Panasonic DMP-BD85 Blu-ray Player - Panasonic DMP-BD85

By Danny Phillips



Our Score:


Onto performance and there’s absolutely nothing to grumble about here. Pictures are simply stunning, boasting abundant detail, utterly natural colours and the sort of depth and solidity that any self-respecting home cinema buff would die for.

The busy desert landscapes of Terminator Salvation are displayed with razor-sharp clarity, and the BD85 picks out the movie’s subtleties with ease, even during shots inside dimly-lit rooms. There are no signs of over-sharpening or noise, no jaggies or judder, just a crisp, cinematic picture from start to finish. Our more objective test with the Silicon Optix HQV disc also reveals some seriously slick processing at play, as all of the tests are reproduced without a hitch. The BD85 also proves its worth with DVDs, delivering sharp and artefact-free upscaled images.

The BD85 is a clear step up from the BD45 in terms of audio clarity and musicality, reproducing CDs with slightly more drive and detail than its cheaper sibling. And you can definitely hear what Panasonic is trying to do with Digital Tube Sound, which does indeed increase the warmth and richness of the signal, but we prefer regular playback and even the Re-Master modes. With decoded movie soundtracks through the analogue outputs, the BD85 produces a dynamic, absorbing soundstage that delivers the detail and vitality we’ve come to expect from the HD audio formats. All in all, a very pleasing performance.


Now this is more like it. After the disappointment of the DMP-BD45 and its lack of BD Live, the DMP-BD85 reminds us why Panasonic is one of the best names in the Blu-ray business. It’s a superb Blu-ray player, packed with all the picture and sound tech that has made the company’s previous players such a success, and it’s great to see features like Wi-Fi, DLNA networking and DivX HD cropping up on the spec sheet.

But as much as we love the BD85, we still think the LG BD390 represents better value. Not only is the Korean deck a good £100 cheaper, but it also comes with built-in memory, wider digital media support, faster disc loading speeds and a better operating system, plus it doesn’t require a USB dongle to pick up Wi-Fi. The BD85’s pictures do offer a touch more depth and sharpness, plus audio performance is superior, but is it £100 better? Probably not.

Overall Score


Scores In Detail

  • Design 7
  • Features 9
  • Performance 9
  • Value 7


February 13, 2010, 3:59 pm

Very well written review, as usual.

I am personally surprised that the LG machine is recommended above the Panasonic but, in a very fair review, the reason why is understandable.

Once upon a time, certainly in the VCR days, nothing could have touched Panasonic.

It would be nice to see Panasonic in that lofty position again.


February 13, 2010, 5:55 pm

Good review of a good player. Too much time wasted on the wi-fi connectivity - this is simply a tick in the box job.

Knowing Panasonic, when will this be available? I bet it will start shipping just after they announce their 3D players!!

Thomas C

February 13, 2010, 6:22 pm

@Danny Good review, How does the picture quality compare to that of the PS3


February 15, 2010, 3:06 pm

I'm still a bit baffled by something about Blu-Ray - perhaps the pros can shed a bit of light on this: given that a Blu-Ray disc (generally) incorporates 24Hz 1080p video and lossless digital surround sound, and owners of Blu-Ray decks (generally) connect to their TV and/or AV receiver using digital interconnects (optical for sound and/or HDMI for sound/video), and since the decoding of digital sound and video into the uncompressed formats that are output over these connections is a purely digital, mathematically precise process, how can the picture and sound quality of one Blu-Ray deck differ from another? I understand that the quality of DACs etc. naturally affects the quality over *analogue* outputs, and of course if you are upscaling or applying some kind of other processing (but why would you do that to native 1080p content?) then the quality of the processing hardware and algorithm is critical, but I would expect my Blu-Ray deck simply to decode the video and audio streams and output the uncompressed bitstream with no messing about.


February 16, 2010, 8:15 pm

The reason why the recent LG Blu-ray players are getting good reviews is because they are based on Panasonic machines. The BD390 is based on the Panasonic DMP-BD55. It could be the other way around, but given Panasonic's excellent track record in producing excellent Blu-ray players, I would be surprised if LG inspired Panasonic!

John McLean - I've often wondered about the apparent differences between devices in the digital domain. There must be some processing going on somewhere, as there are discernible differences between players - video is more obvious. Our Panasonic DMP-BD80 is better than our (now second room) Panasonic DMP-BD30. This in turn is better than our Samsung BD1400. Curiously enough, the Samsung has only ever had one firmware update, just after we purchased it (Nov 2007) and it has played every disc we've tried to play! The BD30 has needed a couple of recent updates for recent titles!

We've got a number of players (CDR, DVD, DVR and BD) connected to our Yamaha A/V amplifier. When listening to a CD (through straight - no A/V amp processing), there would appear to be no differences. Listening to them via analogue connections due show differences however!


February 16, 2010, 9:42 pm

@John McLean:

I understand your point about the "mathematically precise process", but with lossy formats decoding can still vary. Codecs used in Blu-ray (and DVD) are lossy. This flexibility has been built in by the lossy codec standards.

They take into account that there are different quality needs. If speed is paramount, then (decoded) image quality takes a backseat. The standards allow several parameters, and all decoders do not use the same rules. Decoding also contains requirements for accuracy - meaning that the decoding algorithm can vary in output accuracy.

E.g. for H.264 and VC-1 there is a maximum accuracy of 1/4 pixel for motion compensation and minimal reference blocks (all meaning they may be bigger = less sharp, all up to the manufacturer).

Lossy format decoding will therefore not always produce the same results.

Since in video speed is paramount (uninterrupted motion and sound is more important to the experience than image quality), algorithm and chip designers will make trade offs with decoding quality.

Cheaper players will use cheaper decoding hardware that is less powerful in decoding, and post-processing will be done with less developed/clever software to handle issues such as motion compensation, anti-aliasing and artefact reduction.

I hope this helps clarifying the duality of digital data :)


February 17, 2010, 10:10 pm

@Fireshade - thanks for your comments. My understanding however is that the flexibility afforded by modern video codecs is in the ENcoding side (you trade off speed against quality against bitrate) but on the DEcoding side the output stream should be the same irrespective of the decoder - the decoder can't go "I haven't got enough power to deal with this, so I'm going to ignore the advanced quantization used in the encode" - it is either able to decode the stream fast enough for smooth playback or it isn't. This is a function of the power of the decoding hardware and the bitrate, resolution and encoding parameters of the encoded stream, but a decoder can't disregard those features after the fact. Also, given any modern PC CPU or even a cheap GPU can decode 1080p AVC / H.264 flawlessly without breaking a sweat, I disagree with the suggestion that a manufacturer needs expensive exotic hardware to achieve the same result. Heck, the PS3 has a phenomenally powerful processor that can eat these codecs for breakfast, and it costs just £250. My point - processing horsepower is cheap. The cost of expensive BR decks cannot therefore be related to the cost of the decoder hardware (though it may be influenced by the cost of licensing and implementing expensive post-processing algorithms).

I appreciate that post-processing may differ from one decoder to the next, but my argument is that a properly encoded Blu-Ray disc shouldn't need noise reduction and other fancy pants processing to look its best. As such, every BR deck *SHOULD* produce identical results over HDMI. I accept however that this is not the case (haven't had the chance to experience it personally, as my only BR deck is a PS3 and I'm very happy with its output), but I still can't understand why! The cynic in me thinks that at least part of the perceived picture quality benefit in more expensive decks is emperor's new clothes - you've spent £2k on a BR player so it MUST have better PQ than a £250 PS3, right?!


February 22, 2010, 4:50 pm


You understood well about the ENcoding side. Unfortunately there is flexibility at the DEcoding side as well. Standards do include possibilities by economical choice, since most stakeholders for these kind of standards are from the industry itself. A standard is just an agreement between stakeholders, it is not an ideal. Sorry, but that's how the practical reality is ;)

Regarding the hardware, they're not using an allround CPU for that (which would be even more expensive). They are using customized purposely-built chips. And that is definitevely expensive and risky. It's still not an exotic chip and stellarly expensive - I did not want to imply that, but for manufacturers it's down to saving pennies per product. After all, the consumer electronics market is known as a tough market with very little profit per product. So, especially "low-budget" manufacturers will save as much as they can get away with.

Keep also in mind, that your PS3 is sold with a loss by Sony.

Their price drops come from the fact that their manufacturing has made efficiency progress along the years. The PS3 hardware is still not making a profit, but keeping the price low helps a growing marketshare and revenue from selling content (Sony is also profiting from selling Blu-ray licenses, PS3 licenses and their own PS3-games).


March 24, 2010, 9:51 pm

I just bought one of these, partly on basis of this review in says:

"The deck is also DLNA certified, which means you can nose around in PCs and NAS servers on your home network and access music and photos stored on them."

However I have discovered and had confirmed by Panasonic UK that it does not support music streaming via DLNA. The player's generally modest format support is unimpressive anyway but I had assumed (as the reviewer presumably did) that audio streaming of mp3's was a given. The player can decode mp3's via USB stick - but not from a DLNA server.

Although some may consider DLNA just cake icing, it was a key reason why I bought the player to fill both blu-ray player and low-end WLAN media client duties and I am very disappointed by this basic omission.

By comparison the new Sony and LG models do have decent audio streaming specs via DLNA.

Perhaps Panasonic will come out with a firmware update to fix this (the tech guy I spoke to did not say this was likely) but I am not sure I will wait and see...


June 30, 2010, 5:17 pm

Why did last years model (...BD80) get a higher score? (10 for Features and 10 for Performance) and this years model (the above ...BD85) get 9 for Features and 9 for Performance?

Is there a difference or is it just variations to other manufacturers models of this year?

comments powered by Disqus