A lot has changed in my home media arsenal since I first sat down last June to review my first set of 4K Ultra HD gear, the Sony XBR65X930D and Samsung UBD-K8500, over here. I’ve added Dolby Atmos, some really monstrous Klipsch speakers, a surplus of 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray titles, a second 4K setup and most recently the newly released Sony UBP-X800 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray player. In the past 8 months Brandon Peters and I have also put together a pretty impressive resume of 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Review titles archived here and I even did a pretty rad Top 10 list over here. While the relationship between my Samsung KS8000 4K set and the Samsung UBD-K8500 has been pretty harmonious the same one between the Samsung 4K player and Sony 930D has been quite heartbreaking at times. So it’s with eager arms that I jumped all over Sony’s first ever 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray player, the UBP-X800, upon its release last week. And that ladies and gentlemen is what we’re gathered here to talk about today. Follow me in.
Disclaimer: The purpose of this review is not to be ultra technical. You can scour the AVS Forum for that. Instead I want to give the lay reader an honest user review that’s both easy to understand and follow as well as straight to the point as to whether or not this is something you should pick up.
Why it took one of the inventors of the original Blu-ray format, Sony, so damn long to come out with a 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray player is beyond me, but alas that day has arrived. My primary reasons for grabbing this player instantly without any regards to user reviews is three-fold. First of all I love the Sony brand and have never had anything but great experiences with their products. However, truth be told to this very day I’m still very shocked and pissed Sony released the PlayStation 4 Pro last year without a drive that’s capable of 4K UHD Blu-ray playback. Second, I had hoped it would solve the HDMI handshake issues I get sporadically with certain 4K UHD Blu-ray disc menus and initial feature playback. I thought the Sony to Sony relationship would be stronger than the mishaps I have experienced with the Sony to Samsung one. And last but certainly not least I was dismayed to learn that the Samsung UBD-K8500 UHD player applies a tad of DNR into the image and is not something you can disable. Rest assured we’ll talk about these three main reasons and so much more down below here in this review, but first let’s unbox this sucker.
The first thing you’ll notice before you even take this 4K machine out of it’s box is its weight compared to the Samsung UHD player. It’s actually quite hefty. I believe it weighs in at over 7 pounds. That’s almost tank-like in regards to how the big boys like Oppo do it. So down below here I show you all the pertinent corners of the outer box as well as a peak inside as to how it’s all housed. Just a word to the wise if you care about your keeping your product packaging like I do, take great care with the styrofoam when pulling it out from the cardboard box. It’s quite fragile and the one corner cracked on me. Now what say you? Let’s get this thing unpacked!
OUT OF THE BOX…
Now that we have this guy out of the box let’s take a quick moment or two down below to take in its sculpture, sleek fine lines and bask in all its beauty. Ha! I make things so dramatic, don’t I? Yes I do! The very first thing I noticed about this 4K player besides its weight was its width. It’s a lot wider than the Samsung 4K player I’m replacing it with. I literally had to lift the top shelf up within my entertainment center and angle this Sony player in to get it to fit aesthetically .
As seen in the images below the only way to tell when this player is powered on is by the small illuminated light in the top right, front corner. When you eject the disc tray out to put a disc in the entire length of the front drops down and the disc holder ejects forward. I’m telling you this trivial information so you don’t block it within your entertainment center. Other than that the front is pretty simple consisting solely of a USB interface and a power and eject button.
The rear of the player is pretty much just as simplistic as the front. The power cord is affixed and the only other things you’ll see on the back here is a network LAN jack, 2 HDMI outs (HDMI 2 is reserved for audio only) and a Coaxial Digital Out. Oddly there is no optical audio connection available here.
Upon powering up the 4K player the setup is relatively simple. The first step involves setting the player up on your network. Connecting to my home wi-fi was a breeze. While writing this review there is actually one update for this player that became available March 2nd. The download of it was painless, but a bit slow over wi-fi (see below screenshot). It is supposed to offer improved compatibility of Ultra HD Blu-ray discs and support for various network services. That’s all I know.
The only gotcha that took me some time to figure out was how to send bitstream audio out from the player to my receiver to play back the atmospheric codecs of Dolby Atmos and DTS:X. For that I had to refer to the enclosed user manual, which was actually quite helpful in the matter. There’s no option that says bitstream. You simply have to toggle two of the audio selections correctly as instructed within the manual. Dumb!
PLAYBACK AND CONTROLS…
As you can see from the last rear image up above the Sony UBP-X800 4K UHD Blu-ray player plays almost anything you can throw at it from DVDs, 3D Blu-rays and 4K Ultra HD discs to USB files, CD Audio and even Super Audio (SACD). See here for the complete list of all the audio/video formats this guy supports. You can even listen to this guy via Bluetooth headsets. How cool is that? For simplicity sake and time though I’ll focus on both HDR playback of 4K UHD discs as well as SDR 1080p Blu-ray presentations here in this review as that’s all I’ll ever use this player for. But first let’s look at what the onscreen home menu looks like. It’s definitely not as pretty as the Samsung 4K player’s in my opinion. Upon insertion of an optical media in the ejectable disc drive it will load that media content. Load times for the various 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray titles I have tried have been rather quick and hassle-free so I’m pleased there.
One thing I love about this player is unlike the Samsung 4K Ultra HD player I can control both my 930D 4K TV set and the Sony UBP-X800 with my iPhone and Sony’s iOS app. So before we move on I wanted to show you a screenshot of what that both are like as well as get you close up and intimate with the remote that’s night and day better than the Samsung UBD-K8500 player’s God awful remote. Click on the below thumbnail images for maximum viewing pleasure.
The DISPLAY button on either remote will bring up the following screens. The below screenshots are examples of a 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray title (Suicide Squad) playing as well as what the display would look like for a 4K SDR title like Bad Santa 2 or a 1080p Blu-ray in this case (Nocturnal Animals). For the life of me though I don’t know why for Suicide Squad it only shows the Dolby True HD surround track instead of the Dolby Atmos one my receiver is really seeing and pumping out.
Playback of Blu-ray and 4K UHD discs is pretty simple and straightforward. There’s no bells and whistles to be found here. The Sony UBP-X800 4K player just works. It also appears to be a wee bit sharper than my former Samsung 4K player, but not by much. Now with that being said I have still had my share of HDMI handshake issues sadly. For example when watch the very stunning 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray presentation of Ghostbusters (2016) my 930D TV lost sync with the player before the main Ghostbusters 4K menu forcing me to having to make things right again by flipping through TV inputs. Boo! Thankfully though I have had no other playback issues other than that. Some saying turning off Deep Color will fix this issue, but I have yet to try changing from Auto to Off on that setting. The spinning disc inside the Sony UBP-X800 is ultra quiet compared to some of the playback experiences I had with the lighter Samsung UBD-K8500. So there’s that! Just an FYI though I have heard there’s an issue with Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk on 4K UHD where it’s displaying in SDR and not in the correct 60 frames per second. I haven’t tried my copy of that title in this one yet, but I did read many user complaints about it. However, I believe they all stemmed from the fact the people experiencing problems were passing the video first through an A/V receiver first rather than going straight into the television like I do.
Now I didn’t buy the Sony UBP-X800 4K player for its streaming apps, but I’d be a bad reviewer if I didn’t at least mention them. Thankfully there’s not a lot to go over here. There’s only 4 of them and out of the 4 only Netflix really works (the others need a firmware update). Crazy huh! The other three apps are: Amazon Video, Opera TV and VUDU. Now I haven’t tried the Netflix app yet, but I have read reviews of it with some users saying they have intermittent issues with HDR output from it. Oddly missing is Sony’s proprietary Ultra HD app that my 930D TV set has. That’s too bad because Sony allows you to redeem your 4K UHD Blu-ray’s Digital Copies in UHD for playback exclusively through this aforementioned proprietary app. Who knows maybe a firmware update will bring this, fix the other apps and eventually bring more. As of mid March now there are no such updates available to bring anymore apps to this player.
2 FREE 4K UHD BLU-RAYS…
Here’s where things have been an absolute hassle for me. You have to register your Sony UBP-X800 4K player on Sony’s website by visiting this page. Then it took me 4 days for Sony to verify my trial number and send me a 12-digit code. They give you another link which sends you to a page to enter the code as pictured below.
Once unlocked you can pick 2 from the following 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray titles: The 5th Wave, Angels & Demons, Chappie, Concussion, The Da Vinci Code, Inferno, Ghostbusters (2016), The Magnificent Seven, Pride + Prejudice + Zombies, Sausage Party, Risen, Resident Evil: Afterlife, Salt, The Angry Birds Movie, The Shallows and Underworld. It should be noted that at the time of this writing The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is out of stock. Having most of those titles already I picked Salt and Concussion, as I never seen the latter and I have a friend in that film. Sounds simple, eh? Well before you can check out you’re taken to yet another screen that consists of the same titles plus other ones such as the original Ghostbusters and Ghostbusters 2, Smurfs 2, etc. and given the opportunity to buy them at 60% off. That’s all fine and dandy, but it’s the checkout process that kills me. I tried for two days and probably a total of 6 times, but when I hit Submit to request my two free UHD titles I always get an invalid error code telling me to remove my coupon code from the cart. I have emailed Sony about this problem and patiently awaited their response, but I ended up solving the issue on my own. I went back to this page and boom it worked with no issues compared to the very link that Sony emailed me to redeem from.
MY FINAL VERDICT…
So here’s the deal. I know the Panasonic and Oppo 4K players are superior, but I’m not one of those guys that want to spend $600 for a rectangle that just spins disc. I’m more about the value with all the bells and whistles I need to make myself personally happy. So with that been said I’m keeping the Sony UBP-X800 4K player. The pros outweigh the cons for me. Will this player ever receive Dolby Vision with a firmware update? That remains to be seen, but truth be told none of my 4K TV sets support Dolby Vision either so that’s not a deal breaker to me.
The overall build quality (weight and stability too), better remote, slight image quality bump during 4K Blu-ray playback (no Samsung-like DNR that I am aware of) and the Sony brand name make it a better choice for me over the Samsung UBD-K8500, which is now an unplugged backup source for me in the home front. However, if you live on a lean or tight budget, this Sony player is not something you should run out and buy to replace your Samsung one right now. The benefits are very minor and negligible. I say you get more value with the Samsung UBD-K8500 than you do with this Sony player in terms of streaming apps and a lesser price tag. Now make no mistake about it this Sony unit will fall in price this year, but until then I would wait and see what happens with future firmware updates and other new products this year. Unless you need a 4K Ultra HD player now or just have to have it for the Sony name like me, my final verdict is to wait it out for an eventual dip in price and a healthy comparison check with other competing brands/models launching this year. Thanks for reading!