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Sony UBP-X800 review: Top-class 4K Blu-ray playback

Christopher Minasians
9 Dec 2019
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
316
inc VAT

It might cost more than the Xbox One S, but it’s quicker, quieter and video quality is superb

Pros 
Sensational image quality
Wi-Fi and Bluetooth streaming
Good selection of apps
Cons 
Mediocre upsampling
No support for Dolby Vision
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After a slow start, 4K Blu-ray players are now arriving thick and fast but there’s still not many that can challenge the Xbox One S when it comes to pure value for money. Instead, dedicated deck manufacturers are choosing to market their products on image and audio quality and extra features in an attempt to persuade home-cinemaphiles to part with their cash.

Enter Sony’s latest player – the UBP-X800 – with which Sony is taking a similar approach. It isn’t as cheap as an Xbox One S, but just like other Blu-ray players I’ve tested recently it offers many more features, plus superior image quality.

READ NEXT: Best 4K Blu-ray player UK: The best Ultra HD Blu-ray players you can buy

Sony UBP-X800 review: What you need to know

In a nutshell, the Sony UBP-X800 is an excellent 4K HDR Blu-ray player that ticks all the right boxes. It has sensational video quality, an easy-to-use interface, a quiet disk loader and a sleek design.

It might not be as cheap as the Xbox One S, nor have the same Ultra HD upsampling capabilities as the Oppo UDP-203, but the Sony UBP-X800 is the only dedicated 4K Blu-ray player that I’d actively recommend.

READ NEXT: Best TV 2017: The best televisions to buy

Sony UBP-X800 review: Price and competition

The Sony UBP-X800 costs £316 from Amazon and John Lewis. For a little less cash you can find the Samsung UBD-M9500 (originally reviewed at £400). There’s also the impressive Panasonic DMP-UB900EBK at around £380 and the more wallet-friendly Samsung BDK8500 at around £190.

If you’re looking for a budget 4K Blu-ray player with gaming capabilities, there’s the £225 Microsoft Xbox One S. At the other end of the scale, there’s the luxurious Oppo UDP-203 that costs around £650.

READ NEXT: Samsung UBD-M9500 review: The 4K Blu-ray player you can stream movies from

Sony UBP-X800 review: Features, design and build quality

The player looks great alongside an AV-receiver. Its all-black aluminium chassis and glass contours really look the part. Oddly, there’s no LED display, which is a slight disappointment, but on the flip side this leads to a clean, uncluttered look that wouldn’t be out of place in the most snooty of home cinema setups.

Despite the lack of display, there’s plenty going for this player in terms of features, though. At the rear is an HDMI 2.0/HDCP 2.2-enabled video output for all your 4K content plus an HDMI 1.4 audio-only output for devices with single HDMI inputs. You get one coax S/PDIF digital output, plus an Ethernet port and a USB input for media playback at the front beneath the X800’s physical eject and power buttons. Surprisingly, there’s no optical output.

There’s wireless connectivity, too, and on this front the UBP-X800 has dual-band Wi-Fi for internet connectivity and multiroom streaming via compatible Sony audio products. There’s also Bluetooth transmission for streaming audio directly to wireless speakers and headphones. One interesting aspect of the latter is that it supports not only the regular SBC Bluetooth codec but also Sony’s own LDAC system, which is capable of sending out a much higher quality audio stream. You’ll need compatible headphones or speakers to decode LDAC over Bluetooth, though.

Also read: Our pick of the best Bluetooth headphones of 2017

And, as you’d expect, the X800 supports a wide array of audio and video formats. There’s bitstream output for passing both Dolby Atmos and DTS:X soundtracks to compatible equipment and, speaking of audio, the UBP-X800 also supports 24-bit audio from AAC and WAV all the way up to DSD 11.2MHz file formats making it a real treat for audiophiles.

There’s also support for HDR10 here but its lack of Dolby Vision might put off a few avid consumers. Given the market for Dolby Vision-enabled films are still rather limited, though, this shouldn’t be an inherent problem for most.

Finally, the remote control is excellent: a lesson in simplicity and sensible design. The buttons are small, yet easily located and responsive and there’s a sensible selection of controls, not an overflow of unnecessary complication. I particularly like the Netflix button that launches the in-built app and the Net Service button that delivers quick access to your most recently used app. There’s also a favourite button that allows you to permanently launch any app directly.

READ NEXT: Samsung UBD-K8500 review  – 4K Blu-ray for the masses?

Sony UBP-X800 review: User interface and built-in apps

This no-nonsense approach extends to the Sony UBP-X800’s user interface. Once again, it’s simple to operate and responsive, yet provides all the advanced options you need through a set of easy to understand menus.

The choice of built-in apps are impressive, too. There’s a flurry of pre-installed stuff here, including Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and YouTube, which all support 4K streaming, plus BBC iPlayer, Demand 5 and Spotify, and you can add more through Sony’s bank of other apps, such as Pandora, Hulu and Vudu. These will, however, vary across different regions around the world.

READ NEXT: The BEST soundbars of 2017: Boost your TV audio

Sony UBP-X800 review: Performance and image quality

I usually compare the 4K Blu-ray directly with the office Xbox One S as that’s the best way to get a 4K Blu-ray for a reasonable amount of money, and on this front, the Sony UBP-X800 impresses. Both its audio and video quality are spectacular and a significant step up .

I used the Samsung UE65KS9000 TV to conduct my tests and although a TV this big is overkill for most people, you’ll want to make sure you’ve got a decent TV to make the most out of this player. (Also, make sure you check out our Best TV deals of 2017 page to grab yourself a good deal on a great TV.)

First, I use The Revenant to assess a player’s capabilities in dealing with top-notch cinematography. In the first few action scenes, the Sony player has superb motion processing capabilities – when Leonardo DiCaprio’s character is sprinting through the flooded forest – the Sony keeps up in excellent fashion with no stuttering or jittering as the camera pans across the scene.

Moving to the final, brutal scene in the movie, DiCaprio’s face is perfectly represented, with blood, sweat and icicles portrayed in frighteningly lifelike fashion on the actor’s face.

Pop Star Trek Beyond into the disk tray, and colours are full of life, vibrant and popping throughout various scenes. Again, the UBP-X800 is able to keep up with fast-paced action scenes and it showcases the film in remarkable fashion.

To test its UHD upscaling capabilities I used the first few action scenes in Transformers: Age of Extinction. There’s one scene in particular, involving Lockdown (ROTF) shooting a set of missiles from the top of a building, that brings out the worst in a 4K Blu-ray player’s attempt to upscale from Full HD. Here, the Sony UBP-X800 shows its weakness. There’s a lot of noise, which shows up as a distracting speckling in blurred backgrounds. Likewise, the Xbox One S is similar, with noise appearing across the same scenes. On the other hand, the Oppo UDP-203 handles this much more elegantly, presenting a cleaner, sharper image overall.

I also found the Sony UBP-X800’s transport mechanism extremely quick and ultra-quiet. There’s virtually no sound from the disc spinning inside and load times, even for 4K movies, are seriously impressive. I’d go as far as saying that it’s better than the Oppo UDP-203 in this respect and it’s far less frustratingly slow than the Xbox One S.

READ NEXT: Panasonic DMP-UB900 review

Sony UBP-X800 review: Verdict

Out of all the 4K Blu-ray players I’ve reviewed, the Sony UBP-X800 ticks all the right boxes. It might not be as cheap as the Xbox One S, nor as capable the Oppo UDP-203 in its upscaling capabilities but, that aside, the £316 asking price of the Sony UBP-X800 makes it a lot more attractive than some of its competitors.

As with most dedicated 4K Blu-ray players there isn’t a huge difference in image quality compared with an Xbox One S, but if getting the very best video out of your expensive 4K TV is what you want, you value the streaming features and you’re willing to pay a little extra, the Sony UBP-X800 makes a fine choice.

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