While covering all the bases is nothing unusual in baseball, in the world of budget 4K Blu-ray players, there hasn’t yet been quite the same level of forethought. However, that hasn’t stopped the Panasonic DP-UB450EB trying to do just that.
The Panasonic DP-UB450EB is a step-up from the similar DP-UB150EB. Crucially, Panasonic has recognised that the HDR wars are still far from decided and the main upgrade to the DP-UB450EB is the addition of Dolby Vision on top of HDR10+ and HLG.
That upgrade comes at a price to both Panasonic and the consumer and the uplift takes the DP-UB450EB into a territory where it has to compete with some very able 4K Blu-ray players.
The Panasonic DP-UB450EB won’t win any prizes for physical design but it’s not really trying to. It’s the archetypal black box and, on the outside, as simple a device as you could imagine. It’s the exact same chassis as that of the slightly lower-specced DP-UB150EB but with a couple of small but significant alterations, namely the additional HDMI and coaxial outputs.
There’s still no display, LCD or otherwise, but there is a USB 2.0 on the front for external media sources, two buttons on the top (one for power, one for eject) and on the back there are the twin HDMIs, a LAN connection and the socket for the power. Apart from the disc tray itself, that’s it.
HDR formats HDR10+, Dolby Vision, HLG
4K upscaling Yes
USB 2.0 Yes
Outputs Twin HDMI, coax audio-out
Dimensions (hwd) 4.6 x 32 x 19.3cm
The only other object to familiarise ourselves with is the remote control. It’s small and easy enough to misplace, but anything bigger would feel like a mismatch for this machine. If you want a more premium remote, you’ll need to buy a premium player.
HDR is likely to be the biggest reason to buy the Panasonic DP-UB450EB over the DP-UB150EB, which is around £40 ($50) cheaper at the time of writing. Unlike the lower-specced model, it supports Dolby Vision as well as HDR10+ and HLG, and that’s worth bearing in mind if your TV or projector isn’t HDR10+-enabled itself.
Another reason to spend the extra money is the twin HDMI-outs. If you have an older AVR that can’t handle the 4K or HDR bitstream, then it’s a bonus to be able to split the signal and send the video straight to your display while the audio goes to the amp.
There’s no wireless networking with the Panasonic DP-UB450EB and, sadly, no smart platform either, which means it’s not going to make up any deficiencies in your TV’s app selection. You can connect the player to a media server, however, through a LAN cable, if you have a server connected to your home network.
The on-screen interface is pretty basic. The menus aren’t much to look at and are over-complicated with settings that many owners will simply never want to access. A friendlier UI with more complex settings hidden away in an ‘Expert’ tab would help.
More straightforward is external playback through the trusty USB 2.0 port on the front. You can connect an HDD or memory stick and the DP-UB450EB can handle JPEGs and 4K MP4 video plus lossless audio files such as FLAC, WAV, AIFF, ALAC and DSD as well as MP3s and AACs.
Naturally, CDs will work just fine and both DVDs and Blu-rays discs are upscaled to 4K if requested. Those needing SACD support too might want to try the Sony UBP-X700 (£189/$149) instead.
There’s no discernible difference between this player and the cheaper Panasonic DP-UB150EB in terms of pure picture performance. You’ll get the HDR benefits with a Dolby Vision disc but, otherwise, it’s the same.
Watching Bohemian Rhapsody in 4K HDR, the scene in which the band gets signed on a riverside pub terrace is a good example of what this player can do.
Colour and contrast are rendered with a slightly heavy touch and that lends the picture a bold and dramatic feel. The brickwork of the pub and the band members’ bright clothing have an instant appeal but there's also enough definition to the highlights in their hair to give a good impression of texture.
For more subtle differences – the material of Freddie Mercury’s white, frilled leather jacket, for example – it doesn’t perform quite as well as the Sony UBP-X700, which is perhaps a degree sharper. We get a good depth of black when the camera flicks to Brian May’s velvet jacket, although a player at the next level up might give us more dark detail and a better sense of the fabric.
Dropping down to Full HD with Captain America: Civil War is an eye-opener in terms of upscaling quality. During the close-up conversation between Natasha Romanoff, the King of Wakanda and his son T'Challa at the UN conference, the skin detail on each of their faces is frankly incredible. From the hairs of the king’s greying beard to the plummy shade of Romanoff’s lipstick, it’s hard to tell that this isn't native 4K.
It’s only when we drop further to SD footage with the opening of Star Trek: Into The Darkness that the picture suffers. The upscaled detail is decent in the moments when the image is still, but during the action sequences there’s little sharpness to the red leaf forests, the white-faced aliens and the lava of the erupting volcano — although that is only to be expected.
As Queen take the stage at Wembley Stadium for Live Aid, there’s a definite feel of scale both from the venue and the sound of the band. We get a big, rich, throbbing thump from John Deacon’s bass and a wonderful echo as Freddie Mercury leads the crowd in a chorus of ‘ay-yos’, which roll back and forth between the stands.
It also delivers plenty of detail. The drums and cymbals of Roger Taylor’s rhythms come across as beautifully as the percussive sound of the crowd clapping in time. Each piece of Taylor’s kit has an individual sonic identity and you can really feel the size of the audience by the applause.
But, dynamically, this 4K Blu-ray player falls short. It doesn’t have the same range as the similarly priced Sony UBP-X700. There’s little natural ebb and flow to the crowd noise, from the pin drop silences to the cheers and roars, and it feels more a case of on or off for volume, which slightly spoils the dramatic tension.
We want to hear the stunning silence of hundreds of thousands of fans caught in a moment of awe as Mercury plays the first few bars of We Are The Champions. We should be able to feel the mood between the hammers hitting the strings and this player can’t quite bring the volume down far enough to hear that hush.
Similarly, Brian May’s wonderful Bohemian Rhapsody solo doesn’t crunch and cry like an amplified electric guitar should when played live in a cavernous stadium. Those dynamics at the low level don’t allow for enough variation in his strums and fretwork to make that moment really live.
The Panasonic DP-UB450EB does a respectable job but, relatively-speaking, its feature list is more impressive than the performance.
For just a little more, the Dolby Vision-enabled Sony UBP-X700 is significantly better – and for quite a lot less, the Panasonic DP-UB150EB has a similar performance, though it only supports the HDR10+ format.
Buying this pricier Panasonic really only makes sense for those who wish to cover all bases and have placed supporting both HDR formats at the very top of their Blu-ray player wishlist.
- Picture 5
- Sound 4
- Features 5
Read our Sony UBP-X700 review
Read our Panasonic DP-UB150EB review