The number of Ultra HD Blu-ray players that you find in stores today leaves much to be desired. There are really only two players who really pay attention to it; Panasonic and Samsung. Panasonic is already ready for the second generation. The Japanese manufacturer introduced the cheaper brother of the impressive DMP-UB900. In this review we look at the Panasonic DMP-UB700 Ultra HD Blu-ray player.
Ultra HD Blu-ray
Now that almost all middle class and high-end TVs have the high 4K Ultra HD resolution , you obviously want to enjoy that higher resolution. You have been able to view 4K content via streaming services for some time, but since last month we also see the new Ultra HD Blu-ray discs appear. To play these discs you need an Ultra HD Blu-ray player, for example the Panasonic DMP-UB700.
But, Ultra HD Blu-ray is not just a higher resolution. The discs are also provided with 10-bit colors , a larger color range (rec.2020) and HDR ( high dynamic range ) display. If your TV supports these three standards, you will be ready for the future of TV with these discs.
Panasonic DMP-UB700 – specifications
The Panasonic DMP-UB700 is the cheaper brother of the DMP-UB900 that has been in stores since the beginning of this year. At the time of writing, the DMP-UB900 is sold for just under 700 euros, while the DMP-UB700 is introduced for 499 euros. That is a price difference of 200 euros but on paper the differences are not that big.
The DMP-UB700 looks very much like its more expensive brother in terms of specifications. The Ultra HD Blu-ray player comes with support for DVDs, CDs, Blu-ray’s and Ultra HD Blu-ray’s. There is also access to streaming services such as Netflix, you can also play DSD (5.6 MHz / 2.8 MHz) and ALAC music files in addition to the traditional WAV / FLAC / MP3 / AAC / WMA formats and you can also access WiFi via WiFi. various Internet Apps, DLNA servers and a web browser.
Little has changed under the bonnet. The player includes upscaling technology, such as Direct Chroma Up: 4: 2: 0 signals are converted to 4: 4: 4 variants. 2K Blu-ray discs are upgraded to 4K Ultra HD when the screen supports it. We also see the High Precision Chroma 4K processor back, there is support for high dynamic range (HDR), there are two HDMI outputs, DTS: X and Dolby Atmos are supported and you can play 3D Blu-ray movies.
Where are the changes then? The DMP-UB700 must compete with the DMP-UB900 without the analogue 2-channel and 7.1-channel outputs and the d / a-converter, comes without damping feet and a brushed metal top, is equipped with a simplified version of the remote control does not have gold-plated connectors and loses the THX certificate. As far as the latter is concerned, it is probably purely a question of royalties that do not have to be paid. Incidentally, with the DMP-UB900 an HDMI cable is supplied, with the DMP-UB700 not.
For this review use the LG E6V series OLED TV, the Denon AVR-X6300H receiver, a PlayStation 3 game console and Bowers & Wilkins CM S2 series speakers. We also used Netflix for testing 4K and HDR material.
Panasonic DMP-UB700 – design and connections
The Panasonic DMP-UB700 is on paper a less high-end model than the DMP-UB900 and we see that partly in terms of design and connections. The player comes with fewer premium design elements such as the top of brushed black metal and also the THX logo has disappeared. In addition, the new model has a black shiny look, which is slightly less premium than the brushed metal look, although it is subtle.
The front has remained largely the same, with a black colored (instead of a somewhat silver colored) mirroring flap behind which the disc tray, an SD card reader and a USB port are located. The display is visible through the flap. The build quality is fine; it is a fairly heavy and hefty (in terms of dimensions) player that is nicely finished and certainly not cheap to the touch. To save costs, Panasonic has chosen to remove the damping feet.
In terms of connections, we see one of the most important changes; the DMP-UB700 must be set without the 7.1-channel analog outputs. The average consumer can not see this quickly, but there are hi-fi enthusiasts who prefer these outputs. However, the player still comes with two hdmi ports, one of which you can use to connect a receiver or home theater system that does not support the latest hdmi version or hdcp 2.2. One HDMI output is then for the TV, while the other is used to send the audio towards the amplifier, soundbar or home cinema set. If you have a fully compatible system, then you obviously need only one HDMI output. Furthermore, the player comes with an optical digital output and an input for an ethernet cable (WiFi is also available). Absent are the digital coaxial output and the 2-channel and 7.1-channel analog outputs. Panasonic has not gilded the connections this time either.
Another change from the DMP-UB900 is the remote control. The DMP-UB700 comes with a small version that, like its big brother, is made of plastic but has smaller buttons and has no luminous keys. In addition, the remote control of the DMP-UB900 has a laminated top which looks a bit more luxurious and the larger buttons have a finer click and travel. The larger version is somewhat heavier and heavier, with a layout that works more intuitively.
With the most adaptations we can still live, and the remote control is fine in the hand, but the luminous keys we would have liked to see on this version. In addition, the number of buds is obviously also thinned out. For example, the buttons for the image settings and the information button have disappeared. All in all, the remote control of the DMP-UB700 is slightly less ‘premium’ finished, the layout is less fine and the lighting for the keys is lacking.
Panasonic DMP-UB700 – ease of use
As far as the interface is concerned, Panasonic has made no changes to the DMP-UB900. The two players use the same design and also the same menu structure. The style that Panasonic has chosen is pretty simple and tight, without lots of bells and whistles. The necessary is to be able to display all your media and to adjust the settings.
Setting up the player is quite easy; you connect the projector or TV, connect the player to the home network and you can get started. The main menu is divided into icons, with clear shortcuts to the most important functions. This way you can go directly to videos, music, photos, the network and the settings. In terms of settings it is again as extensive as we know from Panasonic. There are dozens of options that you can use to adjust the image display, but we always prefer the TV above the player. It is best to set the TV as optimally as possible in terms of image display and let the player transmit the content as pure as possible. The DMP-UB700 offers settings such as brightness, contrast, hue, sharpness, color saturation, etc. If a source offers HDR playback and your TV supports it, it will automatically appear. If the TV does not support this, you can influence the SDR (standard dynamic range) via a simple setting. This allows you to increase the brightness of the material in order to optimally use the maximum brightness of your TV and to get ‘direction’ HDR. This is perhaps the most convenient ‘extra’ setting.
As for the audio, you can also adjust a lot of settings. Panasonic makes it possible to output the audio via optical or hdmi and through a number of settings you can adjust the delay (delay) or restore the quality of audio with a lot of compression. High Clarity Sound (Optimal sound) should ensure optimal audio output by switching off various circuits, including the display and unused ports.
Since the DMP-UB700 uses the same chip and the same software as its more expensive brother, we now have nothing to complain about the ease of use. The player responds quickly to input, browsing the menus and applications smoothly and fluently, and after entering an Ultra HD Blu-ray disc you can start the film in about 40 seconds. The only downside for the novice user can be the abundance of setting possibilities, although it is good to know that most settings automatically stand for optimal viewing.
Panasonic DMP-UB700 – features
The smart TV functions of the dMP-UB700 are exactly the same as those of its more expensive brother. The player comes with a rather special or impressive smart TV section, basically an old smart TV section. We still know the software from TVs and players from three years ago and since then nothing has changed. For TVs, Panasonic now has Firefox OS but players have to do it with the moderate My Homescreen.
Yes, you have access to useful apps such as Netflix and YouTube (in HDR and Ultra HD) but that’s all. The further apps you can use are mainly aimed at Germany or the English users. For the Dutch there is little to find. However, you can easily access your own network and stream content through DLNA. The player offers support for almost all lossy and lossless file formats, including DSD.
Panasonic DMP-UB700 – image quality
The most important thing is of course the image quality that the DMP-UB700 delivers and we were very curious about the differences between the DMP-UB900 and this model (we both have them). After all, nothing should have changed on paper and looking at our review of the DMP-UB900 would mean a sublime image quality.
To immediately fall in with the door; the DMP-UB700 does nothing at all for its more expensive brother. We have not been able to discover any significant differences in image quality. Not in the sharpness, the display of subtle details, the display of colors and the contrast. We are very impressed by this model, which is not surprising since we were also impressed by his more expensive brother.
We have opened up the cabinets and services for all kinds of content, starting with sd content and hd content that is converted to 4K resolution through upscaling. In this area, the DMP-UB700 performs very well. The quality of sd-content (on DVD) leaves much to be desired and you can not make a very fine picture of it, but the Ultra HD Blu-ray player provides a smooth and comfortable view. There is of course some noise but it is easy to watch and that is the most important thing. The deinterlacing function does its job very well, resulting in smooth images with sufficient detail and dynamics. Here and there there is some faltering in fast moving images, but that is the only point of criticism.
The same thing can be said about hd content of streaming services, although we always indicate that we still prefer physical discs. Streaming services stream content and compression still plays an important role in this. The compression creates artefacts and a less clean and therefore impressive display. But, the Netflix hd material is perfectly captured by the player and converted to the high 4K resolution. Details are shown tightly, the colors are convincing and there are enough details to be seen in the dark parts of the image.
With (HD) Blu-ray discs the player really shows what he can do. The DMP-UB700 delivers images with precision, dynamism and natural beauty. About every pixel seems to be well thought out, resulting in incredibly detailed and clean images. The upscale function is of a high level, giving you the idea to look at 4K material. The colors are also very accurate and vivid, black is tight and gray gradations are abundant so dark scenes are full of life. Fast moving images are captured finely and displayed smoothly and smoothly. There is no question of faltering or smeared movements.
If we switch to Ultra HD content (from an Ultra HD Blu-ray disc) then it becomes clear that a movie is even more alive. We have looked at Life of Pi and Everst in 4K Ultra HD, and of course there is also a high dynamic range, a larger color range and Dolby Atmos (if you can display it). All this together creates a film experience of an even higher level. Not only is everything sharp and full of subtle details displayed, also the larger color range for more depth and more life in for example the snow or a face. The HDR view is impressive, with for example a bright orange setting sun in the background, in which subtle contours of the mountains can still be seen on the horizon. And that while the dark parts of the foreground are a combination of deep black and detailed shadows.
It is especially the combination of the elements (Ultra HD, HDR and a larger color range) that brings the image to life, bringing it to life more than a hd Blu-ray source. Only when you have a screen that supports everything you get a picture that is more dynamic, lively and natural. The gradient of colors is tighter, colors are much more intense and natural, subtle details come just a bit more forward and the larger dynamic range creates an image that splashes from your screen. The DMP-UB700 combines all these standards with excellent techniques to display a very fine, convincing and above all natural and impressive picture. Content that is streamed (for example from Netflix) can be of the same standards and can also be displayed very impressively, but we keep in mind that the optimal image quality is not achieved by streaming.
Panasonic DMP-UB700 – audio quality
However, Panasonic does not only focus on the image reproduction, the audio quality is also of great importance to the company. As mentioned above, Panasonic has built in various techniques and settings to ensure optimal audio reproduction, including a Pure Direct mode for hdmi and High Clarity Sound Premium with which unused circuits are turned off. There is support for a large number of file formats, including WAV, FLAC, DVD, ALAC and the famous lossy audio formats. For home cinema fans, there is bitstream and pcm playback for all known and new audio formats on board, including Dolby Atmos and DTS: X. However, it should be said under this heading that the analogue outputs (including the d / a-converters) are missing.
The DMP-UB700 is a player that just sounds good. No, it is not a dedicated audio player, but the device makes digital audio from both surround track stereo music sound very tight, dynamic and natural. The Dolby Atmos experience in our cinema is impressive and high-resolution audio files are also displayed with sufficient ‘punch’ precision and range. The sound image is sufficiently wide with many convincing details. This model therefore works perfectly as a digital audio source.
Panasonic DMP-UB700 – conclusion
If we take everything together we can only reach one conclusion; the Panasonic DMP-UB700 is, just like its more expensive brother, the best Ultra HD Blu-ray player you can buy right now. Do you not need the analog audio outputs and the digital coaxial output, can you live with a simple remote control and a slightly less premium design, and does not the THX logo tell you a lot? Then there is actually no reason to opt for the 200 euro more expensive DMP-UB900. They perform the same in terms of ease of use, image quality and (digital) audio quality. excellent. Yet there is certainly room for improvement because the small remote control works less well and comes without lighting, and the smart TV platform is outdated and actually offers only two handy apps. Apart from that, the DMP-UB700 is an absolute must, regardless of the resolution of your content, but you get the most out of it when you play Ultra HD content with HDR on a compatible TV.