The Panasonic DMP-BD80 is equipped with a range of enhancements developed in conjunction with Panasonic Hollywood Labs – who knows a thing or two about what makes a good movie picture – that have already proved a huge success on the Panasonic DMP-BD60. Chief among these are P4HD and PHL Reference Chroma Processor Plus, which are designed to enhance all the core picture elements such as colour, contrast and detail, while P4HD also handles the bread and butter video duties like upscaling, 3:2/2:2 cadence detection and diagonal processing. It’s all made possible by the UniPhier single-chip solution that also allows the DMP-BD80 to consume less power than previous models.
The deck’s audio processing credentials are pretty spotless too, as it can decode Dolby TrueHD, DTS HD Master Audio, Dolby Digital Plus and DTS HD and output any of them as a bitstream or uncompressed PCM via HDMI. And in terms of multimedia support, the DMP-BD80 behaves just like your average DVD player – it handles DivX, MP3 and JPEG from DVD, CD and USB, while via SD card you can play AVCHD, MPEG-2 and JPEG files.
Then of course there’s Viera Cast, which will be dismissed as a mere gimmick by some but if you’re a YouTube regular then there’s a lot of fun to be had accessing clips on your living room TV. The biggest problem we have with the feature is that you can only watch HD clips in low-res quality, which is no doubt a bandwidth issue but still feels a bit strange on a player with such impeccable hi-def credentials elsewhere. When blown up to full screen the clips are watchable but laden with noise.
However, Viera Cast is simple to use thanks to its well-laid out and responsive onscreen design. On YouTube, videos are grouped into the same categories as the actual website, and lets you search for content using a virtual keyboard. The Picasa portal is similarly well designed, and the service lets you view images in high resolution. Although the current Viera Cast content is limited and the lack of movie streaming is a pity, we’re sure the feature’s worth will increase when more sites are added.
As we established with the DMP-BD60, the latest Panasonic players takes a lot longer to load a Blu-ray disc than the Samsung BD-P4600 and LG BD370, but at least the Quick Start mode powers it up swiftly. The Panasonic DMP-BD80 is also a joy to use, boasting an admirably straightforward and good-looking setup menu, which presents potentially complicated options with total simplicity, and a remote that my four-year-old son had no problem using. Our only gripe is the player’s need to reset the HDMI connection before playing a disc or accessing the setup menu, which brings up a black screen for a few seconds.