Panasonic DP UB820 UHD Blu Ray Player Review

Panasonic UB820 Review

Panasonic DP UB820

4.5/5

Panasonic’s mid-level champion is an all-around excellent performer, making lesser source material look comparably amazing and rendering pure audio and video bliss when given a good 4K, Hi Res source.

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The Panasonic DP UB820 (hereafter UB820) sits near the top of the company’s robust array of UHD players.  In the entry level position there is the UB150.  Next in line is the UB154.  These players are essentially identical, with the higher end UB154 receiving twin HDMI ports to separate audio and video for those so inclined, along with Panasonic’s suite of streaming apps and voice assistant support via either Alexa or Google.  Moving up to the UB820 gets you into Dolby Vision territory and then there’s the top of the line UB9000, which adds premium DAC’s, XLR outputs, and support for Control 4 integration, along with a couple of other features discussed later. 

 

Panasonic UB820 Build Quality

There’s nothing really wrong with the UB820 chassis.   It’s attractive and sleek in design.  That said, it does lack the ruggedized, Military-grade feel of the Oppo 203 it replaced in my rack.  Panasonic understands this but, for some reason, felt a nice brushed metal chassis should only be made available with their flagship UB9000 player, which sells for about twice the price.  If your environment is reasonably protected and free of pets, small children, etc., I don’t believe you need be concerned.

 

Connectivity

Panasonic UB820 Rear

The rear panel of the Panasonic UB820 contains the usual suspects for a mid-ranged player.  There are dual HDMI outputs (the second being audio only) along with 7.1 analog outputs. Two-channel mode is also supported for those who want to use the UB820 as an audio player although, due to it’s higher quality DAC’s, the UB9000 is much better suited for this purpose.  There is an Ethernet port for use with Blu Ray Live or streaming via the built-in apps discussed in more detail below.  You can either connect a wired Ethernet cable or use the players included WiFi functionality.  Finally, there is a legacy optical audio output and a USB 3.0 port which can play compatible media via a connected HDD or USB stick.  An additional port is situated inside the panel on the front of the unit but this one is only USB 2.0 capable.  Firmware upgrades are handled via the network.

 

Performance And Features

Basic setup of practically any modern UHD player is as simple as connecting it to power and then connecting an HDMI cable between it and your output device, whether that be a TV set, A/V receiver or theater processor.  Once setup has been completed, just pop in a disc and you’re ready to go.  The basic menu system is intuitive enough but there are some deeper options to explore for the more adventurous.  You can tweak HDR settings as well as how the player handles various audio and video decoding scenarios.  Generally speaking, however, the UB820 will choose the optimal settings and you can just leave things at their defaults.  HDR10, HDR10+, HLG and Dolby Vision are all supported and should be auto-detected through meta data on properly authored discs.

For my testing I like to stick to titles I am intimately familiar with, so I turned to the 2013 Tom Cruise thriller, Oblivion.  This disc is both an audio and video treat, with thundering effects that make good use of the Dolby Atmos format and also features sharp, vibrant imagery.  HDR looked amazing, thanks to Panasonic’s Hollywood Cinema Experience [HCX] video processor.  The UB820 has a built-in “HDR optimizer” that can enhance video quality by analyzing HDR data but I generally choose to leave such heavy lifting duties to my JVC NZ8.  The UB9000 includes a more robust HDR optimizer, specifically designed for use with JVC projectors.  While the Panasonic UB820 is a stellar performer for movie playback, audiophiles should know, there is no SACD support offered, although it will play FLAC and DSD files.  This is also true of the UB9000 and less forgivable at it’s hefty asking price.

The remote provided with the UB820 is functional and comparable to many other players.  It has nice, oversized transport buttons as well a dedicated Netflix button.  In addition to Netflix, the player is also preloaded with You Tube, Prime Video and a few other options, although I always recommend using dedicated hardware for the best streaming experience.  Unfortunately, the remote is not backlit, a feature I would have expected in this price range.

Panasonic UB820 Remote

 

Conclusion

I’ve owned the Panasonic UB820 for a couple of years now and have thrown everything from standard DVD’s to UHD to 3D at it.  Lockups have been minimal and usually resolved with a thorough disc cleaning.  It is an all-around excellent performer, making lesser source material look comparably amazing and rendering pure audio and video bliss when given a good 4K, Hi Res source.  The build quality, while adequate, does fall short of stalwart predecessors such as Oppo, so I cannot call the UB820 a top-tier product, but it is still one of the best you’ll find for the price and highly recommended.

 

To see Home Theater Forum’s other choices for best blu-ray players visit our Best 4k Blu-ray Players list.

 

The less you know the better. You may be asked to testify.

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Josh Steinberg

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Pretty much agree with everything in your assessment. It’s a good quality player that has met my needs for UHD disc playback, and it does a better job of HDR tone mapping for projectors better than what’s built into my actual projector and what’s used on my AppleTV streaming box.

That said, as you noted, the build itself leaves something to be desired. My last disc player before this was the Oppo 103 (for Blu-rays), and it cost about the same as the UB820 - the Oppo was built like a tank, the Panasonic by contrast seems to be built to be placed gently on a shelf and never touched. I don’t love the front panel opening up for the disc tray to pop out - that seems overengineered without a clear benefit, just something to go wrong later.

I’m actually on my second player. The first was a lemon and shut itself off during playback at seemingly random intervals during playback that could never be reproduced, from the very first time I used it. I acted within the 30 day return period from the retailer, exchanged it, and the replacement has been fine. That’s the only advice I’d have to anyone getting this player - use it immediately and if it’s misbehaving from the start, exchange it with the retailer while you can rather than waiting and hoping it gets better. Much easier to exchange at the store than filing a warranty claim.
 

John Dirk

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Thanks for reading the review, Josh! It's sad Panasonic chose to reserve the brushed metal chassis for their flagship UB9000. I feel a $400.00 plus player like the UB820 should have also been worthy of it.
 

Stephen_J_H

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Thanks for reading the review, Josh! It's sad Panasonic chose to reserve the brushed metal chassis for their flagship UB9000. I feel a $400.00 plus player like the UB820 should have also been worthy of it.
Agreed. For me it's between this one and Sony's UBP-X800M2 when I upgrade, but I also need to consider a 4K projector that does 3D in my budget.
 
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ManW_TheUncool

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Agreed. For me it's between this one and Sony's UBP-X800M2 when I upgrade, but I also need to consider a 4K projector that does 3D in my budget.

There's no real reason to get more than the Panny 420 (from the Panny line) if you're gonna use it w/ a PJ.

I have an Oppo 103 (and probably shoulda gotten a 203 before Oppo left the bizz), but settled on the 420 instead (after spending some time w/ a Sony X700 that didn't give me problems other than the pretty awful UI... though Panny isn't quite so much better in that respect).

Meanwhile, there have been some, if perhaps isolated enough, reports of problems w/ the 9000 too -- and for such high price, it doesn't even support SACD... nor can one easily, reliably mod/hack it for all-region playback (unlike the Oppos).

Anyway, I guess the 820 is worthwhile enough if one can find it on sale for say $350 like it had dropped at a couple points (during specific times) in the past, but IMHO, probably better to just save the $ w/ the 420, especially if you can find one for <$200 -- I only paid ~$150 for mine during the holiday shopping season after its original release a few years ago.

_Man_
 

John Dirk

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There's no real reason to get more than the Panny 420 (from the Panny line) if you're gonna use it w/ a PJ.
Forgot to specifically mention this one in the review but I'd tend to agree, since I find the latest crop of projectors claiming to support Dolby Vision a bit dubious.
 

Josh Steinberg

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There's no real reason to get more than the Panny 420 (from the Panny line) if you're gonna use it w/ a PJ.

True. I decided to upgrade to 820 because I occasionally run a flat panel hooked up through the same setup as the projector so I figured it was worth the extra few bucks to have the player that could handle DV in case I ever had reason to use that capability. I thought I read that the 820 had better HDR tone mapping than the 420 but I can’t be sure I’m not making that up.
 

John Dirk

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I thought I read that the 820 had better HDR tone mapping than the 420 but I can’t be sure I’m not making that up.
You're probably thinking of the UB9000. It uses the same Hollywood Cinema [HCX] video processor as the others but includes two additional HDR Optimizer modes developed specifically for use with JVC projectors.
 

seangood79

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I really like this player. My only real complaint, is having a tv with both HDR 10+ and Dolby Vision, playing a disc with both formats it defaults to HDR 10+. You have to go in and disable 10+ to watch it in DV
 

mackjay

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Got this player a couple months ago and I'm very happy with it as far as its performance. Navigating settings can be a pain at times, but not major, and the remote is merely adequate. Mine is modified to be region-free and it works like a charm. I was a little surprised by how many blu-rays are region-free already...I know the 4K discs are region-free.
 

Bryan^H

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Nice review. Regarding the remote, I love the UB9000 remote, and considering that it works on the 820 perfectly, I'm puzzled why some of my friends did not take my advice to upgrade from their 820 remote (after they complained to me how they much they disliked the "cheap" remote that was provided). The remote is backlit, the button placement is perfection imo. And you can find them for under $20.
But whatever, all I can do is suggest it.
 

John Dirk

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Nice review. Regarding the remote, I love the UB9000 remote, and considering that it works on the 820 perfectly, I'm puzzled why some of my friends did not take my advice to upgrade from their 820 remote (after they complained to me how they much they disliked the "cheap" remote that was provided). The remote is backlit, the button placement is perfection imo. And you can find them for under $20.
But whatever, all I can do is suggest it.
Great info, @Bryan^H ! I can only speak for myself. I use a universal, tablet-based remote so, while I felt it worthy of noting in the review, it isn't a problem for me.
 

Josh Steinberg

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Nice review. Regarding the remote, I love the UB9000 remote, and considering that it works on the 820 perfectly, I'm puzzled why some of my friends did not take my advice to upgrade from their 820 remote (after they complained to me how they much they disliked the "cheap" remote that was provided). The remote is backlit, the button placement is perfection imo. And you can find them for under $20.
But whatever, all I can do is suggest it.

That’s great to know! Right now I’m finding I only use that player once a week at most and my remote usage is limited to pressing play to start the movie and pressing stop at the end, so I’ll probably just live with it. But if my player usage increases I’ll definitely keep that remote upgrade in mind!
 

Clinton McClure

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I currently have a Panasonic UB420 and it’s been a great player but lately I’ve been thinking about selling my PS5 and using those funds to help purchase a UB820 so I can take advantage of Dolby Vision. If I do, I’ll move my 420 down to the living room for use on the 55” Vizio down there.
 

thebox

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I currently have a Panasonic UB420 and it’s been a great player but lately I’ve been thinking about selling my PS5 and using those funds to help purchase a UB820 so I can take advantage of Dolby Vision. If I do, I’ll move my 420 down to the living room for use on the 55” Vizio down there.
Same thinking, but I'm still not convinced whether the upgrade is worth it or not.
 
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