The UP970 proved to be a capable, reliable performer. Disc playback was consistently smooth and glitch-free, and the player never froze up on me. It handled all the different disc types I fed it without issue, including UHD, BD, 3D BD, DVD, and CD. I watched a variety of Ultra HD Blu-ray discs, including Insurgent, Sicario, The Revenant, The Martian, Batman vs. Superman, The Magnificent Seven, and Billy Lynn's Long Hafltime Walk. The UP970 always kicked the LG OLED TV into HDR mode as it's supposed to, and the picture quality of this LG combo was fantastic.
The UP970's disc drive is fairly quiet, and the player responds quickly and reliably to remote commands--although the IR window is a little narrower than that of other players I've tested. The remote needs to be pointed within roughly 30 degrees on each side of the player to register commands.
The LG player was consistently five to 10 seconds faster than the Sony UBP-X800 in loading Ultra HD discs, which puts it right on par with the Samsung UDP-K8500 (the fastest player I've reviewed thus far). The LG does lack the Sony's Quick Start mode, which allows for instant power-up. It takes about eight seconds to power up the UP970 each time.
I put the UP970 through my usual processing tests to evaluate its deinterlacing and its upconversion of lower-resolution sources to 4K. It passed all of the 480i and 1080i deinterlacing tests on my HQV test discs, it passed all of the 1080i tests on the Spears & Munsil 2nd Edition Benchmark Blu-ray disc, and it did a great job deinterlacing my favorite DVD demo scenes that are prone to jaggies and moire: the Coliseum flyover in chapter 12 of Gladiator and chapters 3 and 4 from the Bourne Identity DVD. The level of detail in DVD upconversion was solid but not spectacular.
I performed some direct A/B comparisons between the LG UP970 and Sony UBP-X800--first with 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 meaningful difference in detail, brightness, or color between the two players. When I watched the Insurgent UHD disc in non-HDR mode, I saw the same difference between the Sony and LG as I saw between the Sony, Samsung, and Oppo players. That is, the Sony player seems to handle the non-HDR reproduction of UHD discs differently than all the others, producing a brighter mage with more saturated color. The LG, Samsung, and Oppo players had a more consistent look between them, which makes me think it's the Sony that isn't behaving as it should--although it's brighter, more saturated image is arguably more pleasing.
Next, I routed the UP970 and the Sony player through my Onkyo TX-RZ900 AV receiver's HDMI inputs, to compare HDR modes and check for high-res audio pass-through. I could not detect any apparent differences in video quality between the HDR10 versions of Insurgent through the LG and Sony players. Since LG has not yet introduced the Dolby Vision upgrade (and I don't own a DV-capable TV anyhow), I wasn't able to test that aspect of the player's High Dynamic Range capability.
In terms of audio pass-through, the player had no trouble passing Dolby True HD, DTS-HD Master Audio, and uncompressed PCM soundtracks for my receiver to decode, and I didn't hear any notable volume (or other) differences between the Sony and LG models as I did my A/B switches. Of course, these are both digital-only players with no DAC, so sound quality will ultimately be determined by your downstream electronics.
With only Netflix and YouTube, the UP970 has fewer integrated streaming services than its competitors from Sony and Samsung, and it lacks DLNA support to stream personal media files from a computer or NAS drive. Thus, it's not the ideal choice for someone who's looking for a disc player to serve as a complete AV media hub.
The UP970 is really designed to be a plug-and-play device with minimal setup required. Thus, it has fewer advanced setup options than the other players I've tested, especially a higher-end unit like the Oppo UDP-203. As I mentioned above, you don't get options like a source direct resolution or the ability to choose different YCbCr HDMI color options, select a bit depth, or enable Deep Color. I also didn't see an option to turn off LG's Simplink (HDMI-CEC) control, nor does this player offer the Sony's Bluetooth audio output.
Comparison & Competition
Obviously I spent a lot of time comparing the LG UP970 to Sony's UBP-X800. The two carry similar price tags and similar AV output options. The Sony has a few more advanced setup functions and streaming services, supports Bluetooth audio output, and supports SACD/DVD-Audio disc playback, but not Dolby Vision.
Samsung recently introduced two follow-ups to its original UBD-K8500: the UBD-M8500 ($249) and UBD-M9500 ($329.99). Both support HDR10 only, and the M9500 adds features like Bluetooth audio output and stream-to-mobile functionality. Other competitors in this price range are the Philips BDP7501 ($249) and the Microsoft Xbox One S gaming console (prices start at $249).
If you're willing to step up in price, you can get the Oppo UDP-203 for $549. It's a universal disc player like the Sony and supports Dolby Vision like the LG. It also adds analog audio output and an HDMI input to pass through another source (like a cable/satellite set-top box or streaming media player), but it has no integrated streaming services. Other higher-end options include the Sony UBP-X1000ES ($699.99) and the Panasonic DMP-UB900 for $500.
LG's UP970 Ultra HD Blu-ray disc player does exactly what it's supposed to do--that is, reliably play back Ultra HD Blu-ray (and other) discs. It has no egregious flaws, it's quick-loading, and it's super-simple to set up and use. However, it does lack a number of features that you can find on other comparably priced players, such as DLNA media streaming, Bluetooth audio output, and a more comprehensive slate of integrated streaming services. Overall, I think the Sony UBP-X800 is still the player to beat in the sub-$300 category, given that it has the most comprehensive disc support, features, and setup options in its price class. But it lacks Dolby Vision. If you own (or are playing to purchase) a UHD TV that supports Dolby Vision and you want a compatible yet affordable player, the LG UP970 is currently your only option in the entry-level category.
• Visit the LG website for more product information.
• Check out our Blu-ray Player category page to read similar reviews.
• LG Debuts ProBeam 1080p HD Laser Projector at HomeTheaterReview.com.