Panasonic DMP-UB900 – Picture Quality
I’ve already looked at and been pretty excited by Samsung’s cheaper K8500 Ultra HD Blu-ray deck. With the Panasonic UB900, though, this excitement switches to slack-jawed amazement, as the deck’s numerous high-end touches combine to deliver picture quality that’s explosively good.
The deck’s colour reproduction from every Ultra HD Blu-ray disc was never less than extraordinary. The range of tones on show not only goes far beyond anything possible with normal HD Blu-rays, but also outguns the efforts of Samsung’s K8500.
Saturation is even richer than on the Samsung player too, and it doesn’t take long flicking between K8500 and UB900 4K HDR feeds to see that the UB900’s colour boundaries look slightly crisper than those of the K8500.
This in turn makes the UB900’s Ultra HD Blu-ray images look noticeably sharper and more detailed than those of the K8500 – which is saying something, given how blown away I was by the Samsung’s 4K efforts.
In fact, it’s important to stress that the K8500’s picture quality is not poor in any way – it’s actually surprisingly good for such an affordable product working in such a new AV area. It’s just that the UB900’s premium approach yields results that are even more dazzling.
I’ve seen some reviewers suggest that the 4K resolution aspect of Ultra HD Blu-ray discs doesn’t deliver a really strong performance upgrade over HD Blu-rays. But the extra precision and definition in the UB900’s pictures, for me, ensures that having all those extra pixels to play with really does make a clear difference.
This is especially true when you take into consideration subtler resolution-related benefits like increased image depth and a more three-dimensional feel to the spaces and objects in a 2D image – the Ultra HD Blu-ray format doesn’t support actual 3D.
There may be other Ultra HD Blu-ray players in the future that somehow better even the UB900. But as we stand today, its stunning Ultra HD Blu-ray performance is every bit as important to the format’s chances of success as the Samsung K8500’s surprising affordability.
While I strongly recommend that anyone who buys the UB900 has a TV capable of enjoying its HDR as well as its 4K thrills, the systems the deck uses to convert HDR-to-SDR also prove remarkably effective.
The key to its success, compared with the HDR-to-SDR conversion of the Samsung K8500, is the way it’s able to retain more subtle detailing in the very darkest and very brightest parts of the picture. On the K8500, the darkest post-HDR-to-SDR areas tend to look hollowed out by comparison, while the brightest ones look relatively flared out and empty.
Added to all its other picture strengths an excellent HD-to-4K upscaling engine that will comfortably outperform the upscaling engines built into all but the finest 4K TVs, and I just can’t find anything not to like about the UB900’s pictures.