- To play the best-quality movies on a 4K TV, you need a 4K Blu-ray player that supports 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray discs.
- 4K Blu-ray players are also capable of high dynamic range (HDR) technology for enhanced contrast and colors.
- The Sony UBP-X700 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray player balances price and performance better than any other player on the market, making it the best fit for most buyers.
Streaming services might offer the most convenient way to watch movies at home, but if you want the very best video and audio quality, there’s still no real substitute for a disc format. Yes, you do actually have to get up from the couch to pop in a movie, but the performance benefits of discs are clear — especially when watching 4K Ultra HD Blu-rays.
4K Ultra HD Blu-ray is the latest and greatest disc format for movies and TV shows. Without internet bandwidth limitations and buffer times to worry about, 4K Blu-ray allows studios to present content with less compression than streaming services. Less compression means you’ll get more accurate images with more detail, along with lossless sound for a greater range of frequencies.
For instance, you might sometimes notice your videos becoming blocky or fuzzy when streaming movies on Netflix. If you watch the same video on a 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray disc, those issues will be virtually eliminated. This is because videos on a disc can be encoded with more data and presented at higher and more consistent bitrates. In other words, the video never needs to buffer and it will always look consistently good.
Expanding upon the previous Blu-ray format, 4K Ultra HD Blu-rays can hold up to 100 GB of information, allowing them to store movies and TV shows in 4K resolution. 4K offers four-times the number of total pixels compared to the Full HD resolution previously used on standard Blu-rays. This enables 4K Blu-ray movies to offer more detail than ever.
In addition to including more pixels, 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray discs also add support for high dynamic range (HDR). This process allows for a wider range of colors, contrast, and brightness compared to standard Blu-rays. You’ll need a compatible 4K HDR TV to take advantage of this feature, but the improvements can be dramatic.
When it comes to audio, 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray supports lossless Dolby Atmos and DTS:X. If you have the right audio gear, this means you’ll get to hear movies soundtracks bit for bit as they were meant to be heard with surround effects in all directions — even from above.
Of course, to watch 4K Ultra HD Blu-rays you’ll need a 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray player. 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray players are also backward compatible with regular Blu-rays and DVDs, so even if your 4K disc collection is just getting started, you’ll still be able to watch all of your old discs, too. Most players include advanced upscaling capabilities as well. This feature can make lower-quality videos, like Full HD (1080p), look better on 4K TVs.
When shopping for a 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray player, there are a few key factors you should pay especially close attention to:
- HDR support: Though all 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray discs and players support the standard HDR10 format, only specific models add support for more advanced HDR formats, like Dolby Vision and HDR10+. If you have a TV that’s compatible with Dolby Vision or HDR10+, and you want the very best picture performance, it’s worth seeking out a player that can output those formats.
- Advanced video options: Since all 4K Blu-ray players can simply pass the data contained on a 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray disc directly to a TV, default image quality is nearly identical on all models. With that said, certain players include advanced enhancement features, like chroma upsampling and specialized tone mapping, that can help improve 4K HDR contrast and gradient performance. Most buyers will be fine simply letting their TV handle all the work, but enthusiasts might prefer the enhancements a high-end player can provide.
- Audio capabilities: When it comes to general home theater playback, all 4K Ultra HD Blu-rays include support for outputting Dolby Atmos and DTS:X audio over HDMI. Some players also include a digital optical connection for transmitting audio if you can’t use HDMI. On top of that, certain models offer added support for more advanced audio processing and features, including high resolution music playback, multi-channel analog outputs, and support for SACD and DVD-Audio discs.
- Smart features and connectivity: Ethernet and Wi-Fi are common on many players for keeping your device current via firmware updates. Bluetooth connectivity is also featured on certain models for connecting to separate devices, like wireless Bluetooth headphones.
Though app selection on most Blu-ray players is rather limited, certain models include access to streaming services, like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video. More expensive models even offer compatibility with voice assistants. This feature may be redundant if you already own a smart TV or streaming box (Roku, Apple TV, etc.), but it’s convenient if you don’t like to switch between devices in order to access Netflix.
There are several worthwhile 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray player models available from companies like Sony, LG, and Panasonic. Some gaming consoles even include 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray disc drives as well.
I’ve been covering the consumer electronics industry for seven years, and during that time I’ve demoed and reviewed numerous media devices and Blu-ray players. Through hands-on testing and expert reviews, we’ve picked the best 4K Blu-ray players you can buy for a variety of needs and budget levels.
Here are the best 4K Blu-ray players in 2020:
- Best 4K Blu-ray player overall: Sony UBP-X700
- Best 4K Blu-ray player for Dolby Vision: LG UBK90
- Best high-end 4K Blu-ray player: Panasonic DP-UB820
- Best 4K Blu-ray player for gamers: Xbox One X
Updated on 02/18/2020: Added LG UBK90. Updated copy for the Sony UBP-X700, Panasonic DP-UB820, and Xbox One X. Updated buying advice and formatting. Jacob Roach contributed to this guide.
The best 4K Blu-ray player overall
Thanks to its affordable pricing, excellent media support, and solid build quality, the Sony UBP-X700 is the best 4K Blu-ray player for most people.
When it comes to covering all of the basic features most buyers will need from a 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray player, the Sony UBP-X700 essentially checks every box — and it offers all of those capabilities for a surprisingly low price.
The device provides 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray disc playback with support for both HDR10 and the more advanced Dolby Vision HDR format. Like competing models, the UBP-X700 also features backward compatibility with standard Blu-rays and DVDs, along with 4K upscaling to make those older discs look better on modern Ultra HD TVs.
Connectivity options are also solid thanks to dual HDMI connections — the extra HDMI port can be used for dedicated audio output to an AV receiver if you want to bypass having to also transmit the video signal through a receiver. A coaxial digital out is included as well, but the player is missing a digital optical port. The lack of an optical connection shouldn’t be an issue for most modern TVs and audio systems, but it could be a problem if you want to plug the player into certain soundbar models.
The X700 doesn’t include all of the audiophile bells and whistles that are integrated into more expensive players, but it will still output lossless Dolby Atmos and DTS:X from compatible discs just fine. You can also play high-resolution audio files up to 24bit/192kHz in multiple formats, including FLAC.
Wi-Fi and Ethernet connectivity are included as well for access to select apps, like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and Hulu. The X700 actually has greater support for streaming services than most Blu-ray players, but it’s still lacking compared to a smart TV or a dedicated streaming box.
As great as overall performance is on the X700, there are a couple of noteworthy drawbacks worth mentioning. Unlike Sony’s step-up UBP-X800M2 and UBP-X1100ES, the X700 does not include Bluetooth support, so you can’t connect wireless headphones for private listening.
The player’s Dolby Vision playback is also hindered by an odd design choice on Sony’s part. Instead of automatically detecting when a Dolby Vision disc is being played and then automatically switching to Dolby Vision output, you have to manually select Dolby Vision in the settings menu. Sadly, if you leave Dolby Vision selected, the player then incorrectly forces Dolby Vision output for any disc you put in — even if it doesn’t support Dolby Vision. This results in an inaccurate image.
For buyers who don’t have a Dolby Vision TV or who really don’t care about the differences between HDR10 and Dolby Vision, this really shouldn’t be an issue. Just disable Dolby Vision and forget about it. If you’re buying a 4K Blu-ray player with Dolby Vision in mind, however, having to manually turn the setting on and off could prove to be very annoying. With that in mind, we recommend the more expensive LG UBK90 as a better player for Dolby Vision.
Despite these flaws, there’s no denying the value of the X700. Home-theater enthusiasts who want more advanced features and connections will have to opt for a more expensive player, but most buyers who simply want to watch 4K Blu-rays on their 4K TV should be more than satisfied with what the Sony UBP-X700 has to offer.
Pros: Affordable price, HDR10 and Dolby Vision support, Wi-Fi and Ethernet, access to some streaming apps
Cons: No optical audio output, lacks Bluetooth, Dolby Vision has to be manually activated, missing some advanced video and audio features, no HDR10+ support
The best 4K Blu-ray player for Dolby Vision
The LG UBK90 offers a solid assortment of features for a mid-range 4K Blu-ray player, along with support for automatically detecting Dolby Vision discs.
Though it’s more expensive than Sony’s X700, the LG UBK90 is a more convenient player for buyers who are specifically looking for a reliable Dolby Vision 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray player.
The device offers all of the same basic features you’ll find on all players, including 4K disc playback and backward compatibility with Blu-rays and DVDs. The UBK90 also supports HDR10 and Dolby Vision playback from compatible 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray discs. Unlike the more affordable Sony X700, however, the LG has no issues automatically activating or deactivating Dolby Vision playback when it needs to. No matter what 4K disc you put in, the player will be able to recognize if it should output in HDR10 or Dolby Vision, and then adjust accordingly.
Dual HDMI outputs are included for easy video and audio connectivity. There is one digital optical output, but no digital coaxial output — the latter is commonly found on many soundbars. Wi-Fi and Ethernet are also supported, and you can play high-resolution audio in the FLAC format. When it comes to apps, however, the player only includes access to Netflix and YouTube. In other words, if you’re looking for a device to stream movies on, this isn’t it.
You won’t get any advanced tone mapping features, chroma upscaling, Bluetooth connectivity, or multi-channel analog audio ports, but for buyers who want a straightforward 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray player with convenient automatic Dolby Vision playback, The LG UBK90 is one of the most affordable options.
Pros: HDR10 and Dolby Vision support, Dolby Vision playback is automatically detected, Wi-Fi and Ethernet, optical audio connection
Cons: No Bluetooth support, lacks advanced video and audio features, very limited library of apps, doesn’t support HDR10+
The best high-end 4K Blu-ray player
The Panasonic DP-UB820 is pricier than a lot of other 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray players, but it offers comprehensive HDR format support and advanced processing.
As an all-around great 4K Blu-ray player, it doesn’t get much better than the Panasonic DP-UB820. While it’s on the expensive side, its performance is basically unmatched by any other model in its price range.
Unlike most 4K Blu-ray players, which only support one or two HDR formats, the DP-UB820 supports all four HDR types: HDR10+, HDR10, Dolby Vision, and Hybrid Log-Gamma. The player also has no issues automatically selecting the proper format that should be played. This means you never have to worry about manually selecting Dolby Vision or researching which HDR version a 4K Blu-ray disc supports. As long as all of the HDR formats are enabled in the settings, the player will simply activate the best format supported by each disc.
It’s also a network connected player, meaning you can stream (from the internet via Wi-Fi or Ethernet) Netflix, YouTube, and a few other apps. With that said, the app selection is not as wide as most standalone streaming media players, like a Roku or Fire TV Stick. Wirelessly streaming videos from a connected DLNA-compatible device, such as a computer or media-enabled hard drive, is also supported.
Powering the DP-UB820 is Panasonic’s HCX processor, which is the same chip found in the company’s much more expensive DP-UB9000. 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 can result in more defined colors in individual pixels and an overall higher-quality image with smoother gradients.
The player also has Panasonic’s HDR Optimizer feature, which uses tone mapping to better scale HDR performance to your TV’s particular capabilities (HDR10 only). Your HDR display will use its own tone mapping by default, but you may find better results relying on Panasonic’s process instead of your TV’s.
If you have an extensive collection of DVD and regular Blu-ray movies, the DP-UB820 can upsample them to 4K. While they still technically won’t be true 4K, upscaling can make movies in Full HD or standard definition look a lot better on a 4K TV.
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 Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, and high-resolution digital audio file formats.
Panasonic also integrated Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa, so you can control playback with your voice if you have a compatible smart speaker at home.
Kris Heering of Sound and Vision gave the player 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.”
On the downside, the player doesn’t include support for SACD or DVD-Audio discs, but those formats aren’t exactly popular, so this is unlikely to be a deal-breaker. For a sturdier build and even more advanced audio connections, you could opt for the more expensive DP-UB9000, but in general, the DP-UB820 really is the high-end 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray player to beat right now.
Pros: Support for all of the major HDR formats, high-end audio processing, advanced tone mapping and chroma upsampling, compatible with Alexa and Google Assistant devices
Cons: Remote seems flimsy compared to the main unit, no support for SACD or DVD-Audio, pricier than many competing players
The best 4K Blu-ray player for gamers
As a gaming console that doubles as a solid Ultra HD Blu-ray player, Microsoft’s Xbox One X is a versatile 4K HDR entertainment hub.
While both the Sony PlayStation 4 Pro and Microsoft Xbox One X support 4K output, only the latter can play 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray discs. If you’re a gamer who wants to watch 4K Blu-ray movies, then the Xbox One X is the perfect console.
As Microsoft’s flagship console (until the Xbox Series X is released later this year), the Xbox One X supports many popular games and can even output select titles in 4K HDR. Of course, when you need a break from gaming, you can simply pop in an Ultra HD Blu-ray movie to watch instead.
While the Xbox One X originally had some issues with 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray black levels and color output, Microsoft has since fixed these problems with firmware updates. Now, the Xbox One X offers 4K Blu-ray video quality that’s comparable to most standalone players. With that said, the console only supports HDR10 for disc playback and does not offer Dolby Vision or HDR10+ (Dolby Vision is supported for Netflix streaming).
There’s also another potential downside related to the device’s disc tray. Since the Xbox One X is designed to be a gaming console first, it’s noisier than a typical Blu-ray player when it’s reading a disc. This could affect your movie-watching experience. Whether the extra noise outweighs the added gaming benefits the console provides, will ultimately depend on your preferences as a buyer.
For those who want to pay a bit less but still want gaming support with their 4K Blu-ray player, it’s also worth considering Microsoft’s less expensive Xbox One S console. This model can play 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray discs with HDR10 support as well, but when it comes to gaming, it’s only capable of upscaling to 4K rather than outputting compatible games in native 4K.
Pros: 4K HDR10 support for 4K Blu-ray discs, Dolby Vision support for Netflix, true 4K HDR gaming capabilities, excellent user interface
Cons: Disc reader is loud, no Dolby Vision or HDR10+ support for discs