Panasonic DP-UB820 4K Blu-ray Player Review
If you don't want a full-metal chassis and audiophile components, then this is the player for you
What is the Panasonic DP-UB820?The Panasonic DP-UB820EB is the manufacturer's mid-range, 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray player, sitting between the flagship DP-UB9000EB and the entry-level DP-UB320EB. The UB820 includes many of the same features as the top-end model, which means you get state-of-the-art 4K playback thanks to Panasonic’s HCX processor, High Dynamic Range (HDR) support, and the new HDR Optimiser feature. There's also Dolby Vision and HDR10+ decoding, 7.1-channel analogue outputs, streaming services, and high resolution audio.
So what don't you get? There's no full-metal chassis, THX certification, audiophile components, coaxial digital output, or two-channel phono and balanced XLR outputs. The UB820 also has a cheaper remote control, the older style home page, and a few menu differences. However, if you're planning on using the HDMI outputs, it's debatable whether you'd notice any difference between the two players. It's also worth pointing out that the UB820EB retails for £299 as at the time of writing (December 2018), which is a fantastic price.
So the main question is whether any differences in the UB9000EB justify nearly three times the price of the UB820? Let's put the player through its paces and find out.
DesignThe Panasonic DP-UB820 essentially looks like the company's UB900, which was the flagship player before the UB9000. That means you get a glossy black box, with a brushed metal top and a reasonably decent level of construction. The build quality is nothing like the UB9000, but that's what you're paying for, and the UB820 remains a well-engineered disc-spinner for the money. There is a fan at the rear but I couldn't hear it during operation and, overall, this is a reasonably quiet player. The disc tray is smooth, while the navigation and playback are quick and responsive. It isn't as quiet as the UB9000, but that was almost silent during playback. The chassis measures 430 x 62 x 204mm (WxHxD) and weighs in at 2.2kg.There's a glossy black flap that covers the entire front of the UB820, and this drops down to reveal the disc tray on the left hand side, and a display towards the middle. There is a window in the drop-down flap so that you can see the display behind it, which is fairly basic and simply shows the elapsed time on the disc. Under the display there's a USB port, but the SD card slot found on previous generations has been dropped. That's it for the front of the player, aside from the eject and power buttons at the top left of the chassis. Thankfully, these are physical buttons, rather than the touch sensitive versions used on previous models, making them much easier to find in the dark.
It might not have the build quality of the UB9000, but it's attractive and well made
Connections & ControlAside from the USB port on the front of the Panasonic DP-UB820EB, all the other connections are at the rear. Here you’ll find twin HDMI outputs: one for video/audio, and one for just audio. There is also another USB port, along with an optical digital audio output, but no coaxial digital output. The player has an Ethernet port for a wired connection, but naturally there’s also built-in Wi-Fi (802.11a/b/g/n/ac).
The UB820 might not have the dedicated phono and balanced XLR outputs found on the UB9000, but it does have a full set of 7.1-channel analogue phono outputs. The front left and right outputs of this 7.1-channel set of connectors double for a dedicated analogue stereo output. However, most people will probably just use the HDMI outputs on the UB820, which I expect to be the same as UB9000.The UB820 comes with Panasonic's standard remote control, which is a relatively small, black plastic number with no backlight. The navigation buttons are towards the bottom, which slightly unbalances the remote when using it with one hand. However, all the basic keys that you need are present and correct, with playback controls towards the centre, numerical keys above them and even a button for directly accessing Netflix. There's also a dedicated HDR Settings button to directly access the HDR presets, along with the Playback Info button. The latter is really useful, allowing users to quickly access information about how the disc was encoded (resolution, colour gamut, bit depth) and what the player is outputting.
There's a decent set of connections, and an effective remote control
Panasonic UB820 Features & SpecsThe Panasonic DP-UB820EB boasts an impressive set of specifications that includes playback of most disc formats, such as Ultra HD Blu-ray, 3D Blu-ray, Blu-ray, DVD and CD. In fact, the only formats it doesn't support are SACD and DVD-Audio, but they're fairly rare these days.
It also includes the latest generation of Panasonic’s HCX processor, which has been specifically designed for 4K playback. This processor includes a 4K, high precision, edge-adaptive chroma processor, optimised for both BT.709 and BT.2020, and improved chroma upsampling for better colour detail during playback.
The UB820 can also upscale lower resolution content to 4K, and is compatible with every current version of High Dynamic Range: HDR10, HDR10+, Dolby Vision and Hybrid Log-Gamma (HLG). It can also convert HDR to SDR, and even strip HDR for 4K, 10-bit, BT.2020 playback, which can be useful for 4K projectors.
Just like the UB9000, the UB820 includes the HDR Optimiser, which is designed to tone map content to match the capabilities of your display. Panasonic believes that the tone mapping in their players is often better than many TVs, and this new feature allows you to take advantage of it.
The HDR TV Type menu differs slightly from the UB9000, and only has a choice of OLED, Super High Luminance LCD, Middle or High Luminance LCD, and Basic Luminance LCD and Projector. The UB9000 lists projectors separately and includes options for high and basic luminance projectors.
You choose the most appropriate option, based on your type of display, and then activate the HDR Optimiser by either going into the Optimum HDR Adjustment submenu in the Picture Settings or by holding down the HDR Setting button on the remote for more than two seconds.The player supports 4K HDR video streaming services from Netflix, Amazon and YouTube. All these services are capable of delivering 4K, HDR10 and, where applicable, Dolby Vision. If there's one area on Panasonic's players that really needs an upgrade, it's the smart platform. The user interface for the smart features is starting to look very dated, and the entire experience is rather unresponsive.
As with the UB9000, the Netflix app shows all content as HDR10 or Dolby Vision – depending on whether the Dolby Vision setting in the menu is on or off. Conversely, the Amazon app correctly shows SDR, HDR and Dolby Vision content as it has been graded and encoded. Panasonic claim that this is a Netflix requirement, but if so it makes no sense to me and is detrimental to the image quality of SDR content.
When I connected the UB820 directly to my LG C8, Jack Ryan on Amazon was in Dolby Atmos, but on Netflix the only option for its Atmos shows like Daredevil was a 5.1 soundtrack. Conversely, if I connected the player via my Arcam AVR850, I was then able to get Dolby Atmos from Netflix, but no longer able to get Jack Ryan in Dolby Atmos. I can only assume there are compatibility issues when it comes to Dolby Atmos on both Netflix and Amazon, but hopefully these will be addressed soon.
The UB820 may lack the balanced XLR analogue outputs, dedicated audio power supply, audiophile components, and high-end DACs found on the UB9000, but in most other respects it's similar. You still get an HDMI low clock jitter process and support for high-resolution formats, including DSD (11.2/5.5/2.8MHz), ALAC, FLAC, WAV and AIFF. The player has also been designed to boost the sound quality of lower resolution content, thanks to High Clarity Sound Premium, Digital Tube Sound with upsampling, and Surround Re-master.
It lacks audiophile components but the main features are similar to the UB9000
Setup & OperationThe Panasonic DP-UB820EB's home page is identical to the company's previous players, and thus slightly different to the UB9000, whose home page had a minor cosmetic makeover. Regardless of how the home page looks, it still provides access to all the main features
There's Videos, Music, and Photos – all of which can be accessed from an inserted disc or a connected USB device; Home Network for those looking to use DLNA for music or video playback; Network Service for accessing the streaming services; and the Setup menus.
The UB820 is easy to setup and, in fact, you could leave most of the controls at their default auto settings. The player will then read the EDID metadata of your display and set itself up to correspond to the display's maximum capabilities.
There is the option of setting Colour Mode, Colour Depth Output, and HDR/Colour Gamut Output. In the case of the latter you can choose between HDR/BT.2020 or SDR/BT.2020, which can be useful if your display doesn't handle HDR very well, but you still want to take advantage of 4K, 10-bit, and BT.2020.
The HDR Optimiser only works with HDR10 content, it's disabled for HDR10+ and Dolby Vision, and how effective it is really depends on the capabilities of your display and the sophistication of its tone mapping. For example, I generally preferred my LG 65C8's own processing with its dynamic tone mapping feature.
There's a useful menu option that allows you to turn Dolby Vision and HDR10+ dynamic metadata on and off. I was unable to test HDR10+, but the playback of Dolby Vision via the Netflix and Amazon streaming apps and 4K Blu-ray worked perfectly, aside from the issue I've already mentioned about Netflix.
In the Picture Settings menu, under Sharpness Adjustment, there is a control called Edge Correction, which I would recommend setting to +1 for Blu-rays because as with all of Panasonic's other players, the zero setting introduces slight ringing around fine details.
Setup is easy, and the UB820 is intuitive to use and reasonably quiet in operation
PerformanceAs far as the performance of the Panasonic DP-UB820EB is concerned, it was superb in terms of its playback. The disc tray was reasonably smooth and quiet in operation, with speedy and responsive loading and navigation of discs. I didn't experience any playback issues with the various DVDs, Blu-rays, and 4K discs I tried, and the UB820 handled Ultra HD Blu-rays extremely well, reproducing the 4K resolution, 10-bit video depth, WCG and HDR encoded on the discs.
The images were free of any unnecessary processing or back door noise reduction, and the Panasonic automatically detected a display's native capabilities and optimised its output accordingly. However, there are also plenty of opportunities to tweak the output, including setting the colour mode, bit-depth, and selecting 4:4:4 chroma upsampling. In the case of the latter, I should point out that although you can see minor ringing on certain chroma test patterns, I defy anyone to actually notice it with real content.
The UB820 delivered some gorgeous images with 4K discs encoded in HDR10, with films like 2001: A Space Odyssey and Mission: Impossible – Fallout often looking stunning. Those discs are also encoded with Dolby Vision, and the player had no problems when it came to playback of that format. The Panasonic could also produce HDR10 from YouTube, Netflix, and Amazon, along with Dolby Vision from the latter two as well. I wasn't able to test the UB820's HDR10+ playback, but it does support the format.
When it came to 2D and 3D Blu-ray discs the Panasonic was equally as impressive, delivering images free of any perceivable artefacts or unwanted image enhancements. As a result, the scaling on the player was excellent and produced sharp and detailed images. Even standard definition DVDs could look good, thanks to solid deinterlacing and scaling of low resolution images for a 4K screen. I couldn't compare the two players directly but the image quality of the UB820 appeared to be identical to the UB9000.
In terms of its digital outputs, I wouldn't expect the UB820 to sound any different to the UB9000 and once again, although I wasn't able to compare them directly, that was certainly my perception. Whether it was over HDMI or optical digital output, the audio appeared to be identical. The HDMI low clock jitter processing appeared to do a good job on both players, and the resulting digital audio performance was excellent, with a clear, clean and precise sound.
The UB820 can bitstream or decode both 5.1 and 7.1 Dolby TrueHD or DTS-HD Master Audio soundtracks, and can deliver them via HDMI or the 7.1-channel phono analogue outputs. The disc spinner also had no problems with immersive audio formats like Dolby Atmos and DTS:X. As I mentioned earlier, Dolby Atmos, which can be delivered via Dolby Digital Plus from the Netflix and Amazon apps, did appear to suffer from compatibility issues and whether it works might depend on your specific equipment.
The Panasonic UB820EB handled CD discs extremely well, and also did a great job with various audio files over my home network, making the Panasonic an excellent all-round digital media player. Unfortunately, as with all Panasonic players, there's no support for either SACD or DVD-Audio and this can't be added later via a firmware update. However, both formats are fairly rare these days, so it's likely to be unimportant to all but the most fanatical, high resolution audio enthusiast.
This well-specified player delivers an impressive performance at an excellent price
- Superb disc playback
- Dolby Vision/HDR10+ support
- HDR optimisation
- Decent build quality
- Great price
- No SACD or DVD-Audio playback
- Netflix app always outputs in HDR/DV
- Issues with Atmos from Netflix and Amazon
Panasonic DP-UB820 4K Blu-ray Player Review
Panasonic DP-UB820EB VerdictThe Panasonic DP-UB820EB is an excellent 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray player that is nicely designed and well put-together. It has a fairly minimalist appearance, with a drop-down flap across the front, a simple display, a USB port and two buttons. However, there's a good selection of connections at the rear, including twin HDMI outputs and 7.1-channel analogue outputs. The remote lacks a backlight but is reasonably well designed, with all the buttons you need. The setup is straightforward and the menu system is fairly intuitive, but the smart platform is in dire need of an update.
There is at least support for Netflix, Amazon, and YouTube, along with 4K, HDR, Dolby Vision, and Dolby Atmos where appropriate. However, I did find some compatibility issues where Atmos was concerned, and for some annoying reason the Netflix app always outputs in either HDR10 or Dolby Vision – depending on how the player is set up. Otherwise, the performance was impressive, with the UB820 handling every disc type aside from DVD-Audio and SACD (no great loss there). The playback was fast, responsive, and reasonably quiet, while the images and sound quality were largely flawless.
There's a host of useful features, designed to enhance you viewing experience – especially where HDR is concerned. In fact, the UB820 holds its own against the more expensive UB9000 and, while it doesn't have the analogue features found on the latter, I doubt anyone could tell the two apart over HDMI. When you consider that the UB820 is nearly a third of the price, that makes it something of a bargain and a definite Best Buy.
What are my alternatives?If you can afford the £849 asking price, then you could go for the Panasonic DP-UB9000EB, but unless you really need the all-metal chassis or balanced XLR outputs, I'd get the UB820 and save yourself £550.
Assuming you want a similar alternative there's the Sony UBP-X700, which you can pick up for just £184. It isn't quite as well made as the Panasonic, nor does it have analogue outputs or support HDR10+. However, it does offer a similar set of features in other areas, including Hi-Res Audio and Dolby Vision support. It also plays back SACDs if that's important, and has a more modern user interface on its smart platform.
If you want an alternative that supports HDR10+ rather than Dolby Vision, then your best bet is the Samsung UBD-M9500. This excellent player can currently be picked up for £249, and has a superior smart platform, great disc playback, and plenty of useful features.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £299.00
Ease Of Use9
Value For Money10
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