Best Blu-ray player for 4K – why discs are better than streaming

Up your home cinema game with the definitive picks of the best 4K Blu-ray players for every need and budget, chosen by Trusted Reviews.

Which is the best 4K Blu-ray player to buy?

If you’re seeking to advance your home cinema game, this is the place to find all the information you need. In this handy list, you’ll find the best 4K Blu-ray player to suit your needs and budget.

Your 4K TV is ready to go, so is your Netflix subscription, and you’re ready to enjoy all that 4K has to offer. But hold on a moment. While 4K and HDR streaming is certainly an accessible way to experience the joys of 4K, the very best performance in terms of both picture and audio quality comes from a 4K disc played on a 4K Blu-ray player.

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50% off the Sony UBP-X800 4K player

Sony UBP-X800 4K UHD Player

This 4K player from Sony has had 50% struck off its RRP and it offers excellent picture and sound quality - a great way to enjoy your 4K discs

The choice of brands is, thankfully, easy to get to grips with, as the 4K Blu-ray player market is still relatively small, so you only have a limited selection of big names to consider.

However, the number of discs available is now really starting to pick up, and most of the year’s big releases are set to launch in this format.

Related: Best TV

Panasonic DP-UB9000

1. Panasonic DP-UB9000

The best 4K Blu-ray player on the market right now

Pros

  • Sensational 4K UHD image quality
  • Dolby Vision and HDR10+ compatible
  • Breathtaking build quality
  • Streaming app portal

Cons

  • No SACD or DVD-A support
  • Not quite audiophile-grade CD playback

The DP-UB9000 is Panasonic’s 4K Blu-ray flagship player, replacing the DMP-UB900, which was one of the first players on the market. The most ambitious player we’ve seen from the Japanese brand, it is uniquely suited to coping with the many variants of HDR.

It covers all the bases, supporting standard HDR10, Dolby Vision and HDR10+ dynamic metadata.

The UB9000’s picture quality may well surpass that of any other UHD disc spinner so far. Pictures are both smooth and filled with an astonishing amount of detail. When it comes to audio it sounds good – perhaps not audiophile quality, but impressive nonetheless.

The UB-9000 is currently at the head of the 4K player market. Price may be a sticking point, but this player justifies the outlay.

Panasonic DP-UB820

2. Panasonic DP-UB820

A mid-range model that offers value for money

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Pros

  • Multi-HDR format support
  • Superb image performance for the price
  • Integrated streaming apps

Cons

  • Unexciting CD playback
  • Average build quality

The DP-UB820 benefits from Panasonic’s decision to include both HDR10+ and Dolby Vision playback – so whatever form of HDR your 4K content supports, the UB820 can play it.

And play it with verve. Colours are precise, clear and beautifully rendered, thanks to the much vaunted HCX processor. Picture quality is complemented by a good selection of streaming apps, as well as useful features to help you manage HDR playback.

Panasonic’s effort here is definitely worth checking out; the only real downside is the unexciting CD playback.

Pioneer UDP-LX500

3. Pioneer UDP-LX500

Assured performance for both video and audio

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Pros

  • Meticulous design
  • Excellent picture quality
  • SACD and DVD-Audio compatible

Cons

  • No streaming apps
  • Dour user interface

Pioneer has entered the 4K player arena with the UDP-LX500, its first foray in the field.

And it’s a serious foray. This is a tank of player, weighing in at 10.3kg, with a 1.6mm chassis base reinforced by a secondary 3mm steel plate. No disc in this beast is going to be bothered by vibration. It’s whisper-quiet during playback.

As for the picture, 4K films look pristine, with vibrant colours and excellent contrast.  The Pioneer’s performance is just a shade below that of the Panasonic DP-UB9000 listed above, but it edges ahead of the Panasonic in terms of audio quality. The LX500 is a superb player if you’re happy to part with a grand.

Oppo UDP-203

4. Oppo UDP-203

One of the best 4K players around – if you can track it down

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Pros

  • The best 4K Blu-ray picture quality yet
  • Good sound and build quality
  • Dolby Vision

Cons

  • Expensive
  • No built-in online streaming apps
  • High audio lag and no HDR on HDMI input

The chunky Oppo UDP-203 boasts an impressive list of features and a proprietary processing engine for better 4K imaging.

Connectivity is also impressive, with built-in Wi-Fi and a full set of phono audio-line jacks for 7.1-channel audio. There’s support for Dolby Vision, as well as just about any file or disc format, including SACDs and high-res audio files up to 32-bit/192kHz and multichannel DSD64/128.

HDR images look punchier, peak bright detail more extreme, and deepest blacks darker and more nuanced. Colour reproduction is richer but still looks natural, and detail is sharply defined.

However, Oppo announced in 2018 that it had ceased production of the player – it is still available but stocks are rapidly disappearing. Warranties will still be honoured and occasional updates will be made available, so if you’re interested, act now.

 

Sony UBP-X800

5. Sony UBP-X800

An excellent all-round media player

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Pros

  • Superb UHD picture performance
  • High-res audio file compatibility
  • Excellent build quality
  • Netflix, Amazon Video and YouTube 4K streaming

Cons

  • No Dolby Vision HDR support

The Sony UBP-X800 is a 4K player that stands out from the crowd. One of the best decks on the market, it’s a multitasker, also functioning as a universal audio disc player and a hi-res audio player.

Connectivity is extensive, although it’s strictly a digital affair here. There are separate HDMI outputs for audio and video, a coaxial output, plus Bluetooth and dual-band Wi-Fi, alongside support for high-res music playback and an extensive range of both video and audio formats, including SACD.

This deck only has support for HDR10, but comes with apps aplenty, including Amazon Prime, Netflix, YouTube and numerous catch-up services.

Images are astoundingly sharp, with no undue artefacts or distractions and colour rendering is notably accurate. The UBP-X800 does an equally great job with standard Blu-rays too, and music sounds superb. This all-rounder has wide appeal – film buffs and music lovers should definitely consider it.

Sony UBP-X700

6. Sony UBP-X700

A 4K player that’s a steal for under £200

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Pros

  • Excellent picture performance
  • Dolby Vision support
  • SACD disc playback
  • 4K video streaming services

Cons

  • No HDR10+ support
  • Noisy in operation
  • Flimsy build quality

While Sony’s X800 is a distinctly premium offering, the UBP-X700 brings 4K within reach of purchasers on a budget.

Despite the cheaper build quality, the X700 retains many of the same features as its older sibling, and it also supports Dolby Vision HDR for those who have compatible TVs and 4K discs.

Picture performance is excellent, and UHD discs are flawlessly reproduced in minute detail, with natural-looking colours. The UBP-X700 even performs brilliantly with SDR content, getting the maximum out of every last pixel. If you want to spend less than £200, this is the most accomplished 4K player you’ll find.

Samsung UBD-M9000

 7. Samsung UBD-M9500

Produces dazzling UHD images

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Pros

  • Dazzling 4K HDR pictures
  • Hassle-free set-up and easy ‘one remote’ operation
  • Extensive feature list
  • Fast, quiet operation
  • OLED display

Cons

  • Build lacks luxury for the money
  • No 3D Blu-ray, SACD or DVD-Audio playback
  • No Dolby Vision support

The Samsung UBD-M9500’s predecessor was overshadowed by the Panasonic DMP-UB900 – this model bridges the gaps, with improved interface, a simpler set-up process and an improved design.

Some players offer better connectivity, but the UBD-M9500 still features two HDMI outputs for splitting video and audio signals and an optical out. Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and a USB port for connecting thumb drives are all built in.

Format compatibility is a little stricter. There’s no support for 3D Blu-ray, nor SACD or DVD-Audio discs, although it can play high-res files up to 24-bit/192kHz. Dolby Vision is also missing, though there is support for Samsung’s preferred HDR10+.

Performance is up to scratch. The UBD-M9500 is quick to load discs and serves up UHD Blu-ray pictures with plenty of fine detail and genuinely life-like colours. Clarity and colour purity are also top quality, and we weren’t able to make out any banding, block noise or other artefacts.

Xbox One X

8. Xbox One S/Xbox One X

The 4K console of choice


If your interests cover both film and gaming, one of these models might fit the bill instead of the PS4 Pro. The Xbox One X and the Xbox One S are two of the best gaming consoles available, and also double as good UHD Blu-ray players.

Load times are fast and neither console has any trouble with showcasing all the advantages of 4K, including clarity, sharp detail and lifelike textures. You also get noticeably higher dynamic range, which isn’t just about bright highlights and inky blacks. It’s also about the detail in between, which the Xbox picks out with precision, so that HDR images look outstanding.

There’s support for Dolby Atmos audio, as well as a slew of built-in smart TV apps, including Netflix, Amazon Prime and iPlayer.

However, the quality won’t reach the same standards as those of top-end 4K Blu-ray players, which offer more nuance.


Best 4K Blu-ray player jargon

We don’t want to overload you with abbreviations, but there are a few key ones relating to 4K Blu-ray players that are useful to know.

HDCP 2.2 –This is a copy protection technology aimed to prevent piracy. Ultimately all elements in your set-up need to support it in order for 4K content to play. All of the 4K Blu-ray players in our round-up have HDCP 2.2 – but make sure the HDMI port you use on your TV or AV receiver does as well.

HDMI 2.0 – HDMI 2.0 is the most recent HDMI standard, with a few upgrades that make a difference to viewing in 4K. These include 50Hz and 60Hz refresh rates, 10-bit and 12-bit colour depth, plus improved audio support. As with HDCP2.2, you’ll want to ensure all components in your system feature it – some devices may only have certain ports that use it, so double check you’re using the right one.

HDR – High dynamic range is a picture processing feature that is progressing hand-in-hand with 4K, enabling bolder colours, brighter whites and improved detail in shadows and highlights.

There are several formats now – the standard HDR10, the broadcast standard HLG and the two competing advanced frame-by-frame formats, HDR10+ and Dolby Vision. Most Blu-ray players and TVs support the first two, but if you have a preference for the more advanced format, be sure to check both your Blu-ray player and TV support it.

To help you decide, Dolby Vision can be found on many discs (but not a huge amount, thus far). Support for HDR10+ compatible discs started in early 2019 with the likes of Bad Times at the El Royale and Alien and we’re now seeing studios launch discs with both versions of HDR included. 4K discs with both include Bohemian Rhapsody, Alita: Battle Angel, The Shining and Godzilla: King of the Monsters.

From a streaming perspective, it’s weighted towards Dolby Vision. Amazon Prime’s video catalogue features support for HDR10+, but there is some Dolby Vision content (such as Jack Ryan). Netflix is in the corner of Dolby Vision (though it hasn’t ruled out HDR10+ support in the future), as are the upcoming Apple TV Plus and Disney Plus video streaming services.

Related: What is HDMI ARC?

Best 4K Blu-ray player extra features

Abbreviations aside, you’ll want to think about what else you’d like your Blu-ray player to be able to do, aside from playing Blu-ray discs. Some double up as a media player to play back your CDs or even SACDs, and others have support for high-res streaming, including DSD files.

Those hanging on to 3D Blu-ray discs may also want to double-check their player supports them, as this functionality is being phased out across the board.

There’s also connectivity to think about, such as whether you’ll require Wi-Fi or not. If you’re happy to hardwire via Ethernet, you might be able to spend less on a more budget player.

At the other end of the spectrum, more expensive players will give you more options when it comes to connecting your Blu-ray player to your AV receiver, including separate video and audio outs, or a full set of 7.1-channel analogue audio outputs.

A lot of Blu-ray players also have built-in smart TV or OTT (over-the-air) apps for streaming 4K content from the likes of Netflix, Amazon Prime and YouTube. It’s very likely your TV also supports this, but if you don’t like the interface, or it’s missing a few things, look out for a Blu-ray player that can fill in the gaps.

Finally, a display on the front of a Blu-ray player can sometimes make all the difference when it comes to operating it. Not all of them have them, so it’s worth double checking if ease of use is important to you.

How we test 4K Blu-ray players

We watch a lot of 4K Blu-rays, obviously. But before we get to the viewings, there’s the matter of plugging things in, and we spend time checking out whether a 4K Blu-ray player has the bare-bones single HDMI, or twin HDMI to separate out sound and vision, plus multi-channel analogue audio output. All that stuff matters if you’re going to set up a home cinema.

When we do get to the discs, we care how quickly the disc tray loads, and whether it rattles. We care about loading times, how quickly you go from disc insertion to getting to the main menu. While things load, we’ll also take the time to scour the specs sheets to check for format compatibility.

Then it’s time to watch 4K Blu-rays, and we pay attention to the picture and sound quality. No, they’re not the same. The discs all put out the same information but every 4K Blu-ray player processes them differently. We look out for the best balance of detail, subtlety, vibrancy and realism. If there are promises such as Dolby Atmos, we pay special attention to the precision of effects placement.

After all this, we sweat the small stuff. Is the remote easy to use, particularly in dark rooms? Is the system interface easy to navigate? Finally, every element is judged against the price. If a machine represents good value generally, we’ll be a little more lenient on a bad remote. Pricier machines, however, had better be stunning.

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