Sony UBP-X800 Universal 4K UHD Blu-ray player review

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posted on Tuesday, 15th August 2017 by Steve May

4K  HDR  Blu-ray  home cinema  High Res Audio 

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Sony may have taken its time to polish up its UHD Blu-ray game plan, but the Japanese giant now has two 4K UHD disc spinners available: the high-end UBP-X1000ES, complete with full custom install compatibility, and mainstream-bothering UBP-X800. The latter is the first to land on our test bench, and it proves very much a rival to rival players from Oppo and Panasonic.

Sony UBP-X800 UHD Blu-ray player: Build quality and features
The aesthetic design may divide opiniuon, but build quality is excellent. The player embraces an industrial design first seen on the 2K UHP-H1.  Here we have an uprated Frame and Beam chassis design, which adds internal rigidity with 1.2mm struts. Flip the player over, and you’ll see that Sony has also used two extruded beams to link the player’s isolating feet.

A full width 430mm model, the player is moderately heavy at 3.8kg. It has a glossy fascia and distinctive stippled top lid, but there’s no display. Only 4K HDR and Hi-Res Audio stickers give the game away.

UBP-X800_FB_Chassis Crop

UBP-X800_Front Crop

Rear connections include two HDMI outputs. One is v2.0 and HDCP 2.2 enabled, while the other is audio-only v1.4, used to route bitstream audio to home cinema receivers which predate the 4K resolution revolution.

There are two USB ports: one front facing, the other on the rear. There are no stereo analogue outputs, these being reserved for its step-up stablemate. Instead there’s a single digital audio coax. The deck supports dual-band Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, with high-headroom LDAC for those with compatible Sony smartphones. It also supports Bluetooth pairing with wireless headphones, which is a nice touch. An Ethernet connection allows conventional hard-wired networking.

Feature wise, the X800 is a true universal disc spinner, and offers support for Super Audio CDs and DVD-A discs, as well as Blu-ray, DVD and CD.

The deck offers Miracast Screen Mirroring and is DLNA compliant. It logged our NAS and media server instantly. The deck entertains a wide variety of file types, from lossy codecs to pristine 24-bit encodes. It’ll play DSD up to 11.2MHz, as well as FLAC and WAV, AAC, MP3, APE and Ogg. To make the most of lower bitrate files, Sony offers the DSEE-HX sound enhancer. Video playback includes MKV, MPEG, MOV and AVI. The deck will upscale all video sources to 2160p.

The player is built on the Mediatek platform (like the Oppo and Cambridge UHD models), but you’ll not be able to tell that from the UI, which is a simple titled affair (pictured below). This interface can be customised by adding additional content sources as required. 

Streaming provision is good. There’s Netflix, Amazon Video, BBC iPlayer, YouTube, Demand 5, Wuaki.tv and Spotify Connect. We even a dedicated channel from the Berlin Philharmoniker. Amazon, Netflix and YouTube all support 4K streaming, but (at the time of reviewing) only Netflix offers HDR.

Rear Panel Crop (1)

Main Menu (4)

Sony UBP-X800 UHD Blu-ray player: Performance
UHD image quality is fabulous. A 4K resolution test disc is rendered without artefacts or anomalies. Sony says the picture has been tuned with the help of creatives at Sony Pictures Entertainment. The player interpolates UHD discs with 4:4:4 subsampling. Gradations are smooth.

When it comes to High Dynamic Range content, the deck supports HDR10 but not Dolby Vision. There’s been an enormous amount of speculation about whether Sony will issue firmware to introduce Dolby Vision support, but every time we’ve asked direct, Sony has categorically said this will not happen. In truth, there’s not much to get excited about at the moment, with just three DV discs available in the UK (Despicable Me 1 & 2, plus Power Rangers).

Of course, there are plenty of 4K panels in the wild which don’t support HDR at all. For them, there’s an HDR-to-SDR converter which maps peak brightness and colour gradations.

This player does a wonderful job with standard Blu-rays. Star Wars The Force Awakens exhibits superb texture and nuance. And there’s plenty of latitude to max out detail and reduce block and mosquito noise.

Menu

Brighter Room Menu

It’s worth taking a closer look at the Brighter Room and Theatre Room modes for SDR content, as they can have a pronounced effect. Take a look at the aforementuioned Star Wars disc, specifically the scene featuring the first appearance of the First Order stormtroopers. Theatre Room provides maximum contrast, but shadow detail proves difficult to pick out in a room with high ambient light. The Brighter Room mode makes the underside of the star destroyer look brighter, revealing more detail. A Direct mode is somewhere in between. Configure these, depending on where the player will most likely be used.

The deck is a speedy disc loader. It took just 36 seconds to get a copy of Goldfinger from tray to menu screen.

This player also proves a great music source. If you have Super Audio CD and DVD-A discs, it’ll breathe new life into your collection; multichannel audio over HDMI sounds ludicrously good. The player offers precision, and finds space between instruments, even on complex jazz mixes. It can be considered a solid partner for top flight AV receivers.

Sony UBP-X800 UHD Blu-ray player: Verdict
We rate this Sony UHD Blu-ray player very highly indeed. Its build quality inspires confidence (not something you can say about the sort of commodity Blu-ray decks Sony was making just a few years ago), and its AV performance rivals the very best out there. This is a premium media player, and represents superb value for money.

Available Now
Price: £400

Steve May

Steve is a veteran of the UK consumer electronics industry, having covered it for
various media outlets for more than 20 years.

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