There’s certainly nothing wrong with the DMP-BD80’s picture talents, however, which makes our usual range of test discs look absolutely sensational. For instance, it handles the intricate detail of the superb 1080/24p transfer of ”Hellboy II” as though every single pixel were sacred, giving the image greater sharpness and lucidity than many of its rivals. It easily picks out fine detail that inferior players struggle to convey, such as the tiny indentations on Hellboy and Abe’s prosthetic make-up or the textured grass and rocks at Giant’s Causeway. Edge definition is also superb, particularly with diagonal lines, which makes the picture appear clean and focused throughout.
The strength of these pictures is also boosted by the excellent colour purity and sensitive handling of skin tones, plus solid blacks and an expansive contrast range lend the image plenty of punch and vibrancy. Our findings are backed up by the player’s near faultless handling of the HQV disc – it effortlessly suppresses jaggies and picks up the correct video and film cadences without batting an eyelid. It also delivers superb results with 1080p DVD playback, interpolating those pixels without introducing unwanted artefacts.
Its picture talents are matched by its admirable audio prowess. Externally-decoded TrueHD and Master Audio tracks naturally sound great, but the Panasonic DMP-BD80 also does a fantastic job of decoding them itself. We hooked up the analogue outputs to our AV amp and ”Hellboy II’s” DTS HD Master Audio track shares the same dynamism, detail and clean separation as the HDMI-delivered signal, while its analogue CD playback is open and distinct.
With its impressive feature set and fine picture performance, the Panasonic DMP-BD80 is undeniably one of the best Blu-ray players on the market, and although its full potential hasn’t yet been realised, the addition of Viera Cast once again demonstrates Panasonic’s desire to push Blu-ray technology forward into its Internet-enabled future.
But despite this, we do have to question why such a hefty premium was added for extra features that don’t add a great deal to the user experience. The playback window is nice but hardly essential, and the audio improvements aren’t significant enough to justify the cost. So unless 7.1-channel analogue outputs are absolutely imperative, you’re better off saving yourself £100 and opting for the Panasonic DMP-BD60.
Score in detail