Sony UBP-X700 Ultra HD Blu-ray Player Reviewed

Sony UBP-X700 Ultra HD Blu-ray Player Reviewed

Sony's UBP-X700 is the least-expensive Ultra HD Blu-ray player in the company's 2019 lineup. Presently priced at $199, it's also the least expensive player on the market that supports Dolby Vision-encoded Ultra HD Blu-ray discs and Dolby Vision via supported...

Earlier this year, Sony added a new, lower-priced player to its Ultra HD Blu-ray lineup. The UBP-X700 ($199.99) represents a step down, price-wise, from the $249.99 UBP-X800 that I reviewed last year. The X700 offers the core features you'd expect of a UHD player--namely, the ability to pass the higher-quality UHD signal on a UHD Blu-ray disc, including Rec 2020 color and HDR10 High Dynamic Range--and adds one thing that the X800 lacks: support for Dolby Vision HDR, which will be added via a firmware update coming this summer. At the same time, the X700 omits some features that the X800 offers, which I'll point out through the course of this review.

In addition to its Ultra HD capabilities, the UBP-X700 also supports 3D video and SACD audio playback (DVDs and CDs too, of course), as well as hi-res audio via USB. The player also has a nice assortment of streaming services, including Netflix, VUDU, Prime Video, Hulu, Spotify, Pandora, and more.

Setup & Features
In comparing the X700's form factor directly with the X800, you'll immediately notice the difference in size and build. The X800 really distinguishes itself from other sub-$300 players in its rugged, substantial build quality, which is more akin to that of the higher-end Oppo UDP-203. The X700, on the other hand, looks and feels like similarly priced players from Samsung, Philips, and LG. The chassis is smaller (12.6 inches wide by 1.8 high by 8.5 deep) and lighter (about four pounds), and it lacks the hefty metal shell of the X800. The front panel features a slide-out disc tray to the left (hidden behind a glossy drop-down door) and buttons for eject and power to the right; below those buttons sits a USB port. There's no front-panel display, which is a common omission at this price.

The UBP-X700's connection options are similar to those of other sub-$300 players. You get two HDMI outputs: one HDMI 2.0a AV output and one audio-only HDMI 1.4 output. A coaxial digital audio output is also included, which is a bit less common these days than optical digital audio. This player lacks the Bluetooth audio output found in the X800, so you can't wirelessly stream the audio signal to Bluetooth-enabled soundbars, powered speakers, and headphones. Like most players in this price range, the X700 has no DAC or analog audio outputs, so audio quality will largely be dictated by the DAC in your audio processor.

Sony-UBP-X700-back.jpg

The only other connection option on the back panel is a LAN port to make a wired network connection; 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi is also onboard. The X700 lacks RS-232 and IR ports but does support IP control.

Sony-X700-remote.jpgThe supplied IR remote is shorter than the one that comes with the X800 but sports most of the same buttons, so they are packed together a bit more snugly. The remote lacks backlighting, but I found the button layout to be intuitive, and the differently shaped buttons makes it a little easier to locate certain functions in a darker room. There's a dedicated Netflix button, and you can assign another app to the Favorite button. The remote can be programmed to control your TV's volume, power, and input selection. Sony also offers a free iOS/Android control app called "Video & TV Sideview" which allows you to use your smartphone or tablet as a controller.

During the course of my review, I mated the Sony player with three different display devices: the non-HDR-capable Samsung UN65HU8550 4K LED TV, the HDR-capable LG 65EF9500 4K OLED TV, and the HDR-capable Optoma UHD65 DLP projector. At times, I also ran the player through an Onkyo TX-RZ900 AV receiver to check video pass-through and audio decoding.

Initial setup is quick and easy: just select your language, choose to enable or disable the Quick Start mode, agree to Sony's licensing, and set up your wired or wireless network connection. I used the onboard LAN port for a wired connection; and, once the network connection was made, the player immediately informed me of an available software update. So I did that, then I was all set to go.

As I stated in my review of the UBP-X800, I don't love the Home page on these Sony UHD players. I mean, it's fine. It gets the job done, but it just feels kind of cluttered and disjointed. The page is divided into two main sections, with "Featured Apps" to the left and "My Apps" to the right. The Featured Apps are Prime Video, Netflix, VUDU, Hulu, Crackle, MLB.TV, Fox News Channel, and Spotify. The preloaded apps in the My Apps section include YouTube, YuppTV, Pandora, and MUBI. Up at the top right of the Home page are options for "All Apps" (where you can browse other options to add to the My Apps section) and "Setup." Down at the bottom right are menu options for Disc, USB device, and screen mirroring (via Miracast). It just kind of bugs me that the Disc option is positioned like an afterthought on the page; but, anytime you insert a video disc, playback will begin automatically--so it's an inconsequential nitpick.

Sony-X700-Home.jpg

AV setup is nice and simple, due to the fact that most of the major video and audio options are set to Auto by default. In Screen Settings, both Resolution and HDR Output are set to Auto, which ensures that the player will work with any TV to which you connect it and automatically pass HDR if the TV supports it (make sure your TV's HDMI inputs are set up properly to accept the full-range UHD signal). This player lacks the Original Resolution (aka source direct) resolution option you get with the X800. The HDMI color space is also set to Auto, but you can change it to RGB, YCbCr 4:4:4, or YCbCr 4:2:2. You don't get the advanced setup options found in a higher-end player like the Oppo UDP-203 (like the ability to choose YCbCr 4:2:0 and 10- or 12-bit color), but the options here are on par with or better than other players in this price range.

On the audio side, the X700's digital audio output is set to Auto by default, which will send all signals in bitstream form to your AV receiver to decode. This is the best setting for most people and the necessary setting for anyone who wants to pass Dolby Atmos or DTS:X soundtracks, as that decoding must take place in a compatible receiver. The X700 has internal Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio decoders, which you can use if you set the digital audio output for PCM instead of Auto.

As an audio player, the X700 supports hi-res audio playback via disc (SACD but not DVD-Audio, like you get on the X800) and via USB. Supported file types include DSD, FLAC, ALAC, AIFF, WAV, AAC, WMA, and MP3. By default, DSD output via HDMI is turned off, which uses the internal DSD decoder. You can turn it on if your AV receiver has DSD decoding (mine does). Sony's Digital Music Enhancer, which is designed to improve the sound quality of compressed music files, is also turned on by default.

On final setup note: Enabling the player's Quick Start mode allows the player to power up almost instantaneously, and it allows you to use IP control to turn on the device. Turning Quick Start off reduces standby power consumption.

Performance
During my time with the Sony UBP-X700, I tested playback with a variety a disc types: UHD Blu-ray, 3D Blu-ray, standard Blu-ray, DVD, CD, SACD, and even DTS 5.1 Audio CDs (remember those?). The X700 played them all without glitch or hiccup. The player never froze up on me, and the disc mechanism is quieter than others I've tested. The X700 responds quickly and reliably to remote commands and has a respectably wide IR window.

The X700 loads discs about as quickly as my reference OPPO UDP-203 and is only very slightly slower than players I've tested from Samsung and LG. Sony's Quick Start mode allows this player to start up faster than all the other players; as with the X800, when you press the power button, the Home page appears almost instantly.

I ran the UBP-X700 through my standard arsenal of deinterlacing/processing tests to see how it handles the upconversion of DVDs and BDs to a 4K/60p output resolution. It passed all of the 480i and 1080i deinterlacing tests on my HQV and Spears & Munsil test discs, and it did a great job with my favorite DVD test scenes: the Coliseum flyover in chapter 12 of Gladiator and chapters 3 and 4 from The Bourne Identity. I didn't see moire or jaggies in these scenes.


To compare the X700's upconversion capabilities with those of my reference OPPO UDP-203, I used an Atlona AT-UHD-H2H-44M matrix switcher and dual copies of Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, on both DVD and BD. I popped a disc in each player, synced to the same points, paused the playback, and did some A/B switching--using the Optoma projector and my 100-inch VisualApex screen. With both DVD and BD, I couldn't discern any meaningful difference in detail, color, or brightness between the two players. Of course, through both players, the DVD versions looked much, much softer than the BD versions--there's only so much you can expect when upconverting 480i all the way to 2160p.

Next, I performed a similar A/B comparison using the Insurgent Ultra HD Blu-ray disc. Since the Atlona doesn't pass HDR, I was really looking for differences in detail, brightness, and color tone in 4K. Here, just like with the X800, I didn't see any differences in detail, but the Sony image was definitely a bit brighter. I can't say which is technically more accurate, but the Sony image had a little more pop than the OPPO's. Finally, I switched over to my HD Fury Integral box (which does support HDR pass-through) and looked at the same scenes again in HDR10 mode. Here, the Sony and OPPO images looked indistinguishable.


I watched UHD scenes from Sicario, The Revenant, Batman vs. Superman, Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk, The Magnificent Seven, and Spider-man, and the Sony consistently did what it was supposed to do: output a great-looking picture. My HDR-capable displays always kicked into HDR mode as they should. The same was true with 3D Blu-ray discs.

When I switched over to the streaming media apps, it was more of the same. The Netflix, Prime Video, and YouTube apps support UHD and HDR video playback, and I had no issues launching HDR content through them. VUDU supports UHD but not HDR. These apps may open a tad bit slower here than they do through some dedicated streaming media players, but it's nothing significant.

Last but not least, I tested the UBP-X700 with files from my personal media collection. The front-panel USB port will accept USB thumb drives or servers. The USB menu is pretty utilitarian: it's black-and-white, with menu options for Video, Music, and Photo on the left side of the screen and file folders/names running down the right side. When playing a song, the black-and-white screen shows song/artist/album info, elapsed time, and file type/resolution (which is nice). I had no trouble playing 24/96 FLAC and AIFF files, as well as WAV, ALAC, AAC, and MP3 files.

For video, supported file types include MP2, MP4, AVCHD, MKV, AVI, MOV, WMV, and XVID. I had no issues when playing back my ripped movies in the MP4 and M4V formats, as well as home videos in the MOV and AVCHD formats. Using the Digital Video Essentials UHD USB stick, I was able to confirm that the X700 successfully passes a full UHD resolution with both HEVC video and JPEG photos.

The Media Server app allows you to play streamed content from a DLNA server. The user interface is similar to the USB interface, and I didn't have any issues streaming a variety of movie, photo, and music files from my Seagate DLNA server. Navigating through the Seagate menus was pretty quick; however, when I switched over to my Windows 8.1 laptop to stream music, it was painfully slow to move between files. I blame the laptop, though, because trying to do anything on that laptop is painfully slow.

The Downside
From a performance standpoint, I have no major concerns with the UBP-X700. I suppose the only performance downside is that, if you buy the player right now, you'll have to wait a little while before you can enjoy Dolby Vision support--since that firmware update won't be available until the summer.

As I mentioned at the start, the UBP-X700 omits some nice features that you can get in the X800 for only $50 more--namely, DVD-Audio playback and Bluetooth audio output. Plus, the UBP-X800 is more substantial player that feels like it's built to last longer.

Sony's decision to go with coaxial digital audio limits the player's compatibility with many entry-level, non-HDMI-equipped soundbars and powered speakers, which tend to favor the use of optical digital audio output. The X800's inclusion of Bluetooth audio output helps to circumvent this limitation, but again you don't get that feature here.

Comparison & Competition
LG's UP970 is a direct competitor in both specs and pricing. Also $199.99, the UP970 has a similar feature array and already received its firmware update to support Dolby Vision (but I should point out that this player's Dolby Vision output does not work with Sony's Dolby Vision TVs). You can read my review here. I don't know if LG has performed any other recent updates; but, at the time of my review, the UP970 was woefully lacking in streaming services,

and it did not support DLNA.

Another similarly priced player is the Philips BDP7502 at $179.99, and this model recently received an update to add Dolby Vision support.Samsung offers several UHD players at different price points; the closest price match to the UBP-X700 is the UBD-M8500. Its MSRP is $229.99, but you currently can find it for $150 t $180 (since new 2018 Samsung models are presumably on the way). It supports HDR10 but not Dolby Vision (and it probably never will); it offers a nice assortment of streaming apps and similar connection options.

Conclusion
Sony's UBP-X700 Ultra HD Blu-ray player walks the same path as the UBP-X800 before it, delivering great video performance in a stable package. You don't get some of the more advanced configuration and performance options that you'll find in higher-end players from OPPO and Panasonic--like internal DACs and higher-quality audio components, source direct video output, an HDMI input, RS-232 control, etc. But for the majority of consumers, this player has it where it counts. Plus, Sony has beefed up its streaming media platform since I first reviewed the X800 to make these UHD models more enticing. And of course the big addition is the upcoming support for Dolby Vision, which makes the UBP-X700 a more versatile option than its predecessor. In certain respects, I still prefer the X800, especially if you don't need Dolby Vision support (because you've already purchased a UHD TV that doesn't do Dolby Vision). But the X700 offers a great combination of performance and features for a great price.

Additional Resources
• Visit the Sony website for more product information.
• Check out our Blu-ray Player Reviews category page to read similar reviews.
Sony STR-DN1080 7.2-Channel AV Receiver Reviewed at HomeTheaterReview.com.

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