Home Theater Review

 

Sony UBP-X800 Ultra HD Blu-ray Player Reviewed

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HTR Product Rating

Performance
4.5 Stars
Value
5 Stars
Overall
5 Stars

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Sony-X800-front.jpgPerformance
The UBP-X800 spent several weeks in my system, as I evaluated it and the Sony XBR-65Z9D TV. I watched demo scenes from a variety of UHD movies--including The Magnificent Seven, The Revenant, Batman vs. Superman, The Martian, Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk, and Sicario--as well numerous BD and DVD scenes. In all respects, the player simply did what I asked of it, without misbehavin'. In fact, it's the first new UHD player I've auditioned that did not have any playback glitches during my time with it. It never froze up on me, nor did it struggle with any disc type that I fed it--be it UHD, BD, 3D BD, DVD, SACD, DVD-Audio, or CD. The disc drive is also very quiet, and the player responds quickly and reliably to remote commands.

In the speed department, the Sony's disc-loading speed was right on par with the OPPO UDP-203 and slightly slower than the Samsung UBD-K8500 (by an average of about five seconds), which is still the fastest player I've tested. The Sony's Quick Start mode does allow it to start up faster than all the other players, though. Press the power button, and the Home page appears instantly. And I do mean instantly. Enabling Quick Start also allows you to power on the player remotely via IP, but it does cause the player to consume more power in standby mode.

I put the UBP-X800 through my usual processing tests to evaluate its deinterlacing and upconversion abilities. It passed all of the 480i and 1080i deinterlacing tests on the HQV DVD disc and the Spears & Munsil 2nd Edition Blu-ray disc, and it did a great job with my favorite DVD demo scenes that are prone to artifacts: the Coliseum flyover in chapter 12 of Gladiator and chapters 3 and 4 from the Bourne Identity DVD. I saw no instances of moire or jaggies in these scenes, and the level of detail in the upconversion was solid.

I performed some direct A/B comparisons with the UBP-X800, first against the OPPO UDP-203 and then the Samsung UBD-K8500--using an Atlona AT-UHD-H2H-44M matrix switcher and dual copies of the Mission Impossible Rogue Nation BD and Insurgent UHD BD. With the Mission Impossible Blu-ray disc, I couldn't see any significant differences in detail, brightness, or color between the players. There was one instance, in the overhead shot of Havana in chapter 3, where I felt that perhaps the Sony was a little sharper, but seeing any difference required me to stare intently at a paused scene, standing about two feet from the screen ... and even then it was tough to tell.

The Atlona switcher does not pass HDR, so my first round of A/B comparisons using the Insurgent UHD disc were in non-HDR mode. Here, I did see noticeable differences in brightness. The Sony image was clearly brighter than the Samsung's, and it was slightly brighter than the Oppo's. The green foliage in the film's early scenes was brighter and more vibrant through the Sony, with more variances in color. I can't say which is technically more accurate, but I found the Sony image to be more inviting, while the Samsung image, in particular, looked flatter and duller.

Next, I used my HD Fury Integral box, which does support HDR pass-through, to switch between the players. In HDR mode, the picture quality of Insurgent looked more similar between the different players. I even used my Xrite I1Pro 2 meter in various scenes to check for brightness variations, and the numbers were nearly identical. So, the biggest performance difference that I could ascertain was in how the Sony passes non-HDR UHD content compared with the other players, which will only matter if you're looking for a player to mate with a non-HDR-capable UHD TV.

Finally, I tested the UBP-X800's handling of personal media files, via both USB and DLNA. Through its USB input, the player supports the addition of either a thumb drive or server, and it boasts excellent file support. On the video side, supported file types include MPEG2, MPEG4, AVCHD, MKV, AVI, MOV, WMV, and XVID. It played my ripped movies in the MP4 and M4V formats, as well as home videos in the MOV and AVCHD formats. I popped in the Digital Video Essentials UHD USB stick and ran through both video and photo tests; the Sony successfully passed the full UHD resolution with both HEVC video and JPEG photos.

On the audio side, supported file types include DSD, FLAC, ALAC, AIFF, WAV, AAC, WMA, and MP3. I had no issue with 24/96 AIFF and FLAC files downloaded from HDTracks.com. I was also able to stream WMA files from Windows Media Player via DLNA without issue.

The user interface for personal media files is utilitarian but quick to navigate, with menus for Video, Music, and Photo to the left and the list of file options running down the screen to the right. During music playback, the screen shows song/album/artist name, file type/resolution/size, and elapsed time, all set against a black background with textured circles. It's simple but elegant.

The Downside
The UBP-X800 does not currently support the Dolby Vision format. Technically, neither does any other player on the market at this moment, nor are there any DV-enabled discs. However, discs are coming soon, and the OPPO UDP-203 and LG's upcoming UP970 are scheduled to receive firmware updates at a later date to add Dolby Vision functionality. Sony has not officially committed to doing the same.

The UBP-X800 has more built-in apps than the OPPO player (which doesn't have any), but it doesn't have as many as the Samsung K8500, which adds big names like YouTube, Hulu, FandangoNOW, Pandora, and PLEX.

Comparison & Competition
Competitors to the UBP-X800 are the Samsung UBD-K8500 (which now sells for about $200, since Samsung just introduced the newer UBP-M9500 at $399) and the Philips BDP7501 ($230), as well as LG's UP970 ($279)--which is the only one in this price range with a confirmed upgrade path to support Dolby Vision. The Microsoft Xbox One S also supports UHD playback, if you don't mind the fact that it's also a gaming console; prices start at $249. 

At last September's CEDIA Expo, Sony also announced a flagship player, the UBP-X1000ES, which has more connection options and a stronger home automation emphasis. It was supposed to arrive this spring, but we've heard no further updates on pricing or exact availability.

Conclusion
Sony's first entry in the Ultra HD Blu-ray market is a good one. The UBP-X800 is fast, well built, and very reliable, and it delivers a high-quality video experience. Although it lacks some of the advanced connection and setup flexibility that you'll find in the more expensive players, it does include a few noteworthy features not offered in other sub-$300 UHD players, such as SACD/DVD-Audio playback, a native-resolution viewing option, and Bluetooth audio output. Add in streaming services like Netflix, VUDU, and Amazon Video, as well as support for a wide variety of personal media files, and you've got yourself a truly universal player offered at a great price.

Additional Resources
• Check out our Blu-ray Player category page to read similar reviews.
Sony XBR-65Z9D UHD LED/LCD TV Reviewed at HomeTheaterReview.com.
• Visiti the Sony website for more product information.

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