Since we last provided a review of the best 4k Blu-ray players in 2021, not a great deal has changed in terms of product diversity or availability. But there is a good reason to dig in again here for the New Year. Disc media is still the best way to guarantee that your movies look as pristine and unadulterated as possible.
With the increasing market saturation of TVs pushing 70-inch screen sizes and more, the ability to scrutinize every detail in an image becomes ever more applicable.
And, of course, many home theater hobbyists own projectors and fixed frame screens in dedicated darkened rooms. In such environments, video artifacts from color banding or grain inconsistencies, for example, become less tolerable.
With all that said, there was a significant new market entrant later in 2021 in the form of France-based pioneer Reavon. The company announced two new 4K players housed in rugged steel cases which appeared to ape the former blockbuster Oppo spinners.
We reviewed the Reavon UBR-X200 at the beginning of 2022. Its more sensibly priced sibling, the UBR-X100, earns a rightful place on our list.
The 4K HDR revolution upped the AV quality stakes once again in 2015. When the studios rescan and finely tune studio catalog titles from 35mm or 65mm negatives for the new 4K UHD disc format, the results can be staggering.
Many of our movies now look as close to first-run theatrical film prints as they ever have. If anything, 4K is a way to remind ourselves what going to the movies was truly like before cinema projectors went digital after the turn of the millennium.
Of course, movie collectors obsessed with quality have alternatives if they shun physical media. They can opt for a high-bandwidth fiber internet connection into the home. But, as we have said before at HTF, those people can never be certain of the real-world results they hope to achieve.
If money is no object, you can opt for Kaleidescape’s amazing selection of home storage servers and players to distribute content around the home. A movie title ordered from the company’s store can top out at 120 Gb, a file size substantially larger than even a triple-layer 4K Blu-ray disc can offer. It’s an amazing piece of engineering but expensive.
Reavon’s sister brand Zappiti’s NAS solution for ripping your collection is not cheap either and requires a fair amount of labor to get all your media uploaded.
Like last time, we have decided to include players only capable of playing 4K UHD content. We figure most of you out there won’t be considering 1080p displays as your main movie watching screen anyway.
We suggest you research prices of Blu-ray decks from several retailers before buying. There have been a number of price drops on the products here in the past two years, some of which we highlight in the text.
There are budget and high-priced solutions in our roundup for anyone deciding to dip into the exciting world of physical media.
Best Budget Blu-Ray Players
Price at publishing: $249.99
The DP-UB420 still gives disc hoarders a chance to experience some of the Panasonic’s playback magic without needing to break the bank. In fact, like the other players in this list, you should not be put off by the MSRP.
You can find this impressive model for around $170 these days, so it’s always worth a scout on the internet for the best deal. The DP-UB420 sports several of the features of the benchmark DP-UB820 which have been ported into this more affordable chassis.
These include the invaluable HDR Optimizer tone mapping for customizing potentially problematic HDR content to your display, 4K direct chroma upscaling and several streaming options.
While you must forego the 7.1 analog outs and Dolby Vision features of the UB820 (see below), the HCX processor – found in all Panasonic models further up the price scale – will guarantee pristine images on your screen.
Note that while multi-channel audio playback is impressive, the deck is considered a little harsh sounding on CDs.
This raft of Pannies from 2018 did not win any design awards either. But it is also a nice touch to have Netflix, YouTube and Amazon Prime apps baked in for streaming, and there is voice control compatibility with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant.
Price at publishing: $259.99
The UBP-X700 is one of those players which has seen a price hike of some $70 since the pandemic.
Perhaps the biggest complaint by users of this rather plasticky player was its need for manual selection of Dolby Vision. But it’s still good to see the feature on a deck at this price point.
The X700 notably does not have HDR10+ support. It is also clearly not designed for mounting into a rack and, consequently, at a 12-inch width, will most likely find a home on a shelf under the TV.
This Sony deck can deliver 4K and 1080p pictures which are highly detailed with a corresponding excellent audio output. The latter includes strong delivery from well-known immersive formats such as Dolby Atmos and DTS:X.
With a legacy of producing reference grade studio monitors and possibly the finest residential displays, Sony is a safe pair of hands.
As well as WiFi and ethernet for streaming apps, there is hi-res music support, but you will not be able to play multi-channel audio discs like SACD and DVD-A.
Some reviewers found the diminutive remote control and lack of optical audio output to be annoyances. Keep in mind, though, that the X700 is not a premium-grade player either.
If you want more bells and whistles, you will have to pay more.
Price at publishing: $299.99
The manufacturer’s official price for this ‘budget’ 4K player is an optimistic shot. You can find LG’s top-of-the-range UBK90 for $180 or less at several outlets.
The warning that the spinner might be short on features is clear when you view the pared back front fascia. There is only a disc tray door, four discreet buttons and a USB Out.
Like the other players in this budget category, the UBK90 will unlikely be the choice for users with a dedicated AV room.
As a plus over the Sony X700, the LG does detect Dolby Vision automatically, but there is no HDR to SDR conversion, universal disc support, or tone mapping feature.
On the upside, the unit does include Wi-Fi, Ethernet, an optical audio output and robust immersive audio performance.
Images from 4K UHD content with Dolby Vision particularly are considered natural-looking and accurate, so you shouldn’t rule out this player if you are building out an AV setup on a budget. The X700 can also upscale lower resolution content with confidence.
There are some rumors on the internet that the UBK90 is a multi-region player for Blu-rays and DVDs. If your movie collection includes the region codes of trans-Atlantic or trans-Pacific titles, then this might be worth investigating.
Best Mid-Priced 4k Blu-Ray Players
Price at publishing: $329.99
The top place in the Sony hierarchy of disc spinners is the UBP-X800M2, which was formerly superseded by the now unavailable X1100ES.
This latter spinner promised more robust audio chops with its ES or ‘Elevated Standard’ moniker. The product’s absence from the market suggests it didn’t prove to be enough of a convincing upsell over the unit we look at here.
Once again, the manufacturer’s price should be roundly ignored. Upon release, the player was available for $500. It seems the revised MSRP is $330, and Sony is now offering the unit for $250. Whichever way you cut it, that’s a great deal.
Picture quality is full of detail and vibrancy, and the conveniently low-rise unit can play any disc on the market, including SACD, DVD-A and 3D Blu-ray. We believe that makes the player a superb value proposition alone. The X800M2 shines on music sources, too.
However, like Sony’s X700 (see above), a user must still manually select Dolby Vision. This could become a headache over time given that some UHD discs do not always include the logo on the packaging. Furthermore, unless DV is disabled, the processing will be applied to the next piece of content you show.
HDR10+ detection and implementation are also absent. Despite these reservations, the Sony sports a low-profile and stylish 17-inch design, which makes the X800M2 ideal for sliding into a rack.
There is a good sprinkling of connectivity options with analogue and digital outs, a pleasant remote and already-mentioned class-leading performance.
Price at publishing: $499.99
Perhaps not so compelling for Blu-ray deck shoppers is the locked price of the Panasonic DP-UB820. But before you plump for the far cheaper Sony X800M2 (see above), you should give the Panasonic first refusal before committing.
The DP-UB820 has become something of a benchmark and quality marker for high-end home theater performance, particularly if you are using a projector or large flat panel display in your home.
There is hardly a Panasonic player in its current range that does not represent a compelling price/performance proposition. The DP-UB820 is no exception.
The player is a star act and delivers impressively detailed 4K images, startling color and bounding audio with the default settings straight out of the box. If you want to tweak your 4K images and immersive audio even further, there is a comprehensive range of on-screen menus and features to help you along the way.
Taking on board much of the audio and picture delivery finesse from its larger sibling, the UB9000, the UB820 supports Dolby Vision, HDR10+, HLG and a high-end bonus in the form of the HDR Optimizer.
Although the player looks appealing enough in a rack, you might have to overlook the unremarkable build quality and toy-like standard remote.
With that said, and for the time being, the UB820 represents the high bar for performance in a mid-price package.
Best Mid-High Priced 4k Blu-Ray Players
Price at publishing: $799
For many years the players from Oppo represented the universal pinnacle of disc spinner performance. There was a collective gasp of shock when the company pulled its roster of products from the market in 2017.
Until 2021 when Reavon announced that it was introducing two new 4K Blu-ray players to the market, the only other confident and reference-grade player to compete was the Panasonic DP-UB9000 (see below).
We positively reviewed Reavon’s arguably overpriced UBR-X200 $1,699 player last year. But with all things considered, we feel that the cheaper UBR-X100 represents the best bang for your buck.
The player has a fine all-steel build quality even if the disc tray itself seems a little flimsy. Also, although touted as a universal disc player, it cannot play your SACDs, but will negotiate your DVD-As. (If SACD playback is essential, you can opt for the $999 X110.)
The X100 foregoes the 7.1 analog Outs and toroidal transformer found on the more expensive X200. Despite the X100 lacking such a useful tool as Panasonic’s HDR Optimizer, the Source Direct mode passes an untampered and beautiful image to your display.
Reavon wisely decided to use the same video processing chipset found in the former Oppos, and the results are clear for all to see. Multi-channel audio and music sources are potentially even more articulate than what you get from the Panasonics.
We have noticed the X200 and X100 can produce excessive chassis vibration and referred noise at certain disc RPMs. If that’s the case, we recommend placement of Reavon players either in a rack, or on solid or isolated shelving.
You should also be aware that the Reavon players have no onboard streaming apps like Netflix.
Price at publishing: $999.99
Panasonic’s DP-UB9000 feels like the grown-up version of the DP-UB820. Like the Reavon models, the Panasonic has a handsome brushed aluminum faceplate, anti-vibration feet and hi-fi-style steel chassis.
This is more like the kind of rugged kit to complement an equipment rack. However, if you want the more comprehensive disc support of SACD and DVD-A, you should consider the Reavon players (see above).
Some suggest that the UB9000 has the edge over former Oppo players in terms of color reproduction, contrast and detail, making it a new force to be reckoned with.
As well as Panasonic’s second generation HCX video processor, the unit carries THX display certification, meaning that the player needed to satisfy multiple tweaky video tests before coming to market. The HDR Optimizer ensures that your display will not clip while negotiating bright highlights on problematic source material. That’s a great boon for projector owners.
Round the back of the unit, there are two balanced XLR outputs for two-channel media and 7.1 analog Outs.
Before you splash out, remember that a software player is the most likely component in your home theater to require an upgrade within a three-to-five-year lifespan due to fast-evolving tech or obsolescence.
Martin Dew is an independent AV and pro cinema journalist. He has written news, features and reviews for several print magazines, including Home Cinema Choice, Essential Install, Cinema Technology and Film Journal. Martin moved to San Francisco in 1995 to join the THX Division of Lucasfilm Ltd. where he worked in international sales and marketing for residential and pro cinema. He subsequently joined the digital cinema division of NEC in Los Angeles in business development. He later consulted to DreamWorks at Universal City to assist with shooting schedule mapping for several major feature films. Having originally trained as an actor at GSA, Martin also found time to work on the other side of the camera in both the US and UK, with cast credits in three Steven Spielberg films. He has also appeared in Doctor Who and Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back.
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