The world of home cinema kit waits for no manufacturer, and Panasonic has always proved a pace-setter when it comes to Blu-ray players.

But in the face of increasingly stiff competition, will the spec-heavy Panasonic DMP-BD80 be able to keep up?

Specification shines

Suffice to say there's no problem with specification. This is one of only a handful of players that boasts multichannel analogue outputs.

If your AV amp doesn't have an HDMI input or support HD audio over HDMI, the BD80 can decode onboard and send via analogue outputs.

Elsewhere, the Profile 2.0 specification tells you this player has an Ethernet connection and is BD-Live compatible, allowing you to access a variety of online content. You'll also find USB and SD card inputs.

It's a little less imposing than the Pioneer BDP-320 – think less shelf space as a positive, but a little more flimsy as a negative.

To boldly go

Put through its paces, the BD80 remains highly capable throughout. Bold, vibrant colours, clean and clear landscapes and plenty of insight typify its performance, whether watching movies on Blu-ray or DVD.

Yet it's not quite as conveyor-belt smooth as the best players around, and this machine isn't able to reveal every inch of low-light detail to the extent the elite can.

High Clarity Sound impresses

Were Panasonic to produce a card for enthusiasts of its High Clarity Sound processing, we'd happily carry one: this player is capable of stirring sonics with this mode activated.

There's punch to effects and a pristine top-end to add to the excitement. Dialogue sounds clear, too.

It's only when put head-to-head with the Pioneer BDP-320 that this player is heard to give something away in terms of scale, dynamics and, crucially, detail. Nevertheless, the BD80 remains an accomplished device.

Stuff says... 

Panasonic DMP-BD80 review

A worthy contender, but the BD80 is edged out against the very best in its class