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

To be quite frank, discs will always be better than streaming. The best 4k Blu-ray player allows viewers to enjoy higher bit-rates for picture and sound, with no compressed images and quality that’s isn’t affected by others downloading content. 

While streaming is accessible, it doesn’t deliver the highest quality. If you’re a film fanatic, 4K Blu-ray is the best way to enjoy a film. It offers the very best performance in terms of both picture and audio, as long as you have the right set-up.

We use a variety of discs to understand how well a 4K Blu-ray player works, as well as assessing its usability, load times and feature set to determine if it’s worth its price tag

With hundreds of titles available on the format, and more classics arriving in 4K each month, there’s no better way to enjoy cinema to home.

How we test 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.

The best 4K Blu-ray player
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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

Panasonic’s 4K Blu-ray flagship player is the most ambitious player we’ve seen from the Japanese brand, uniquely suited to coping with the many variants of HDR.

It covers all the bases, supporting standard HDR10, Dolby Vision and HDR10+ dynamic metadata. And the UB9000’s picture quality just about surpasses that of any other UHD disc spinner available. Pictures are smooth and filled with an astonishing amount of detail, and when it comes to audio it sounds good – perhaps not audiophile quality, but impressive nonetheless.

The UB9000 at the head of the 4K player market, more than justifying the outlay.

Reviewer: Steve May
Full Review: Panasonic DP-UB9000

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 HDR10+ and Dolby Vision playback – so whatever form of HDR your 4K content supports, the UB820 can play it.

And plays HDR content with some verve. Colours are precise, clear and beautifully rendered, thanks to the HCX processor. Picture quality is complemented by a good selection of streaming apps, as well as useful features to help you manage HDR playback, though the user interface could use an overhaul. The only real downside is the player’s unexciting CD playback.

Reviewer: Steve May
Full Review: Panasonic DP-UB820

An 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 multitasker, functioning as a universal audio disc player and a hi-res audio player.

Connectivity is extensive, although it’s strictly digital. There are separate HDMI outputs for audio and video, a coaxial output, plus Bluetooth and dual-band Wi-Fi. There’s support for Hi-res music, plus support for SACD.

Disappointingly it didn’t have Dolby Vision, but even so, images are astoundingly sharp, with no undue artefacts and colours are 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 consider it.

Reviewer: Steve May
Full Review: Sony UBP-X800

A steal for less than £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

Despite the cheaper build quality, the X700 retains many of the same features the X800, and throws Dolby Vision HDR into the bargain.

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.

Reviewer: Steve Withers
Full reviews: Sony UBP-X700

A versatile and affordable player
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Pros

  • Plays HDR10, HDR10+ and Dolby Vision discs
  • Good value
  • Easy to use

Cons

  • Not as good a picture performer as Panasonic’s step-up player
  • Flimsy build quality
  • No streaming apps

The DP-UB450 offers HDR10+ and Dolby Vision at an affordable price. It’s the only sub-£200 Blu-ray player to support both formats, making it incredibly consumer-friendly for anyone on the hunt for a Blu-ray player capable of keeping up with their new TV.

While the build quality of the player is plastic and not-so-fantastic, it offers twin HDMI connections for separated video and audio connections. It lacks the HCX Processor of the UB820, but that’s to expected at this price. Picture quality is good for the price, and audio is delivered in a crisp and clean manner. The UB450 is a great deal for those looking a for 4K Blu-ray player on a budget.

Reviewer: John Archer
Full Review: Panasonic DP-UB450

4K on a budget
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Pros

  • HDR10+ playback
  • Strong black levels
  • Rich colours
  • Affordable

Cons

  • No Dolby Vision
  • Small remote
  • Not the most refined picture quality

The DP-UB150 could be mistaken for the DP-UB450’s twin. Look closer though, and the feature set has been slimmed. The UB150 keeps HDR10+ but drops Dolby Vision.

So while it’s not as feature-packed, the selection of features is quite decent for the money with 3D included for those still interested in the format.
And picture quality is good, with rich and vibrant colours, though like the UB450 it’s isn’t the most refined or subtlest of pictures. The audio sounds big, though it’s not as nuanced as the rival Sony X700. That said, if want to start your 4K collection cheaply, the UB150 is definitely worth a look.

Reviewer: Kob Monney
Full Review: Panasonic DP-UB150

FAQs

Do 4K Blu-ray players support Blu-ray and DVD?

Yes they can play older disc formats.

Which 4K Blu-ray player is best?

Currently we consider the Panasonic DP-UB9000 as the best 4K player with its HDR support and picture quality.

Are 4K Blu-ray players multi-region?

Yes, 4K Blu-ray players support multi-region for 4K discs, but for standard Blu-rays they limited to the region in which they were bought.

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