Impressive visuals, HDR10+ playback and hi-res audio support make this affordable UHD player a solid bet, argues Steve May
No front-panel display here
PRODUCT: Low-cost UHD Blu-ray player
POSITION: Below the UB820, and a Currys PC World exclusive
PEERS: Sony UBP-X700; Samsung UBD-M9000
LIKE MANY LOW-COST disc spinners, Panasonic’s DP-UB420 appears to be an unexciting black box. The lightweight, less-than-full-width chassis is undistinguished, and there’s no front fascia display beyond a simple LED status light.
Around the back are two HDMI ports, configured as separate AV plus audio-only outputs. 4K HDR can only be sent from one of these. Other connections include digital optical audio and Ethernet, to supplement the player’s onboard Wi-Fi.
The supplied remote is a short, stubby affair with dedicated Netflix button. There are also on-body controls for tray eject and power.
But these are just details. The key appeal of the DP-UB420 lies beneath the lid. There’s actually no difference to the core HCX image processing here to models higher up the Panasonic food chain. The promise is performance without the price.
The user interface is unchanged from previous Panasonic players, using graphical tabs designated Videos, Music, Photos, Home Network, Network Service and Setup.
The player requires only a modicum of the latter. You’ll need to manually toggle the output to best suit your display. Menu options include OLED, Super High luminance LCD, Middle or High Luminance LCD, and Basic Luminance options for projectors and low-brightness sets.
Streaming service support is somewhat rudimentary. You’re essentially offered Netflix, Amazon Video and YouTube, as well as BBC News and Sport. The Netflix and Amazon apps only support HD and 5.1, so no 4K or Dolby Atmos. However there is a firmware update to 4K promised, so things could improve.
When it comes to 4K Blu-ray, the deck is more obliging, supporting both HDR10 and HDR10+ (but not Dolby Vision). An SDR/HDR conversion circuit is provided to automatically ‘upscale’ all streaming SDR into HDR. This only works with network content, not discs. Depending on the native talents of your TV, this may or may not be a good thing.
If you prefer things au natural, SDR to HDR conversion can be defeated. There’s also an HLG to HDR (PQ) converter option, to be deployed with non-HLG displays, but this is of no obvious use at the moment.
It’s Milla time
Image quality is first-rate. With the UB420 slotted into a mid-range Atmos 5.1.2 system, and Resident Evil: The Final Chapter disgorging 2160p splatter and Dolby Atmos carnage, you’d never suspect this was a budget deck.
4K clarity is spot on. Fine detail is presented without artefacts, and the quality of bitstream audio determined not by this hardware but the decoder further up the system chain.
The deck had no problem finding media servers on my network, and happily unspooled 24-bit FLAC and DSD files, sounding quite majestic in the process. This isn’t a universal disc spinner though. SACDs are roundly ignored and only the Dolby Digital layer of a DVD-A disc plays back.
Disc loading speeds are quick; a movie platter took 43 seconds to get from tray to main menu, while a simpler music concert title needed just 34 seconds. The deck itself does sound a bit clunky during disc loading, but any transport noise during playback is mainly masked by your sound system.
If you’re after a 4K spinner but don’t have the funds or inclination to splurge on a battleship-style flagship, the DP-UB420 is a surprisingly good solution. Its AV talents belie the basic construction, offering a level of visual refinement that wouldn’t disgrace an upscale theatre.
For most users, the key performance difference between this cheapie and its step-up brothers will be sonic. If you’re not seeking a player that can double as an audiophile source in the analogue domain, and can live with the basic build and current lack of 4K streaming apps, it represents good value
Fine UHD image quality, hi-res file support and HDR10+ compatibility makeup for the lightweight build and basic streaming apps.
3D: Yes. ULTRA HD: Yes HDR: Yes. HDR10; HDR10+ UPSCALING: Yes. 2160p MULTIREGION: No. Region B BD; R2 DVD HDMI: Yes. 2 x output (1 x 2.0) MULTICHANNEL ANALOGUE: No DIGITAL AUDIO: Yes. Optical digital audio output ETHERNET: Yes BUILT IN WI-FI: Yes SACD/DVD-A: No/No DIMENSIONS: 320(w) x 45(h) x 197(d)mm WEIGHT: 1.4kg
FEATURES: 2 x USB ports; smart portal; DLNA media playback with support for FLAC, WAV, ALAC, DSD, WMA, AAC, MP3 and AIFF audio; HCX image processor; SDR to HDR conversion; HLG to HDR10 conversion