This Panasonic DP-UB820 Blu-ray player review is essential for anyone who's serious about home theatre. This deck is hands-down the best-equipped 4K Blu-ray player for the cash when it comes to premium sound and vision.
Despite its mid-range price tag, this is one of the few decks available that handles both Dolby Vision and rival dynamic metadata standard HDR10+. It also boasts best-in-class connectivity, and the final image quality is simply excellent. We rate it as the best 4K Blu-ray player overall, because nothing else can match it at such an affordable price – you have to spend a lot more to do any better.
If you've bought one of the best TVs for a princely sum and want a way to make the most of its image quality without paying out huge sums again, this is absolutely the way to go. It's especially ideal with the more mid-range options in the best OLED TVs guide – like those TVs, this is all about precise and pristine image quality.
Panasonic DP-UB820 review: Price & release date
The Panasonic DP-UB820 costs £299/$499/AU$649, and was released in August 2018. We expect it to stay relevant for a while longer – there haven't been any major changes in the tech involved.
It's priced way beneath its high-end Panasonic DP-UB9000 stablemate (it's about one third of the cost), but still offers universal HDR compatibility and excellent connectivity.
It can be considered keenly priced if you want a Dolby Vision capable 4K Blu-ray player to partner a Dolby Vision TV, and still have some money in the bank for the odd disc or three.
Panasonic DP-UB820 review: Features and what’s new
This deck’s smart streaming features mirror those found on the more expensive DP-UB9000, meaning that it offers a small but well-formed selection of streaming apps, namely Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and YouTube. It won't replace anyone's smart TV options, to be honest, but that's not what this kind of thing is for.
The player also boasts 24-bit High-Res audio and DSD file support, but it can’t play SACD or DVD-Audio discs. Regular CD discs are welcome, of course.
Rear connectivity is outstanding. There are two HDMI outputs (one audio only, useful if you have a pre-4K AV receiver and need to route Ultra HD video directly to a screen), ethernet, USB, and an optical digital audio output. Wi-Fi is standard.
There’s also a full array of analogue audio outs, if your home cinema setup needs a direct analogue source for a 7.1 surround sound speaker layout.
Unfortunately, the DP-UB820 lacks the DP-UB9000’s Playback Info screen, which we lauded in our review of that device. This screen enables you to take a closer look at 4K HDR discs to reveal Maximum Frame-Average Light (MaxFALL) and Maximum Light Level (MaxCLL) HDR10 metadata. It's real AV nerd stuff, so we suspect 99.9% of people at this price level won't miss it, but it's a shame for enthusiasts.
Panasonic DP-UB820 review: Performance
Feed this player HD Blu-rays and UHD platters and you’ll be rewarded with spectacular images. 4K discs are upscaled to 4:4:4 colour subsampling; this involves a lot of clever processing to ensure optimum picture fidelity, and no digital 'banding' of colour.
The deck employs the same impressive second generation HCX image processor found in the flagship DP-UB9000.
You can also optimise its video performance to match your display. Using the HDR Setting on the remote, you can tweak its output to best suit your viewing situation: Standard, Bright Environment, Natural environment, Light environment and Bright Environment.
The Optimiser is able to lift brightness and contrast without washing out an image. In a bright room, it’ll prevent HDR content looking dull, adding more sparkle so images ping. Subtle near-black shadow detail can be lost in darker scenes when you have high levels of ambient light.
You can also use it to emphasise low-level detail when you watch with the lights off; HDR content looks almost three dimensional when all is right.
The player handles Dolby Vision discs with seamless ease; DV encodes have a smooth vibrancy when played back on a compatible display.
Sound quality is similarly outstanding, although you can’t configure the player to output both analogue stereo or full 7.1 analogue audio, as well as audio via HDMI. It’s one of the other.
It’s most likely that you’ll be using this player with one of the best AV receivers or best soundbars, so we suggest encouraging Dolby Atmos or DTS:X audio to bitstream over HDMI, by default.
However, its multichannel analogue performance is not to be sniffed at. The player puts in a solid two-channel audio performance. We reckon it’ll hold its own against dedicated mid-range CD-only players.
Panasonic DP-UB820 review: Design & usability
While this deck’s picture processing engine mimics that found in the DP-UB9000 flagship, cosmetics borrow heavily from the brand’s more budget-conscious models.
The lightweight chassis employs none of the heavy duty anti-resonance construction techniques common to higher-end products. It looks smart enough, though.
The plastic bodywork is gloss black, and a bevelled frontage drops down to reveal the offset disc tray. There’s a USB port for media playback, while up top are manual buttons to handle power and disc loading.
The player comes with a compact IR remote control, notable mainly for a dedicated Netflix button.
Usability is straightforward. The deck has the same menus and features found on its cheaper siblings, and once installed requires next to no tinkering.
Panasonic DP-UB820 review: Verdict
If you’re the type of diner who invariably opts for the medium priced Merlot off the wine list, then the DP-UB820 is probably the Blu-ray player for you.
It rewards those prepared to make more of an investment in their disc spinner, with comprehensive HDR support and superb image processing, but doesn’t overly punish your credit card.
The deck is able to extract enormous detail and nuance from discs, and boasts excellent upscaling. Its audio performance will serve any home theatre owner well. Hi-Res audio file support is the icing on the cake. Overall, we rate the high performing DP-UB820 superb value.
Panasonic DP-UB820 review: Also consider
Sony pours on the style with the UBP-X800M2, a well-built mid-ranger that boasts Super Audio CD compatibility for a similar price to the Panasonic. HDR support covers Dolby Vision, but not HDR10+. So for pretty much the same price as the Panasonic, this Sony might be the choice for audiophiles with hi-res audio disc collections, but we'd stick with the Panasonic if movies are your priority.
The Panasonic DMRPWT550 is an interesting alternative. Priced to match the DP-UB820, this combi unit offers both disc playback and handy Freeview Play recording. The deck doesn’t play Ultra HD discs (just regular Blu-ray) but it does upscale to 2160p resolution. The built-in 500GB hard drive will store around 129 hours of HD recordings or 258 hours of SD.