Making a Blu-ray player for under £100/$150 is no easy feat. Making a good Blu-ray player for under £100 is more difficult, and a great one harder still.
But Panasonic’s DMP-BDT180EB player has taken on the challenge, and achieved it – offering an impressive performance for those on a budget.
For a start, this Panasonic is sharp. Watching Riverdale on Netflix, when Cheryl Blossom is found soaking wet by the edge of the river, you can distinctly see the water droplets in her hair and the threads of her drenched dress – even on a mid-length shot.
But it’s when the camera moves in close that you really get to appreciate the insight the BDT180EB provides. There’s great detail in Archie Andrew’s hair, and the player even captures the boyish glint in his eye.
While Riverdale has an intrinsically punchy colour palette, the BDT180EB handles it well – providing enough pop to both the neon signs on the local diner and more subtle effects like the shine of the light on chains in Marco Polo: One Thousand Eyes.
And when those chains fly into action during the fight scenes, the BDT180EB tracks the motions easily. This player hits the sweet spot where the movements are natural, neither coming across too jerky or too processed.
Not everyone has a collection of Blu-ray discs, so a good player should cater for those that still have their favourite films on DVD. The Panasonic manages this well too. Its upscaler is competent enough to convey detail and depth with lower quality sources.
There is a little bit of expected picture noise, and during dimly lit films like Alien the dark details slightly suffer, but it’s an entirely watchable picture that should keep you happy.
And while Panasonic also says that the BDT180EB is capable of satisfyingly upscaling to 4K too (it doesn’t play 4K Blu-ray discs), it’s worth comparing between your television’s own upscaler and that of the Blu-ray player before deciding which one to use.
It doesn’t hold back when it comes to audio quality either; the dynamism that comes across in its picture is matched by its sound.
During the battle scenes of Avengers: Age of Ultron, each earthy punch or blast of brass from trumpets is driven home, while during the party – where the Avengers celebrate the defeat of Baron Wolfgang von Strucker – the music playing in the background is kept lively and fun.
The BDT180EB also provides enough space for the sound to stretch out into our medium-sized testing room.
When Ultron flies above the rising Sokovia, his monologue is rich and full-bodied, standing out against the smaller sounds of rubble crumbling and rockets flaring.
Voices are kept clear too, with a pretty balanced sound – so while you probably won’t use this as your go-to music player, you can always sling a CD into it with confidence.
The BDT180EB comes with a smart menu, with the staple video streaming services of Netflix, YouTube, Amazon Video and BBC iPlayer built-in.
However, it does lack wi-fi connectivity, so your only option is to plug in an ethernet cable. There’s also the option to stream audio wirelessly to other speakers through its DLNA multi-room support, which is a nice touch.
If we have one criticism of this player, it’s with the remote. It’s rather small, with tiny buttons that are easily pressed by mistake. The navigational keys are too low down the remote, rather than sitting in the middle for quick access.
But that aside, the BDT180EB is a very competitive product, offering a quality picture at a low price point that will be at home on both HD and 4K screens.
Whether it’s DVD, Blu-ray or video streaming, this player can handle them all.