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 streaming apps. Being the most barebones player Sony currently sells, you'd be right in wondering what you'd be missing out on by not stepping up to the X800M2. As it turns out, not that much. The X700 does lack Bluetooth audio, and the X800M2 certainly boasts a better-built chassis and an upgraded internal power supply. But otherwise the features are remarkably similar between the two, despite the $100 price difference.
The X700 is quite small for an Ultra HD Blu-ray player, coming in at just 12.6 inches wide by 1.8 inches tall and 8.5 inches deep, and it weighs only 3.1 pounds. The chassis has a two-tone black finish with a design aesthetic that should fit well in most rooms. Connections are pretty barebones, but still offer enough flexibility for the majority of use cases. There's a single 18Gbps HDMI 2.0 port and a secondary HDMI 1.4 port to be used solely for sending audio, in the event that your AVR or preamp doesn't support the 2.0 spec. Also included is a coaxial S/PDIF digital audio port for those wanting to send audio to a device that lacks HDMI altogether, such as a soundbar. Users have the option to use the included 10/100Mbps LAN port or built-in WiFi for home network and internet streaming.
Arguably the most impressive aspect of the X700 is its versatility in disc support. It's extremely comprehensive and class-leading for a player near its price, with support for CD, SACD, DVD, Blu-ray, 3D Blu-ray, and Ultra HD Blu-ray. The only notable omission is DVD-Audio. For those that demand DVD-A playback, you'll have to step up to a higher-end Sony player or consider purchasing a player from a competing brand.
File-based media playback on the X700 is also fairly comprehensive. Decoding of common MPEG2 and H.264 video formats is supported and, while not explicitly stated anywhere in the literature, in my testing I found that it will decode H.265/HEVC video in an MKV container as well. However, I would advise owners to use either the USB or LAN port for playback with anything high bitrate, as I ran into some pretty significant buffering issues while trying to play Ultra HD HEVC video files over WiFi. For audio, you also have support for common PCM and DSD-based files for playback locally via USB or over your home network. Unlike some of the high-bitrate video I tested, I didn't have buffering issues with audio over WiFi, even when I sent the X700 large DSD-based files.
One area that seriously impressed me with the X700 is the number of apps included with the player. Oddly enough, on Sony's more expensive X800M2 and X1100ES, you're limited to just a few built-in apps, such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, and YouTube. In addition to those, the X700 gives you access to Spotify, Crackle, Pandora, Hulu, Slacker Radio, Fox News, and SiriusXM, among others. This does make the user interface a bit more cluttered compared to Sony's higher-end players, but it's still intuitively laid out and easy to use. In my opinion, the inclusion of these apps adds a huge value proposition not found on the more expensive Sony players and even among other players from competing brands near the X700's price.
As with the other 2019 Sony Ultra HD Blu-ray players that have come through here recently, discs load lightning fast. The user interface in and outside of apps was smooth when scrolling through content and menu items. Before trying to playback Dolby Vision content from discs and apps such as Netflix, you'll want to be sure to go into the settings menu and enable Dolby Vision mode if you have a compatible display. Otherwise, the video output will default to the more basic HDR10 encoded base video or SDR from certain streaming services. The only hitch is, you'll need to manually disable Dolby Vision mode if you want to watch HDR10 content. The X700 doesn't seem to auto-detect Dolby Vision content, even after you've enabled it in the settings menu. If you forget to turn Dolby Vision off, regular HDR10 content will be output from the player incorrectly as Dolby Vision. I hope to see Sony address this issue with a firmware update.
Image quality was impressive considering the low cost of this player, though. It was also consistently good no matter the content being played back, whether it be disc or streaming based. Pulling up some test patterns revealed surprisingly similar performance to that of the X800M2 I recently reviewed. This, and a very similar set of video processing options available, leads me to believe these two players share the same video processing solution. Video upscaling, chroma upsampling, and deinterlacing performance looked class leading for a $199 player based on the test patterns and video content I used for testing.
HDR-to-SDR conversion is included as well, and becomes available if you hook the player up to a display that doesn't support HDR. The reduced dynamic range image, aka SDR, looked generally good, with a natural-appearing level of dynamic range, color saturation, and shadow detail. Like with the X800M2, the only criticism I have for Sony's implementation is that, on occasion, I witnessed some blown out, clipped highlights. When this occurs, detail within some high peak-nit areas of the image is lost. However, I doubt this will be a deal-breaker as, I suspect, most people buying the X700 won't be using this feature anyways.
Dolby Vision encoded content such as Our Planet streamed from Netflix and Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle on Ultra HD Blu-ray played without a hitch. On the X700, Dolby Vision content was a consistent upgrade over the HDR10 base video. I've said this before, but if your display is capable of Dolby Vision, you owe it to yourself to be sure you have a player capable of delivering it. This content is better mastered, giving way to video with more realistic shadow detail, color characteristics, and more impressive dynamic range. Through the X700, you're getting a relatively cheap and high-quality way to experience Dolby Vision.
Comparison and Competition
The X700's closest competition comes from LG's UBK80. Both players are priced at a $199 MSRP. However, the X700 has several key advantages over the UBK80, such as Dolby Vision support, HDR-to-SDR conversion, SACD playback, and a bigger selection of built-in apps.
Compared to Sony's own X800M2, which currently retails for $100 more, the only notable difference in functionality is the X800M2's inclusion of Bluetooth audio output and DVD-Audio disc support. Inputs and outputs remain identical between the two, as does video quality and HDR functionality. Yes, the X800M2 is physically larger and heavier, so it may look and feel more impressive under your television, but because the X700 is nearly the same player in both internal hardware and software, I think, for most people, buying the more affordable player makes more sense.
Sony's UBP-X700 is something of an enigma: a seemingly accidental creation offering a huge value proposition that threatens sales of Sony's own, more expensive, players. I believe Sony has come to this realization as well. On the company's website, the price has fluctuated over the past few weeks, going from $179 all the way up to $249. They just aren't sure where this player fits in. Is it truly a bottom-end player or does it threaten the higher-end X800M2?
When you factor in the similar feature-set, image quality, and video processing options the X700 shares with Sony's own more expensive players, I think it does. So, unless you need things such as Bluetooth connectivity, RS-232 system control, analog audio connections, more robust HDR processing features, or a player with more substantial build quality, I think the X700 is an excellent player that epitomizes value, and is easy for me to recommend.
• Visit the Sony website for more product information.
• Check out our Blu-ray player category page to read similar reviews.
• Sony UBP-X1100ES Ultra HD Blu-ray Player Reviewed at HomeTheaterReview.com.