By Patrick Avenell

Longtime Asian rivals Japan and Korea are doing battle again, this time over Blu-ray. Leading brands Panasonic and LG both launched their new Blu-ray disc players this morning. The two models are equipped with BD-Live technology and are differentiated in price by only $4.

BD-Live, which is one of the main features of Blu-ray technology being used to promote the format ahead of DVD, enables users to connect with the internet and download additional content. This could include stills, subtitles, quizzes and multi-player games.

LG’s new player is the BD-300, which features 1080p full HD and Dolby True HD and DTS-HD for sound. Additionally, a USB stick can be used to expand the memory. Playback options include DVD, DivX, JPEG, MP3 and WMA. This model is RRP $499.

The DMP-BD35 from Panasonic is also full HD, and carries an HD audio decoder comprising Dolby TrueHD, Dolby Digital Plus and DTS-HD Master Audio Essential. Memory is expandable through an SD Card slot. Panasonic’s Viera link is integrated in this model. Slightly cheaper than LG’s model, this player is RRP $495.

Going head to head in the promotion of their respective products are LG category marketing manager Warren Kim and Panasonic product manager DVD and Blu-ray, Sophie Barton.

“Following on from the launch of the world’s first dual format disc player by LG, we continue to set trends in the industry with the BD300. On a local level we also look to add value with the bonus BigPond DVD Rentals promotion, offering consumers four months worth of DVD rentals when they purchase a BD300. Owners can kick start their Blu-ray viewing by choosing from 32,000 DVD titles including over 300 Blu-ray titles,” said Kim.

“Amazing Full High Definition (FHD) home cinema is assured with high-quality sound from advanced formats and Panasonic picture technology designed for outstanding viewing,” said Barton.

The launch of these new sub-$500 Blu-ray players come just a few weeks after Sony launched its own Blu-ray player at a more attractive price points. Samsung are currently trying to gazump them all, however, announcing last Friday that it would be giving Blu-ray players away with selected LCD and plasma purchases.

The LG BD300 will be available by the end of October. The Panasonic DMP-BD35 will be available mid-November.