LG’s UBK90 is a basic, no-frills Ultra HD Blu-ray player. Unlike earlier offerings in this category, though, the UBK90 adds support for Dolby Vision encoded content found on both Ultra HD Blu-ray discs and from streaming services such as Netflix. Available Dolby Vision encoded content has been growing at an exponential pace, so support for this high-performance HDR standard is paramount for a player in 2019, especially at the UBK90’s $279 asking price (though prices for this model do seem to flucuate a good bit from week to week).
The design of the UBK90 follows that of previous LG Ultra HD Blu-ray players. The chassis is a mix of metal and plastic and is finished in matte black. The design aesthetic is minimalistic and doesn’t draw too much attention to itself. It’s the type of player that would look good under most televisions. On the front of the player you’ll find the disc tray, physical buttons offering basic control of the player, and a USB port for local media playback. The back of the unit features two HDMI ports: one a full-bandwidth 18Gbps HDMI 2.0 port, the other an audio-only HDMI 1.4 port, meant to connect to legacy devices that lack HDMI 2.0 support. Additionally, you’ll find a LAN port to connect to the internet (WiFi is built in too) and an optical S/PDIF port if you want to send audio to something like a soundbar or an integrated amplifier. The included remote is a bit small, but it’s well laid-out and has a good selection of buttons for most of the functions you’d typically use.
While I would classify the UBK90 as one of the more basic Ultra HD Blu-ray players currently available, it still has a lot of functionality to discuss. The player supports popular disc-based formats such as CD, DVD, Blu-ray, 3D Blu-ray, and Ultra HD Blu-ray. For those with media on an external hard drive, the UBK90 also supports a wide variety of file-based video formats, including MPEG2, H264, and H265 video in commonly used containers such as MKV and MP4. The UBK90 also has Netflix and YouTube apps built in. Both HDR10 and Dolby Vision HDR streams are supported within these apps when such content is available.
I found the look of the user interface and menu system on the UBK90 refreshing. While many companies have opted to use white on black, LG has gone with a more inviting, lighter user interface based on the LG logo color scheme, white and maroon. The player boots up quick and leads you to the home screen, which gives you access to the disc tray, local attached media, streaming apps, and the menu system. In my testing, both discs and the apps loaded lightning fast.
Going into the menu system, you’re greeted with options that are unambiguously named. You’ll find useful settings here, such as output frame rate, resolution, and chroma type, as well as network settings, HDMI and optical audio output options, and an option to update the player’s firmware, if available.
While 4K HDR image quality may be of utmost importance to many reading this review, a lot of people still have a large library of 1080p Blu-ray discs that they may want to view through this player. In these cases, scaling quality is an important metric to look at to judge a player’s performance and, in the case of the UBK90, test patterns revealed moderately good performance, on par with other players I’ve seen near its price point. With real world 1080p video scaled to 4K, I witnessed no telltale scaling issues such as excessive noise, ringing artifacts, or aliasing. With that said, it’s always best practice to see if your 4K television does a better job subjectively at scaling, but those who opt to use the player to scale can expect good results.
I ran the player through the remaining battery of my usual objective video tests. A lot of Ultra HD Blu-ray players near the UBK90’s price point are using the same video processing solution, so it wasn’t surprising to find similar results to many of the other similarly priced players that have come through here recently. That’s not a bad thing, however, as performance in areas such as deinterlacing and chroma upscaling was generally good and competitive with these other players.
I was happy to find that the UBK90 automatically detected Dolby Vision-encoded content from discs. However, I ran into an issue in Netflix where, no matter the content being played, everything was output from the player in Dolby Vision. When I tried to stream a show like Parks and Recreation, which is only available in SDR HD, it was output incorrectly as Dolby Vision. This behavior is the opposite experience I had with Sony’s recent Ultra HD Blu-ray players. Those players would output all discs as Dolby Vision, even if they were regular HDR10. But within apps, it would correctly enable and disable Dolby Vision. At least with the Sony players, you had the option to manually disable Dolby Vision within the menu system to correct this issue. That’s not the case with the UBK90, as there’s no Dolby Vision setting anywhere in the menu system or within the app to disable it. So, at the moment, it seems you’re stuck with everything being output from Netflix as Dolby Vision. This is a bug I hope to see LG remedy via firmware update soon.
The UBK90 lacks any type of tone mapping functionality. Though, at its price point, that’s not unheard of. You’ll need to rely on your display’s built in tone mapping options to alter the image if you find something within the HDR10 image unappealing. Many HDR compatible displays offer such functionality, so I wouldn’t call this omission a deal breaker.
Both stock HDR10 and Dolby Vision encoded content, when output correctly to my LG B8 OLED television, looked excellent. However, I consistently found Dolby Vision content to be the star of the show. Dolby Vision can, in some instances, can make a dramatic difference in shadow detail, dynamic range, and color fidelity. If you own a Dolby Vision-capable display, you won’t be disappointed with how Dolby Vision content looks through the UBK90. It consistently looked punchier, more color accurate, and natural compared to stock HDR10.
While the player lacks analog audio outputs, bitstreaming digital audio formats to my AV receiver via HDMI had no issues. I even opted to connect the player via optical Toslink to my television to test the player’s stereo downmixing capabilities. Sound quality remained consistently good, with excellent dynamic range, dialogue intelligibility, and stereo separation.
Comparison and Competition
The UBK90 is currently priced between Sony’s X800M2 and X700 ($299 and $199 respectively, though we’ve seen the former sell for less than $250 a times). Both Sony players add support for HDR-to-SDR conversion, SACD playback, network DLNA media playback and, on the X700, quite a few more streaming apps built into the player. Video quality and processing features that these players share is very similar, but at its current price point, it’s hard to forgive the UBK90 for some of these other omissions. Given the features and performance of the UBK90 compared to these Sony players, I’d like to see the price dropped a bit to better reflect its place in the overall disc player landscape.
A lot of people are looking for a basic player that gets the fundamentals right. With the UBK90, that’s exactly what you get. Not everyone needs support for things such as HDR-to-SDR conversion, SACD, or analog audio outputs. If you fall into this type of category and are looking for a cheaper player with rock-solid performance where it matters, the UBK90 may be a good option.
• Visit the LG website for more product information.
• Check out our Blu-ray player category page to read similar reviews.
• Sony UBP-X700 Ultra HD Blu-ray Player Reviewed at HomeTheaterReview.com.