This is the player Panasonic should have launched first
What is the Panasonic UB700?The Panasonic DMP-UB700 is their latest 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray player and is essentially the same as their flagship DMP-UB900 but at a cheaper price of £399. Naturally Panasonic have had to drop some features to reach the lower price point, so there's no analogue audio outputs, no THX certification and a simplified remote control but in most other respects the two players appear to be identical. The UB700 supports 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray, 2D and 3D Blu-ray, DVD and CD, along with the main 4K streaming services and it's also Ultra HD Premium certified. It has twin HDMI outputs and also supports High Dynamic Range, Wide Colour Gamut and lossless audio, so you can enjoy object-based formats like Dolby Atmos and DTS:X. So if you don't need analogue outputs, and most users won't, is there a catch? Let's find out.
Design & ConnectionsThe design of the UB700 essentially mirrors that of the more expensive UB900, with a fairly traditional glossy black box appearance. The UB700 doesn't have some of the subtle design touches found on the more expensive model, such as the brushed metal top, and since it isn't THX certified, there's no badge on the front either. The build quality is good, although not quite as solid as the UB900, and that player's large supporting feet have also been dropped to shave off some production costs. The UB700 measures 430 x 61 x 199mm (WxHxD) and weighs in at 2.3kg.
However aside from those fairly minor cosmetic differences, the two players are almost identical from the front, with a large glossy black flap that covers the entire length. This flap drops down to reveal the disc tray on the left hand side, which is quiet and smooth in operation. Like the UB900 there is fan at the back but, as with the flagship player, we didn't hear any fan noise when using the UB700. There is a window in the drop-down flap so that you can see the display, which is fairly basic and simply shows the elapsed time on the disc. Under the display there's an SD card slot and a USB port. That's about it for the front of the player, aside from touch sensitive eject and power buttons at the top left of the chassis. These controls are really hard to see in a darkened home cinema, so we tended to use the remote control to turn the player on or off and open and close the disc tray.The big differences between the UB700 and UB900 are more obvious when you look at the rear of the two players. The UB700 includes twin HDMI outputs, the first of which is HDMI 2.0a with HDCP 2.2 and it supports both video and audio. This is the HDMI output you use to connect directly to your suitably equipped display or AV receiver. If however your receiver or soundbar doesn't support HDMI 2.0a or HDCP 2.2, then you can use the second output for the audio. There is also an optical digital output and an Ethernet port but that's your lot apart from built-in wireless capability of course. So gone are the coaxial digital output, the dedicated 2-channel analogue outputs and the 7.1-channel analogue outputs found on the UB900 and Panasonic have also dropped the gold plating on the connections. The other obvious difference between the two players is that the UB700 uses a two-pin power cable, rather than the three-pin type found on the more expensive player.
The UB700 is very similar to the UB900 until you look at the rear and notice all the differences
Control & InterfaceAlthough we would expect Panasonic to cut certain corners to reach a lower price point and we don't really miss the analogue outputs because, like most people we just use HDMI these days, we were disappointed by the included remote control. Unlike the UB900 which has a lovely remote that is well made, backlit, comfortable to hold and easy to use, the UB700 comes with the stripped-down remote familiar from many of Panasonic's cheaper players. This remote is small and plastic, with no backlight and the navigation buttons are towards the bottom, which we found unbalanced the remote when using it with one hand.
All the basic buttons that you need to control the UB700 are present and correct but Panasonic don't include certain buttons found on the UB900's remote. So there's no direct access to the Picture Settings or the Playback Info button, which is a shame because we really like these features, especially the Playback Info button which shows you what is on the disc and exactly what the player is outputting, so it can be really useful. You can access both these features via the Options Menu but we like being able to just directly select them, especially the Playback Info screen, which is handy for quickly checking what the player is outputting.
The fact that all these features are on the UB700 suggests that this player has the same internal architecture as the more expensive player and the loss of the THX certification has more to do with saving on royalties than performance. The setup of the UB700 is fairly straightforward, you just need to connect the player to your display and audio solution (as appropriate) and setup a wired or wireless connection. Once connected to the internet, the player will inform you of any firmware updates, which Panasonic seem to do on a fairly regular basis, After that the majority of key controls default to their automatic settings, which means that the player can detect the capabilities of your display and adjust itself accordingly.
The menu system is broken down into a series of sub-headings, the first of which relates to the HDMI outputs. All the basic options default to their automatic settings but, depending on the capabilities of your display, you can set 4K (50p/60p) Output to either 4:2:0 or 4:4:4. The player outputs at 12-bit and there's no option to select 10-bit as an alternative, this didn't cause any issues for us but we understand this can result in banding on some older 4K displays. Under the Advanced Settings you'll find controls for Colour Mode, Deep Colour Output and High Dynamic Range, all of which also default to their automatic settings. In general you really don't need to change many settings when configuring the UB700 and it will do most things for you, unless of course you want to fine tune the settings to match your particular display.The Picture Settings menu is where you can find additional controls for Sharpness, Noise Reduction, Colour and Luminance. In general we would leave these controls at zero but under Sharpness Adjustment there is a control called Edge Correction that we would recommend setting to +1 because at zero there is slight ringing around fine details. There is also a control called Dynamic Range Conversion Adjustment that might prove useful. If you have a non-HDR TV the UB700 will automatically down-convert HDR content to SDR and assume the TV has a peak brightness of around 300 nits, However if you actually know the peak brightness of your TV, then you can use the Dynamic Range Conversion Adjustment control to move between a range which, although it actually doesn't say it, goes from 100 to 1000 nits.
This same level of functionality also applies to the audio side of things, although once again if you just want the player to configure itself automatically then it can, depending on how you have the HDMI outputs connected. There are features such as Dynamic Range Compression and Audio Delay that you might want to use and don't forget to make sure the BD-Video Secondary Audio is off if you plan on bit streaming Dolby Atmos or DTS:X. The UB700 includes a feature called High Clarity Sound and this allows you to switch off unnecessary circuits for improved audio fidelity. So for example if you are using the HDMI outputs you can switch off the optical digital output and also the display if you like. There's also a down sampling option for the optical output, a multi-channel to 2-channel down mix feature and an HDMI output setting for music playback.
The feature set on the UB700 is excellent but the remote control is a disappointment
Features & SpecsThe main selling point of the UB700 is its ability to playback 4K Ultra HD Blu-rays and this means that it supports a resolution of 3840 x 2160, as well as the HEVC codec, 10-bit video, Rec.2020 and HDR 10. In the case of the Panasonic it also includes 4K High Precision Chroma Processing, Direct Chroma Upscaling and up to 4K 60p/4:4:4 output at 12-bit. Other key features include High Clarity Sound Premium, High Res Audio and Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, whilst the UB700 also has built-in WiFi and support for 4K streaming. The Panasonic is certified as Ultra HD Premium by the UHD Alliance, whilst the inclusion of the main 4K streaming video services means that you can use the player as a single 4K video source. The UB700 doesn't include support for Dolby Vision but currently no 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray player does and there are no discs that use this form of HDR. The UB700 has the same elegant home page found on the more expensive player, which allows you to access all the main features.
That means if you want to watch video content you select Videos and the same goes for Music and Photos, whilst if you want to stream content from your Home Network you can do so via DLNA. We found in testing that the UB700 streamed content from our home network effectively and offered an extensive range of file support. In terms of video the UB700 can support HEVC, AVCHD, Xvid, MKV, MP4 and MPEG-2; in terms of audio it can handle FLAC (192kHz/24bit), WAV (192kHz/32bit), ALAC (192kHz/32bit), DSD (2.8MHz and 5.6MHz), WMA, AAC and MP3; whilst with photos it can accept JPEG and MPO. Finally under Network Services you will find all the apps and specifically the 4K video streaming services from Netflix, Amazon and YouTube. Unfortunately we weren't able to test the 4K capabilities of these apps because of limitations in our broadband speed but they worked extremely well with 1080p apart from not automatically outputting at the correct refresh rates, which was restricted to 60Hz.
MORE: What is Dolby Vision?
The UB700 is a great disc player that delivers a superb level performance in terms of video and audio
4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Playback
In terms of their performance with 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray discs, we could see absolutely no difference between the UB700 and the UB900 and both offer flawless playback. We have a fairy large collection of Ultra HD Blu-rays now and the UB700 handled all of our reference discs without a hitch. We watched old favourites like The Revenant, Deadpool and Sicario, all of which were stunning, whilst a recent reference disc like X-Men: Apocalypse was just as impressive. The player was taking the HEVC encoded, 4K (3840 x 2160) resolution, HDR, Rec. 2020, 4:2:0, 10-bit content on the disc and outputting it as a 4K, HDR, Rec. 2020, 4:4:4, 12-bit signal. We knew this by using the Playback Info. feature, although as we mentioned earlier we had to use the UB900 remote to actually access it. The images the player delivered adhered to the standards for High Dynamic Range, specifically HDR 10 and Wide Colour Gamut, with the DCI-P3 source encoded within the Rec. 2020 colour gamut.
The UB700's picture quality was impressive, with plenty of detail, saturated colours, great peak highlights and no visible banding or other artefacts. The playback of 24p and 60p content was also superb, with no motion issues or other problems observed, whilst the chroma processing was equally as impressive, converting 4:2:0 to 4:4:4. We had absolutely no issues in terms of navigation or playback and the discs all loaded without any problems. As we mentioned earlier the player outputs at 12-bit and although we had absolutely no issues we have heard of the 12-bit output on the Panasonic players causing banding on older 4K HDR TVs. Of course not all 4K displays support HDR and if that is the case, the UB700 can automatically down-convert the HDR signal to SDR; although you also have the option to turn off HDR entirely. As mentioned previously the player also has the Dynamic Range Conversion Adjustment control, that allows you to optimise the conversion range to suit the peak brightness of your non-HDR TV.
The UB700 can upscale lower resolution content to 4K and offers the choice of the following options - Automatic, 576p/480p, 1080i, 1080p or 4K. If you choose Automatic, the UB700 will upscale all lower resolution content to the Ultra HD resolution of 3840 x 2160 pixels, thus matching the native resolution your 4K display. The Panasonic also includes 4K direct chroma upscaling which can take Full HD Blu-ray or 1080p video streaming services and, using a high-precision multi-tap filter, take the Full HD 4:2:0 signal and upscale it to 4K/4:4:4. We tested the upscaling of the player with high definition content from regular Blu-rays and from video steaming services, as well as standard definition content from DVD. Overall the Panasonic proved to be a very capable performer, which isn't surprising as the company has been delivering superb video processing for years. As a result the player handled lower resolution content exceptionally well, delivering upscaled images that were detailed and free of unwanted artefacts.
Despite the arrival of 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray, the chances are that the majority of your viewing will still be dominated by Full HD Blu-rays, especially if you like 3D movies which aren't supported on 4K disc. Thankfully the UB700 is an excellent Blu-ray player, which means it can take what is on the disc and deliver it precisely to the display. We tested the Panasonic with our usual selection of 2D and 3D Blu-rays and the Panasonic played all the discs with ease, delivering great looking images that were detailed and judder-free. As mentioned in the previous section the 4K upscaling was excellent, so as a result the player was able to take the images and deliver every pixel with precision and without introducing scaling artefacts. We used a number of recent 2D Blu-ray releases during the review, including Captain America: Civil War and Zootropolis and the results were impressive. We also tried Inside Outand The Jungle Book in 3D, which the UB700 handled perfectly without introducing any issues.
Standard Definition Playback
Although it's unlikely you'll be watching much standard definition content on your UB700 these days, people do still have large libraries of DVDs and there might be something rare that is only available on standard definition disc. If that is the case you'll be glad to know that the UB700 was an equally effective performer in this area and had no issues playing both PAL and NTSC DVDs. The player exhibited excellent deinterlacing and cadence detection, with the interlaced signals being handled well regardless of whether it was film or video based or even a mixture of the two. In terms of motion there were no problems with our test discs, which appeared free of unwanted judder or other issues. As we mentioned in the previous section on 4K upscaling, the player was also able to take a deinterlaced standard definition signal and upscale it with real precision, resulting in images that were free of unwanted artefacts and surprisingly watchable.
Although the UB700 doesn't have the analogue outputs found on the more expensive UB900, the cheaper player is no slouch when it comes to delivering audio in the digital realm. The player includes Panasonic's Pure Audio on HDMI feature with a low clock jitter process, it also has High Clarity Sound Premium and High Resolution audio support. There's Digital Tube Sound and Surround Remaster and the UB700 can decode FLAC up to 192kHz/24-bit (5.1-ch), WAV at up to 192kHz/32-bit (2-ch), ALAC at up to 96kHz/32-bit (7.1-ch) and 192kHz/32-bit (5.1-ch) and DSD at 2.8MHz (2-ch and 5.1-ch) and 5.6MHz (2-ch). Perhaps more importantly from the perspective of its performance as a disc player, the UB700 can decode or bitstream Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital Plus and Dolby TrueHD, as well as DTS-HD High Resolution and DTS-HD Master Audio. Which means you can enjoy the Dolby Atmos, DTS:X Auro-3D soundtracks found on most Ultra HD Blu-rays.
The twin HDMI outputs are very useful and in fact vital if you have a soundbar or AV receiver that doesn't support HDMI 2.0a or HDCP 2.2. The UB700 is able to detect how it is connected and configure itself accordingly, although Panasonic actually recommend sending the video to your display via the main HDMI output and your audio to your receiver via the secondary HDMI output. They claim this will improve the sound quality, although when we tried this setup we couldn't really hear any difference when compared to just using the main HDMI output. The UB700 is certainly a great sounding player and it handled all the film soundtracks we tried with ease, regardless of whether we were using an Ultra HD Blu-ray, a Full HD Blu-ray, a DVD or even a CD. This makes the Panasonic a very capable digital audio source and we were pleased to see there were none of the dropouts that plagued the UB900 when it was first launched.
Panasonic DMP-UB700 Video Review
Disc Loading & Energy ConsumptionThe UB700 was reasonably quick when it came to booting up and loading discs and the Panasonic was on and showing its home page within 10 seconds of pressing the power button and a regular Blu-ray was loaded within 25 seconds and an Ultra HD Blu-ray within 45 seconds, whilst a DVD was playing within about 5 seconds. The disc navigation was reasonably quick and responsive, whilst the player itself was pleasingly quiet in operation. The power consumption was also suitably efficient, with the player drawing 0.2W in standby, 23W when idle and 25W when actually playing a disc.
The UB700 was fast and quiet in operation, with responsive controls and excellent energy efficiency
- Perfect playback
- Excellent 4K upscaling
- Twin HDMI outputs
- Extensive features
- Attractive design
- Decent build quality
- No Dolby Vision support
- No analogue audio
- Simplified remote control
Panasonic DMP-UB700 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Player Review
Should I buy one?
If you're looking for a 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray player then the Panasonic UB700 should certainly be at the top of your short list. You get a nearly identical player to the more expensive UB900 but for £200 less. Of course some features are dropped such as the analogue audio support but the chances are that you were never going to use that anyway and we suspect the lack of THX certification has more to do with saving on royalties than it does any loss in inherent performance. Our one complaint would be the remote control, which is a disappointment compared to the one included with the UB900. You also can't access Panasonic's useful Playback Info feature directly from the remote, which is a shame. Otherwise, the features are almost identical to the more expensive model, with the same flexibility in terms of setup, the same file support and streaming services.
Whilst all these features are nice things to have, the main reason for buying the UB700 is to watch discs and in this aspect it's identical to its more expensive sibling. The playback of 4K Ultra HD Blu-rays was flawless, as was the 2D and 3D Blu-ray playback, whilst the scaling of DVDs was equally as impressive, although streaming output is restricted to 60Hz. The digital audio performance was equally as impressive and as far as we can tell you lose nothing in terms of digital playback performance between the UB700 and the UB900. The Panasonic player was quick to boot up, quiet in operation, easy to navigate and responsive in terms of playback, it's also well made, nicely designed and energy efficient. The Panasonic DMP-UB700 is a great all-round 4K Ultra HD player and digital source and given it's price we are happy to award a Best Buy badge.
What are my alternatives?
We mentioned that the UB700 should be at the top of your short list but it's going to be a short list anyway because there aren't currently that many choices when it comes to 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray players. In terms of sheer value for money it's hard to beat the Xbox One S, the cheapest option of which is only £239. The recent news that the One S will also add Dolby Atmos support via a firmware update makes it an even more attractive option. However, if you're looking for a standalone player rather than a games console with a UHD BD drive built in, then you currently have two alternatives. You could go for Panasonic's own DMP-UB900 but the more likely alternative at this price point is the Samsung UBD-K8500. This player has recently had a price drop to £349 and aside from a slightly noisy fan we can't fault it. The build quality isn't quite as good and the design is rather divisive but it's a solid plug-and-play performer that does everything well. There's no difference in terms of playback and the K8500 automatically outputs streaming services at their correct frame rate, giving it the edge in that department. So the deciding factor is whether you want the added flexibility the UB700 offers in terms of setup but whichever one you choose you'll be getting a great 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray player.
Ease Of Use8
Value For Money9
Our Review Ethos
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