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

If you’ve been looking for a way to advance your home cinema game, you’ve come to the right place. In this handy list, you’ll find the best 4K Blu-ray player for your needs and budget.

So you’ve got your 4K TV all set up, you’ve upgraded your Netflix subscription and you think you’re ready to enjoy all that 4K has to offer, right? Well, not quite.

While 4K and HDR streaming is a really accessible way to experience the joys of 4K, the very best performance in terms of both picture and audio quality is going to come from a 4K disc played on a 4K Blu-ray player.

Thankfully, unlike most areas of tech, the 4K Blu-ray player market is still relatively small, so you only have a small selection of big names to choose from.

In contrast, after an arguably slow start, the number of discs available is now really starting to pick up, with most of the year’s big releases set to launch in this format.

How we test 4K Blu-ray players

We watch a lot of 4K Blu-rays, obviously. But before we get there there’s the matter of plugging things in, and we spend time checking out whether a 4K Blu-ray player has the barebones 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, there’s the matter of loading. 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.

Related: Best TV

 

Best 4k Blu-ray player

Oppo UDP-203

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 Oppo UDP-203 is the world’s most expensive 4K Blu-ray player yet (until the £900 Panasonic DP-UB9000 arrives), but it does a seriously good job of justifying its high price tag.

It’s well built (if a little on the chunky side), has a list of features that’ll impress even the pickiest AV enthusiast, and a proprietary new processing engine that takes 4K picture performance to a new level.

It doesn’t scrimp on connectivity either, and includes built-in Wi-Fi and a full set of phono audio-line jacks for 7.1-channel audio. It also supports Dolby Vision, as well as just about any file or disc format you throw at it, including SACDs and high-res audio files up to 32-bit/192kHz and multichannel DSD64/128.

The best thing is that its picture performance surpasses all of its competition. HDR images look punchier, peak bright detail more extreme, and deepest blacks darker and more nuanced. Colour reproduction is also richer without looking unnatural, and detail is sharper and more defined.

Put simply, no other player does such a fantastic job of squeezing every last drop of picture quality out of the Ultra HD Blu-ray format.

Note: Oppo has recently announced it is ceasing production of both new and existing products, so it’s really a case of ‘get it while you can’ with the UDP-203.

Oppo is promising continued support, with warranties honoured and updates “from time to time”, but considering the UDP-203’s large price tag, it could be wise to tread carefully.

Related: Netflix vs Amazon

Best 4k Blu-ray player

Sony UBP-X800

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

Sony may have been a little late to the 4K Blu-ray party, but the Sony UBP-X800 is more than worth the wait, especially considering its performance and high-end build quality.

It’s a 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray player with a difference. Not only is it one of the best decks on the market at playing back your 4K Blu-ray movies, but it also moonlights as a universal audio disc player and a hi-res audio player too.

Connectivity is suitably extensive, although this is a strictly digital affair – there are no analogue outputs here. Expect separate HDMI outputs for audio and video, a coaxial output plus Bluetooth and dual-band Wi-Fi to boot.

There’s also support for high-res music playback and an extensive range of both video and audio formats, including SACD.

This deck has HDR10 support only (so no Dolby Vision) and comes with an appropriately stocked OTT portal, including Amazon Prime, Netflix, YouTube and all of the UK’s catch-up services, should you prefer it to your TV’s smart system.

As for performance, 4K picture resolution is first-class. Images are astoundingly sharp, with no undue artefacts or distractions, and colour rendering is supremely accurate, thanks to input from colour experts at Sony Pictures Entertainment.

It’s distinctly unfussy. The UBP-X800 does an equally great job with standard Blu-rays too, and sounds superb with music to boot, meaning you could confidently partner this player with premium audio kit.

All in all, a bit of a bargain then, for film and music lovers alike.

Related: What size TV should I buy?

 

 

Best 4K Blu-ray player

 

Panasonic DMP-UB900

Pros

  • Stunning picture quality
  • Impressive audio
  • Clever scaling features
  • Looks great

Cons

  • High price
  • Cumbersome remote

The Panasonic’s DMP-UB900 was one of the first 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray players on the market, but that doesn’t matter. Despite being a little older than some of the competition, there’s plenty of fight left in this mighty player – particularly now it’s dropped considerably in price.

It certainly looks every bit the flagship player, and is well-built with a brushed metallic finish and a drop-down cover to hide the disc tray.

Its connectivity is equally flagship-worthy, with separate picture and audio HDMI outputs, or a choice of 7.1-channel analogue audio, coaxial or optical outs, plus a USB port and SD card slot for playing back external files.

As for physical formats, the UB900 can play CD, DVD and standard/3D Blu-ray discs as well as 4K. There’s no support for SACD or DVD-Audio, but the player can handle high-resolution audio file formats (including FLAC and DSD) delivered via NAS drives or USB, which is arguably more important.

The UB900’s performance is outstanding, helped in no small way by Panasonic’s High-Precision Chroma Processor that delivers colours more accurately than before, and images that look sharper. It also helps offer a very convincing HD-to-4K upscaler, which could do a better job than that of your TV.

HDR images look outstanding too, thanks to the UB900’s ability to retain subtle detailing in the very darkest and very brightest parts of the picture.

Picture options are extensive for tweakers too, so much so that it has been certified for both its 4K video (and audio) performance by THX. A truly superb 4K Blu-ray player that has stood the test of time.

 

Best 4K Blu-ray Player

Panasonic DMP-UB700

Pros

  • Sensational 4K image quality
  • Excellent regular Blu-ray performance

  • 4K Netflix and Amazon Video support

  • Sounds great with High-Res Audio sources

Cons

  • No analogue audio output
  • No Super Audio CD or DVD-A disc playback
  • Build quality won’t impress audiophiles 

  • Dumpy remote control


The Panasonic DMP-UB700 is the ‘Goldilocks’ player in the Panasonic 4K Blu-ray range, offering considerable upgrades on the two lower models in the range – the UB300 and UB400 – but very few sacrifices from the flagship model, the UB900.

However, while pricing differences between the this and the UB900 used to be much wider, recent price drops mean it isn’t quite as pronounced now, and you’ll only save around £40. If you’re a performance junkie counting the pennies, however, the UB700 is well worth a look.

Panasonic certainly hasn’t cut corners when it comes to features. Not only is the DMP-UB700 compatible with 4K discs, standard and 3D Blu-rays, plus DVDs and CDs, there’s also a well-stocked app portal. Connected services include BBC iPlayer, Netflix, Amazon Video and YouTube – though Amazon wasn’t streaming HDR at the time of our review.

On the rear are two HDMI outs for separate audio and video, plus an optical out too, dropping the analogue and coaxial outs from the UB900 to focus on HDMI. There is still Wi-Fi on board though, plus Ethernet, should you prefer to hard wire.

Picture quality is exceptional. Side by side, there’s no appreciable difference between the UB700 and its more expensive companion. It delivers as good an image as it’s possible to get right now, with first-rate detail and colour accuracy.

It’s the audio performance that takes a hit here, with Panasonic downgrading the power supply and removing some of the more expensive components beneath the lid.

While this means you’ll lose support for DVD-Audio and SACD, but you’ll still get pretty decent audio compatibility, including 24-bit FLAC streaming and DSD support via USB, which sound superb.

Unless you’re an audiophile with a penchant for high-res packaged audio, the UB700 retains almost all of what we loved of the UB900 for a little less cash. Connectivity is a little more limited for those with older kit, but if you don’t need it, the formidable imaging talent is almost identical.

Best 4K Blu-ray player

Samsung UBD-M9500

Samsung UBD-M9500

Pros

  • Dazzling 4K HDR pictures
  • Hassle-free setup 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 has arrived to fill in the gaps that left its predecessor somewhat overshadowed by the superior Panasonic DMP-UB900. It has a better interface, a more simplified setup process and improved design.

Even better – while it started out priced at £500 when we reviewed it, this deck is now readily available for half its RRP, which makes it something of a steal.

One of the main criticisms of the UBD-K8500 was its lightweight build quality. The UBD-M9500 is slightly improved but still largely plastic, with a love-it-or-hate-it curved design to match its curved TVs and a new OLED display.

Connectivity is a little more limited than some, but still offers two HDMI outputs for splitting the video and audio signals, and an optical out. There’s also built-in Wi-Fi for using the baked-in smart features, Bluetooth and a USB port for connecting thumb drives.

Format compatibility is a little stricter too – there’s no support for 3D Blu-ray, nor SACD or DVD-Audio discs, although it will playback high-res files up to 24-bit/192kHz. There’s no Dolby Vision support either, but it will get a firmware upgrade to support Samsung’s preferred HDR10+.

As for its performance, the UBD-M9500 is quick to load discs and serves up sumptuous UHD Blu-ray pictures, with masses of fine detail and truly life-like colours.

Clarity and colour purity are top-drawer too, and we weren’t able to make out any banding, block noise or other artefacts.

Admittedly, there’s not a huge step up in image quality between the M9500 and the K8500, but there are enough feature upgrades elsewhere to justify the extra cash.

 

Best 4K Blu-ray player

Bonus entry: Xbox One S/Xbox One X

As well as being two of the best gaming consoles on the market, the Xbox One X and the Xbox One S also double as excellent UHD Blu-ray players. If you’re a film fan as well as a gamer, that alone is a real reason to consider getting one over their PS4 Pro competition.

The Xbox One S is the cheaper option of the two (around £230 vs £430), amazingly making it one of the cheapest 4K Blu-ray players currently on the market. The Xbox One X is going to give you the better gaming performance though, thanks to better processing and native 4K gaming support – the Xbox One S merely upscales from HD.

We’re here to talk about 4K Blu-ray though, and both offer similarly impressive performances in that regard. Load times are fast and both consoles have no problem showing off all the advantages of 4K, with remarkable clarity, minute details 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, making HDR images look outstanding.

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

There’s no doubt a dedicated player will offer more subtle processing for the very best in performance, but if you’re a gamer already buying this console, you have next to no need to consider looking elsewhere for a separate player too.

Don’t expect the same quality as the top-end 4K Blu-ray players, mind. Those will handle things with more nuance.

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Best 4K Blu-ray player – things to look out for

Without wanting to boggle you with abbreviations, here are a few key ones that you need to look out for when it comes to 4K Blu-ray players:

HDCP 2.2

This is a copy protection technology aimed to prevent piracy. Ultimately all elements in your setup need to support it in order for 4K content to play. All of the 4K Blu-ray players in our round-up do that – but just be 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, which brought with it a few upgrades that will make a difference to viewing in 4K. This includes 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 steadily going hand-in-hand with 4K, allowing for 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 on the more advanced format, be sure to check both your Blu-ray player and TV support it.

To help you decide, Dolby Vision has made it to a number of discs so far, but there are no HDR10+ compatible discs available at the moment. But with growing support, including the thumbs up from Warner Bros, we’d expect that to change by the end of 2018.

From a streaming perspective, it’s split down the middle, with Amazon Prime’s video catalogue supporting the former, and Netflix featuring the latter (though it hasn’t ruled out HDR10+ support in the future).

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.