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.