Review: Panasonic DMP-UB900

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Panasonic DMP-UB900

The Panasonic DMP-UB900 is a high-quality Ultra HD Premium Blu-ray player which stands out for its THX 4K Source certification and hi-fi, 7.1-channel audio outputs. The ultimate solution for enjoying new Ultra HD Blu-ray discs and 4K HDR TV series distributed by Netflix. But that?s not all’

Panasonic DMP-UB900: Ultra HD and 4K

Over the course of a single decade, the resolution offered by TV displays has steadily increased, at first from 400,000 pixels (SD 576i) to 920,000 pixels (HD 720p), then to 2,100,000 pixels (HD 1080p) and, finally, to the current threshold of 8,300,000 pixels (Ultra HD 2160p). Naturally, video supports have also evolved, with the DVD (576i) giving way to the Blu-ray disc (1080p) and, today, the Ultra HD Blu-ray disc (2160p). While Ultra HD is often referred to as 4K, this is a direct consequence of the official name given to ultra-high-definition digital cinematography. However, the resolution is not exactly the same, as the 4K standard implies images with a width of 4096 pixels (4K), while Ultra HD calls for 3840 pixels. This divergence can be traced back to the different aspect ratios applicable to cinema screens and to our own 16:9 TV displays. Another particularity stems from the fact that the compression rate used for digital cinematography is so low that storing the resulting images on an optical support is impossible due to insufficient storage capacity.

Panasonic DMP-UB900

Panasonic DMP-UB900: the Ultra HD Blu-ray disc

Storing an ultra-high-definition film on an optical disc has sparked the development of a new approach to image compression. The DVD, with its MPEG-2 format, and the Blu-ray disc, with its AVC format, have thus given way to the Ultra HD Blu-ray disc and HEVC (High Efficiency Video Codec) technology. As its name implies, HEVC image compression is very efficient, reducing compression by 50% in comparison with its predecessor, the AVC format, used for 1080p Blu-ray discs and DTV. At the same time, contrast and color gamut are considerably improved and HDR (High Dynamic Range) technology is supported. The Ultra HD Blu-ray disc thus offers an image 4 times as detailed and 64 times as nuanced! The Panasonic DMP-UB900 is compatible with all consumer video formats, from SD to Ultra HD.

Panasonic DMP-UB900
The Panasonic DMP-UB900 has only two control buttons, both of which are located on the front edge of its top panel: an on/off button and an eject button.

Panasonic DMP-UB900: the offer of Ultra HD films and TV series

Not every film, animated movie and TV series will be forthwith proposed in Ultra HD format (for the moment). A bit of patience will be necessary as works captured on film are gradually remastered in order to offer exceptional, 8-million-pixel definition to a wider audience. In the same manner, films shot at the dawn of the digital filmmaking age were captured not in 4K format, but only in 2K format (the cinema screen equivalent of HD 1080p), and we can hope for new, upscaled Ultra HD versions at best. Meanwhile, many movies released in 2016 in Ultra HD Blu-ray format have undergone such upscaling, since most cinematographic works are filmed in 4K but produced in 2K. For these films, the number of pixels added by the Ultra HD format is only marginal, although the image is nonetheless magnified thanks to the enhanced contrast and color gamut offered by HEVC technology.
Let there be no doubt about it, the revolution is in progress and more and more films will be produced entirely in 4K format, in much the same manner as the original TV series produced by Amazon and Netflix. It?s thus not by accident that the Panasonic DMP-UB900 player offers compatibility with Netflix and its Ultra HD HDR content.

Panasonic DMP-UB900: Ultra HD Premium

The Panasonic DMP-UB900 Blu-ray player is also compatible with Ultra HD Premium content. This standard, which is part of the larger Ultra HD family of standards, requires filmmakers to shoot in 10-bit HDR (High Dynamic Range) format instead of the more common 8-bit format (SDR, or Standard Dynamic Range). The gain in terms of quality offered by an HDR image is exceptional: dark and light zones are much more detailed and strikingly realistic. In addition, most Ultra HD Blu-ray discs are certified Ultra HD Premium HDR, and are far from the only content available in this format, as Netflix also proposes such content for streaming. Nevertheless, to fully enjoy all the wonders of an Ultra HD Premium image, you?ll need a TV which has been certified’ Ultra HD Premium. Without such a display, the Panasonic DMP-UB900 can only convey ?classic? Ultra HD video stream ? which nonetheless implies very high-quality images.

Panasonic DMP-UB900
The front panel can be opened, granting access to the device?s SD card reader and USB port

Panasonic DMP-UB900: functions and features

In line with its discreet esthetic qualities, the Panasonic DMP-UB900 player is remarkably compact. It comes with a large, backlit remote control which includes many shortcuts and, notably, a Netflix button. The menu interface is user-friendly and it is impossible to become lost while browsing through it. Apart from reading DVD-Video, Blu-ray (3D) and Ultra HD Blu-ray discs, the Panasonic DMP-UB900 can read video files stored on a USB flash drive (FAT32/NTFS) up to 1080p. The device can also read these same files from a home network once they are shared via a DLNA server software program. Direct playback via the DLNA protocol is also enabled, which means that the player is compatible with many Android smartphones and tablets. A web portal with an array of applications is present: this is where you?ll find Arte or Deezer, for example, and Netflix above all. It is important to note that in order for the Ultra HD HDR content proposed by Netflix to be handled, the Panasonic DMP-UB900 firmware version 1.5 is a must. This firmware is automatically downloaded and installed by the device.

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Panasonic DMP-UB900
The Panasonic DMP-UB900 comes with a backlit remote control

Panasonic DMP-UB900: ergonomics

User-friendliness is one of this UHD Blu-ray player?s strong points. As soon as the device is powered up, the user is guided through the initial configuration process, for video as well as audio. Few adjustments are truly necessary as the player automatically adapts to the characteristics of the broadcast device, 4K display or 1080p video projector to which it is connected. No image enhancement technique is activated by default, thus guaranteeing a natural restitution. A wide selection of settings is nonetheless proposed (noise, colorimetry, subtitles, etc.).

Once in use, the Panasonic DMP-UB900 proves itself fast and responsive. The device takes about 10 seconds to power up, and 20 seconds to begin playback of a Blu-ray disc, or 40 seconds for an Ultra HD Blu-ray disc. Playback of a video file via the USB port located on the player?s front panel is instantaneous. The playback mechanism is discreet and imperceptible during playback, even at low volume.

Panasonic DMP-UB900
With 2.0 and 7.1 analog outputs, as well as HDMI and S/PDIF coaxial and Toslink optical outputs, nothing is missing on the Panasonic DMP-UB900.

Panasonic DMP-UB900: image quality

No need to keep you guessing, the Panasonic DMP-UB900 delivers excellent image quality. And not only for Ultra HD discs. The Ultra HD HDR version of The Revenant is head and shoulders above the classic Blu-ray version, for example. The difference isn’t linked as much to image clarity ? even if image backgrounds do benefit from enhanced precision ? as it is to the natural feeling which emanates from the screen. As an example, the famous bear scene is truly eloquent: filmed in dark underbrush, unexpected details suddenly emerge. There is thus no need to strain your eyes to understand what?s happening on the screen. The 1080p Blu-ray version is, for its part, far less convincing. However, the Panasonic DMP-UB900 processes content from 1080p and 720p sources with great efficiency. Ultra HD upscaling brings a real plus to these sources, which benefit from a fuller and more natural image. Muse?s concert in Rome (4K master, 1080p Blu-ray) is stunning: the crowd’s movements are impressively smooth and the amount of contrast in the image increases perceptibly as night falls. The Legend of Tarzan and The Jungle Book (2016, Blu-ray 1080p versions), full of computer-generated images, are skillfully reproduced for a natural effect. Deep blacks and a richly textured grayscale make each image a delight to behold.

Panasonic DMP-UB900
The second HDMI output can convey audio and video signals or only audio signals

Panasonic DMP-UB900: sound quality

Living up to its reputation, Panasonic has designed the DMP-UB900 player?s audio output with a great amount of care. In addition to a dedicated HDMI digital audio output and two S/PDIF outputs (coaxial and optical), this Ultra HD Blu-ray player is also equipped with stereo and 7.1-channel analog outputs. These are paired up with 32-bit/192 kHz DACs which have been exceptionally well designed to offer undeniable benefits in terms of balance and spatialization. Listening to an audio CD or FLAC files (on a flash drive) is comparable in terms of quality with CD players at the same price point. The Panasonic DMP-UB900 features a High Clarity Sound mode which deactivates all unnecessary circuits in order to offer a purely musical experience (notably for the video section). Lastly, the digital audio outputs are also of very high quality, with a minimal difference between the coaxial and the optical outputs. Take note: the second HDMI port dedicated to audio implements jitter reduction technology. As such, it sends a high-quality signal to any home cinema amplifier. All audio formats are supported, including Dolby Atmos.

The Panasonic DMP-UB900 Blu-ray player naturally attains the distinction of being a reference in its category. A highly recommended device for viewing HD and UHD content as well as for enjoying your music collection.

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