Best Ultra HD Blu-ray Player for Your Display
We are just going to say it, Ultra HD Blu-rays just aren’t that popular. Don’t believe us? At your next social gathering of non-AV enthusiasts (you know, regular people), take a poll. How many even know what an Ultra HD Blu-ray is? Most won’t know they exist. At least, that’s been our experience. Because of this, there aren’t very many Ultra HD Blu-ray players on the market. The only upside is that it is quite easy to identify the best ones. So, if you are looking for an Ultra HD Blu-ray player and don’t know which one will work best with your display, we’ve got the answers!
Do You Have Dolby Vision?
If your display has Dolby Vision then you’ll want to pick up the Panasonic UB820 Ultra HD Blu-ray player. This player can do it all. It has Panasonic’s HD Optimizer which will allow you to set a maximum brightness level for HDR10 content. This is not as good as frame-by-frame tone mapping, but it is the best you can get in a player currently. It is compatible with all the HDR formats including Dolby Vision. Most importantly, it will also automatically switch between HDR and SDR content. If you are wondering why that might be a feature, read on. Not every player does this.
The main drawback of the Panasonic UB820 is its price. At retail, the UB820 costs around $500. You can sometimes find deals that will knock $100 off that price, but they are rare. On the audio side, it doesn’t support SACD or DVD-A discs. If you don’t know what those are, then you don’t have to worry about them. If you have a Dolby Vision display, the Panasonic UB820 Ultra HD Blu-ray player is the one you want.
Do You Own a Display that CAN’T do Dolby Vision?
If you have a display that can’t do Dolby Vision, then you can save some money by picking up the Panasonic UB420 Ultra HD Blu-ray player. The UB420 will run you about $250 but has all the features of the UB820 except for Dolby Vision support. It still has the HDR Optimizer, it still switches automatically between HDR and SDR, and it costs almost half. If you don’t have a display that supports Dolby Vision, and you don’t plan on getting one any time soon, this is the Ultra HD Blu-ray player for you.
The only other Ultra HD Blu-ray players we suggest come from Sony. The UBP-X800M2 and UBP-X700 are remarkably similar. The UDP-X800M2 has better build quality but costs a little more than the X700. They don’t have a similar HDR Optimizer function as the Panasonics. Most importantly, you have to manually turn on and off Dolby Vision with these players.
The problem is, once you turn Dolby Vision on, it stays on. Any other content you play will be shoved into a Dolby Vision container. This can create images that are too dark or unnatural-looking. This means you have to know which discs are Dolby Vision and which aren’t so that you can switch the Ultra HD Blu-ray player into the correct output for your display. While your hardcore AV enthusiast might not mind, try getting the rest of your family to switch video formats. That’s just too much of a hassle for us.
The One Reason to Buy a Sony UBP-X800
There is one reason that we would recommend the Sony UBP-X800 over all the other Ultra HD Blu-ray players on this list. If you have a collection of SACD and DVD-A discs, the UBP-X800 is the only universal disc player. The UBP-X700M2 will play SACDs but not DVD-A discs. The UBP-X800 will do both. If you must have a player that can play these older discs, the UBP-X800 is the one for you! Literally the only one.
I’ll stick with my OPPO UDP-203 😉
One of the lucky few! Wish they were still selling players.
The Sony X700 does NOT support DVD Audio according to my research on the players. I have a UX80 and it plays both SACDs and DVD-As so that is why I keep it in my lineup.
You are correct sir. I had that backward with the X800. It’s corrected.
How about frequent freezing issues from SONY UBP- X800M2?
No mention of it, I saw lots of comments about the owners from amazon website.
I also experienced it ( i had UBP-X800M: the previous version of M2)
Thanks for the feedback. I’ve not experienced that with the X800 or the X700.
Thanks for the feedback…
You.. just one of few lucky ones…
In the UK the UB820 retails around £300 (around $390. I picked up a refurbished one on Panasonics Ebay outlet for £179 (around $230) It was spotless and works perfectly. Very happy with it. Not sure if there is a US equivalent site?
Yeah, it goes on sale occasionally. Usually for around $399. There is nowhere that I can point to that is an authorized seller of refurb units for Panasonic. Our usual recommendation is Accessories4Less.com but they don’t currently have any in stock.