the front porch or from room to room in your home.