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- To play the best-quality movies on a 4K TV, you need a 4K Blu-ray player that supports Ultra HD Blu-ray discs.
- A 4K Blu-ray player takes advantage of a 4K TV’s video and audio capabilities, delivering a movie viewing experience that is cinema-like.
- The Panasonic DP-UB820 is a premium product, but given its excellent image processing and range of features, it’s actually affordable and easily the best 4K Blu-ray player you can buy.
You’re probably aware of the Blu-ray disc format, especially if you are a movie buff. Blu-ray is supposed to supplant the more common but older DVD format. While both may look the same, a Blu-ray disc has a larger capacity for storing data; more data means higher resolution movies (up to 1080p) and additional content.
Blu-ray disc players use blue light sensors instead of red light sensors found in DVD players, which are narrower and allow for greater precision when reading data off of the disc’s surface. Although a DVD can be played in a Blu-ray device, DVD players can’t support Blu-ray discs. Blu-ray is also the format used in gaming consoles and new computers with optical drives.
What may not be as familiar is the newer Ultra HD Blu-ray, introduced in 2015. Despite sharing a similar name and technology, Ultra HD Blu-ray is meant to supersede Blu-ray, as Blu-ray did with DVD. The story is the same: An Ultra HD disc can hold about four times more data than Blu-ray with support for 4K-resolution playback, high-dynamic-range (HDR) picture quality, and higher audio quality.
The latest spec also adds support for HDR10/HDR10+ and Dolby Vision, which are the latest in home cinema technology. And, as you probably guessed, a 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray player will read standard Blu-ray discs, but a standard Blu-ray player won’t read Ultra HD Blu-ray discs.
While Ultra HD Blu-ray sounds great, there are a few things to be aware of. First, to take advantage of 4K and HDR, you’ll need a TV that supports one or the other, or both. And, as mentioned, you’ll also need a 4K Blu-ray player. Nice to have, but not required, is internet access, which is handy for firmware updates and streaming content. Once you’ve checked off the list, you can start building an Ultra HD Blu-ray movie collection.
As with all things tech, this may be confusing, especially since the "ancient" DVD and standard Blu-ray formats are still around. Plus, there are many Ultra HD players to choose from. But we’ve done the research for you: As long as you have a TV that’s compatible with a 4K Blu-ray player, all of our picks will play Ultra HD Blu-rays discs, along with standard Blu-rays, DVDs, and CDs. Through hands-on testing and expert reviews, we found the best 4K Blu-ray players you can buy.
Before diving in, we want to note a difference between native 4K and 4K upscaling. If you shop around, you’ll come across cheaper Blu-ray players that claim to support 4K playback. In most cases, these players don’t actually support Ultra HD Blu-ray discs. Instead, they simply size-up the video from Full HD (1080p) to 4K, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Our guide focuses on players that support true, native 4K, but we have one upscaled-4K player that’s worth considering.
Here are the best 4K Blu-ray players in 2019:
- Best 4K Blu-ray player overall: Panasonic DP-UB820
- Best 4K Blu-ray player under $200: Sony UBP-X700
- Best 4K Blu-ray player under $100: Sony BDPS-6700
- Best high-end 4K Blu-ray player: Pioneer UDP-LX500
- Best 4K Blu-ray player for gamers: Xbox One X
Read on in the slides below to check out our top picks.
The best 4K Blu-ray player overall
Why you’ll love it: The Panasonic DP-UB820 shows that not having to spend a ton of money can still yield a lot of value.
As an all-around great 4K Blu-ray player, it doesn’t get much better than the Panasonic DP-UB820. While it carries a premium price, it’s not outrageously expensive considering what you’re getting. This 4K Blu-ray player delivers excellent quality — something you’d normally find only in more expensive players.
Not only does the DP-UB820 output in 4K HDR, but it also supports four HDR formats: HDR10+, HDR10, Dolby Vision, and Hybrid Log-Gamma. It’s also a network connected player, meaning you can stream (from the internet via Wi-Fi or Ethernet) Netflix, YouTube, or any other supported online service, or from a DLNA-compatible device, such as a computer or media-enabled hard drive.
Powering the DP-UB820 is Panasonic’s HCX processor, which is the same chip found in the much more expensive DP-UB9000 (not sold in the US). With it, the DP-UB820 is able to interpolate 4:2:0 color signals into 4:4:4, which refers to a ratio in something known as chroma sample. To spare you the technical details, higher numbers mean more defined colors in individual pixels and an overall higher-quality image.
The player also has Panasonic’s HDR Optimizer feature, which uses something called "tone mapping" to match the content with a particular TV’s HDR capability (HDR10 only).
If you have an extensive collection of DVD and Blu-ray movies, the DP-UB820 can upsample them to 4K. While it’s technically not true 4K, it can make movies on those formats look a little nicer.
As for sound, the DP-UB820 leaves nothing to be desired. The built-in 192-kHz/32-bit 4-DAC produces excellent audio quality. Panasonic gives you ample connectivity to take advantage of it, too. The DP-UB820 supports digital and optical outputs, as well as HDMI and, most impressively, 7.1 channel analog output for surround sound. The DP-UB820 also supports high-resolution digital audio file formats.
Panasonic also future-proofed the DP-UB820 by integrating it with Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa, so you can control playback with your voice if you have a smart speaker at home. However, this feature will arrive in a future firmware update, which Panasonic hasn’t released.
Out of more than 100 reviews at Best Buy, the player received a 4.8-star rating out of 5 stars. Kris Heering of Sound and Vision gave it a "top pick" award, saying it "offers reference-level video performance and also sets a new bar for HDR playback with both HDR flat-panel TVs and projectors."
Pros: Excellent image quality, high-resolution audio, great 4K upsampling, integration with smart home platforms
Cons: Remote seems flimsy compared to the main unit, no support for SACD or DVD Audio, tone mapping only works with HDR10-enabled, voice assistance support not ready
The best 4K Blu-ray player under $200
Why you’ll love it: For its natural color, excellent media support, and solid build quality, the Sony UBP-X700 is the best 4K Blu-ray player for value seekers.
While What Hi-Fi? gave Panasonic ultra-luxe DP-UB9000 a perfect score for its no-compromise image quality, it also gave the Sony UBP-X700 the same rating. As described in the review, the UBP-X700 has a “crisp, natural-looking picture,” and at only a fraction of the DP-UB9000, it’s a “great value,” too.
That said, great value doesn’t mean the player is perfect. The UBP-X700 lacks some of the performance the Panasonic player has. While you may not get all of the details in every image, you probably won’t notice.
On its own, the UBP-X700 looks like it should cost twice as much as it does. Only when compared side-by-side with the DP-UB9000 do the differences become noticeable. Then again, you’re comparing low-end with high-end.
Audiophiles will want to skip past it, too. While the X700 provides good audio, it doesn’t have the analog flexibility of high-end options. You can stream audio over HDMI or use the built-in coaxial cable. The player is capable of audio resolution up to 24bit/192kHz in multiple formats, including FLAC, so, for most, it’s fine.
The X700’s greatest strength is its natural image. While there are other 4K players for less, they usually come oversaturated or, worse, color inaccurate. The X700 is surprisingly true to life, reproducing natural detail that feels like it was ripped straight from theaters.
While lacking in connectivity options and build quality, the value of the X700 is undeniable. It features a great image quality, low price tag, and support for multiple streaming platforms and file formats. If you’re looking for a cheap entry point into high-end video, the Sony UBP-X700 is a great place to start.
Pros: Natural image, low price, streaming support
Cons: Limited connectivity options
The best 4K Blu-ray player under $100
Why you’ll love it: The Sony BDP-S6700 can’t play Ultra HD Blu-rays, but the 4K upscaling and the price are so good that it’s worthy of a look.
This is the one exception in our list: The Sony BDP-S6700 doesn’t support Ultra HD Blu-ray discs, but technically, it’s still a 4K player. By using upscaling technology, the BDP-S6700 can turn older Full HD (1080p) Blu-rays into 4K.
While going about it this way doesn’t offer anywhere near the fidelity of true 4K players, the price is so low that it doesn’t matter — particularly if you already have a large standard Blu-ray collection.
With support for dual-band Wi-Fi and a dual-core processor, the BDP-S6700 is no slouch when it comes to specs. In addition to delivering excellent Full HD Blu-ray image quality, the 4K upscaling isn’t bad, either.
While noticeably less rich than “true” 4K, the upscaling has a few tricks up its sleeve. The BDP-S6700 ships with IP Content Noise Reduction PRO, which reduces the noise in the image. So, the content looks clearer, even when upscaled and stretched across a large-screen TV.
Otherwise, it’s a fairly standard Blu-ray player. It connects to the internet, with access to most major streaming apps. The player itself supports Blu-ray, DVD, CD, and even 3D Blu-ray. Once again, Ultra HD Blu-ray isn’t supported.
One interesting feature about the BDP-S6700 is that it has a Bluetooth receiver built-in. But it’s not ordinary Bluetooth: Sony uses its own LDAC streaming codec, which allows for three times the amount of data to be transferred than what Bluetooth typically supports. In layman’s terms, that means better audio quality when going wireless.
Pros: Affordable, good 4K upscaling, Bluetooth
Cons: Doesn’t play Ultra HD Blu-rays
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