Panasonic DMP-UB700 hands on – Panasonic’s second and most affordable 4K Blu-ray player
Ultra HD Blu-rays have properly arrived now, and they are the best way to watch movies at home. But until now, you didn’t have much of a choice when it came to players.
There is the £430 Samsung UBD-K8500 and the £600 Panasonic DMP-UB900. It is almost universally agreed that the Panasonic is the one to get. But £600 really is quite dear, and so Panasonic has unveiled the £400 DMP-UB700. This is the most affordable 4K Blu-ray player in the UK, unless you count the Xbox One S games console.
Why does the Panasonic DMP-UB700 cost a third less than its big brother? Because Panasonic has stripped it back the frillier elements to focus on the essentials.
Related: What is Ultra HD Blu-ray?
It’s still a very shiny device, still more premium-looking than Samsung’s UBD-K8500, but the nice glossy finish is now only on the front and top surfaces. The sides have a standard dull metal finish. It’s also a little shorter, because the UB900’s damping feet have been chucked out.
On the front, there is a tiny display peeking out from behind the two-way mirror finish. It’s great that this feature has been kept, because it’s very useful being able to tell what the player is up to. It also allows the player to say hello and goodbye. Manners are important.
Related: What is Ultra HD Premium?
Like the UB900, the UB700 has UHD Premium certification. It pumps out 4K and HDR at up to 60 frames per second, and boasts a brightness output up to 10,000 nits. There is also a 4K high-precision chroma processor, and you can expect the player cover the BT.2020 colour gamut.
The connections have been stripped back. There are no longer any analogue audio outputs, and no digital coaxial output either. What you get are the key bits: twin HDMI output for separating audio and video channels, a digital optical output, an SD card slot, a USB port and an Ethernet socket. You won’t want to use the built-in Wi-Fi for 4K video streams, available from the YouTube, Netflix and Amazon Video apps, if you can avoid it.
The UB900’s fancy remote has been replaced with the standard Panasonic Blu-ray player remote that’s been knocking about for years. It’s easy to use, but I sure will miss the backlighting feature.
Internally, the DAC and analogue circuitry have been re-jigged. Panasonic tells me this means the UB700’s sound won’t be quite up to the UB900’s standards, but picture quality should be virtually identical.
Related: What is HDR and should you care?
I’ll be frank: it was impossible to verify Panasonic’s claims. A trade show stand is hardly the best place to test picture and sound quality, as I had no control over lighting conditions or display settings, and there wasn’t a chance to do an A-B comparison between the UB700 and UB900. And there was no audio to speak of.
That being said, what I saw was impressive. Test favourite The Lego Movie was on display and, indeed, everything was awesome. The picture was plenty sharp, plenty colourful and plenty punchy. The entire point of 4K Blu-ray is a more insightful picture than anything in Full HD 1080p, and in that respect I say it’s job done. The conditions may have been far from ideal, but even so it is obvious that the DMP-UB700 has no problem making UHD Blu-rays look great.
The Panasonic DMP-UB700 does not have THX certification. That technically means its picture is inferior to that of the UB900, and Panasonic admits there should be minor differences, especially in colour gradation. From the little that I saw, I couldn’t confidently identify any differences. Expect some in-depth scrutiny when we get the UB700 in for a full review.
Related: Best 4K TV 2016
My first impressions of the Panasonic DMP-UB700 were overwhelmingly positive. Sure, you don’t get the frills of the premium DMP-UB900, but Panasonic didn’t get rid of anything essential. From what I saw, the UB700 gives you nearly everything its big brother has to offer at two-thirds the price. It looks to be an excellent tool that’s cheaper than any available competitor.
It may be early days, but the DMP-UB700 looks like it will be essential for anyone looking to get into Ultra HD Blu-ray. Thankfully, you won’t have to wait long. Panasonic expects to be shipping the player by the end of October 2016, or November at the latest. I’ll be doing an in-depth review, so watch this space.