In this review we look at the Ultra HD Blu-ray player Panasonic DMP-UB900. This player has been given a price tag of 799 euros, but does that give you value for money?
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-UB900.
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-UB900 – specifications
The Panasonic DMP-UB900 is certainly on paper one of the richest equipped Blu-ray players you can buy at the moment, and that is of course also possible given the price tag of 799 euros.
The player supports 4K Ultra HD material in sixty frames per second, the rec.2020 color range and a high dynamic range (HDR) output of up to ten thousand nits. The latter is, however, dependent on each paired device, as Panasonic’s own DXW904 TV series will reach just over a thousand nits. In addition, there is a THX certificate for the image display and 3D material can be played. You are also able to use separate HDMI cables for the image and sound (7.1 surround sound), for the highest bandwidth possible. All connections are gold plated to prevent oxidation and ensure good signal conduction.
The DMP-UB900 also supports both DSD and ALAC, thanks to the built-in 192-kHz / 32-bit audio DAC (digital-to-analogue converter). The UB900 is designed for high-resolution audio playback. In addition to traditional WAV / FLAC / MP3 / AAC / WMA formats, DSD (5.6 MHz / 2.8 MHz) and ALAC music files can also be displayed. High-quality audio components (power supply, audio circuit, digital circuit) must ensure optimum audio reproduction.
At the moment the player does not yet have access to HDR material from streaming services like Netflix, but that will be corrected later with an update. The player also 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 this, an amplifier can be connected via the 7.1-channel analog output and thanks to WiFi you have access to various Internet Apps, DLNA servers and a web browser. The remote control of the UB900 is equipped with key lighting, so that it can also be operated in the dark.
Also read our Panasonic DXW904 series LCD LED TV.
Panasonic DMP-UB900 – design
Despite the fact that we are dealing with a Blu-ray player of the next generation, the Panasonic DMP-UB900 does not really exude this. Yes, it is a bit bigger, thicker and heavier than the average Blu-ray player (and then many are comfortable about the quality) but in terms of appearance you can not really distinguish him from the current generation. A lot of plastic is also used, which in turn diminishes the idea of a premium device. The front has a mirrored flap, behind which are the disc tray, an SD card reader and a USB port. The display is visible through the flap. The finish is also neat and taut, with a subtle effect of brushed metal at the top.
In terms of connections, the DMP-UB900 is richly equipped. The player comes with a 7.1-channel analog output, an optical output, a coaxial output and two HDMI ports. This allows you to pair a receiver that can not handle 4K or HDR content yet. If you do not have WiFi, or opt for a more stable connection, you can also use the ethernet port on the back.
The rather large included remote control is one that we know from Panasonic. The accessory has all the important buttons, is made entirely of plastic and looks somewhat cheap. This year we see a special button for Netflix back, but perhaps more interesting are the keys that now also light up in the dark.
Panasonic DMP-UB900 – ease of use
Panasonic has given the menus a makeover this year, probably only for this top model. But, here too we recognize the style of the Japanese manufacturer again. Little bells and whistles, a fairly simple structure and few modern or flashy elements. It can even seem somewhat corny.
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. Only when something is wrong with the content can you get started with the settings of the player. The DMP-UB900 offers settings such as brightness, contrast, hue, sharpness, color saturation, etc. If a source offers HDR playback and your TV supports it, this will automatically appear. If the TV does not support this, you can influence the SDR (standard dynamic range) via a simple setting. With this you can increase the clarity of the material to come ‘direction’ HDR. This is perhaps the most convenient ‘extra’ setting.
As far as speed is concerned, we have nothing to complain about. The navigation through the different menus is smooth, apps start easily and the loading of an Ultra HD Blu-ray disc goes pretty fast. You can view the film within 30-35 seconds after inserting a disc.
Panasonic DMP-UB900 – features
The smart TV part of the Panasonic DMP-UB900 is not very special. We still know about the TV’s from 2014; Called My Homescreen. You get access to a limited number of useful apps, including Netflix and YouTube. Via these services you can also stream 4K and HDR material, although you still have to wait for an update for Netflix to stream HDR material. There is also access to your own network, from where you can stream content when a DLNA connection can be set up. The player can handle almost all file formats, including high resolution audio.
Panasonic DMP-UB900 – image quality
Of course, the Panasonic DMP-UB900 is all about image quality, especially when we insert a Blu-ray or even Ultra HD Blu-ray film into the player. For this review we watched some demo videos in 4K and HDR, plus the movie Mad Max in both HD and 4K Ultra HD.
First of all, however, we look at standard resolution content and hd content via services such as Netflix. The player knows how to make more of this through very good upscale techniques. Both in terms of color and resolution, the player of this content makes a slightly more lively and tighter-looking picture. Panasonic has been at the forefront for years when it comes to upscaling and also with this model it becomes clear that the Japanese manufacturer has not forgotten this trick. There is very little negative on the image to note, everything is clean and detailed. Here and there there is some faltering in fast moving images, but that is the only point of criticism.
As we said before, we watched the film Mad Max in HD and 4K and the first thing to notice is that the difference in resolution (the HD version is naturally scaled up to 4K) is not overwhelmingly large. Only a short distance from the TV (the Panasonic DXW904) can be noticed. It must be said that this also means that the HD display is already very sleek, clean and convincing. That the source in Ultra HD is just that little bit more suppleness to the image, with slightly tighter lines and a little more depth through the subtle details. But, it is not a world of difference, certainly not at a viewing distance of 2.5 or 3 meters. Motion-related issues in an HD Blu-ray film are also present more emphatically, with a minimal introduction of artifacts.
However, the resolution is not the most important part of Ultra HD Blu-ray. Because in addition to the 4K resolution we also get 10-bit colors, support for the rec.2020 color spectrum (more colors) and HDR (high dynamic range). It is especially the combination of those elements that bring the image to life, bring it to life more than an 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. It is all a bit more as we would experience it with our own eyes when we were there. The DMP-UB900 combines all these standards with excellent techniques to give a very fine, convincing and above all natural picture. HDR makes explosions even more dramatic than with an HD movie, the larger color range gives the yellowish Sahara in Mad Max even more shades and a natural look, and the 4K resolution makes the smallest details even more alive. The player provides penetrating and deep black, while bright objects like the sun splash from the screen. All this in one image, impressive. The collection of fast-moving images or objects is also very fluid and tight; in different scenes where cars chase each other we hardly see any creaks or smeared details. The Ultra HD Blu-ray discs certainly show that the compressed content of Netflix, for example, can perform better.
We have said in the past that especially high contrast can give you a 3D experience without using 3D glasses. In this case, all the elements together, including especially the color gradations and the intense white and black, ensure that you are presented with an even more impressive viewing experience, in which you get even more into the film. This total picture actually gives you something extra compared to HD Blu-ray, provided you also have a TV that displays everything as intended.
Panasonic DMP-UB900 – audio quality
Of the top models of Blu-ray players from Panasonic, we have been used to perform very well in the field of audio playback for years, and for the DMP-UB900 too, Panasonic has labeled audio reproduction as one of its unique features. The player can handle music with all kinds of file formats, decode Dolby and DTS audio tracks and has various high quality audio components.
That said, we can only be positive about the audio output. It is not a stand-alone high-quality CD / media player, but the DMP-UB900 knows how to display CDs and high resolution audio files with sufficient dynamism and conviction. The Beatles in high resolution comes to life, with subtle details, a clean view and clear but warm sounds. The DMP-UB900 also shows an above average good player with DTS and Dolby audio tracks. Surround effects are accurately placed in the room, making you feel like you are in the action, and the sound image is sufficiently wide with many convincing details. The player delivers a rich audio performance with sufficient power.
Panasonic DMP-UB900 – conclusion
All in all, we can only conclude that Panasonic is paying tribute to its name again. The DMP-UB900 is a very good Blu-ray player that gets the most out of your content, whether it’s standard HD content or an Ultra HD Blu-ray disc. However, it is not the resolution alone that actually offers something extra. It is the combination of more color, a higher dynamic range and a higher resolution that makes the viewing experience even more intense. Also in terms of audio reproduction, the DMP-UB900 is a very good player so chances are that this model disappoints you. The smart TV section is rather mediocre and the design is not special, but we can absolutely live with that. What might be more difficult is the price of 799 euros but you pay to be one of the first with such a device, which is also equipped with the best techniques and the latest standards.