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.
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.
The 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.
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.
Click over to Page Two for Performance, The Downside, Comparison & Competition, and Conclusion...
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