In the middle of Sony's 2019 Ultra HD Blu-ray player lineup is the UBP-X800M2 priced at $299. The M2 in the model number signifies a revision over the original X800. Notable additions this year include added support for Dolby Vision encoded Ultra HD Blu-ray discs and HEVC video file decoding via the player's USB port or over your home network. It's also worth noting that, as far as I'm aware, the X800M2 is currently the cheapest Ultra HD Blu-ray player that supports HDR-to-SDR tonemapping conversion, a great feature to have for anyone with a legacy display looking to gain some of the benefits Ultra HD Blu-ray offers.
[Editor's note, 9/4/2019: this review has been updated to reflect issues related to Dolby Vision playback that were discovered in further testing of this and other UHD Blu-ray players in the Sony lineup. See the Low Points for more details.]
While the player is made from a lot of plastic, I'm happy with the choices in plastic Sony has made. A trend I see a lot in the consumer electronics space is to use high-gloss black to give the appearance of high-end-ness. The use of such plastics never bodes well. Not only are these surfaces dust and fingerprint magnets, they scratch incredibly easily. For the X800M2, Sony went with a textured matte-black finish for the top and sides of the chassis, which should hold up much better than a gloss surface. Underneath the hood is Sony's frame-and-beam stamped steel chassis implementation, specifically created to reduce vibrations that might interfere with disc playback.
For connections, the player has a single 18Gbps HDMI 2.0 port with HDCP 2.2 compliance, a dedicated audio-only HDMI 1.4 port, a coaxial S/PDIF output, a 10/100 LAN port, and a single USB port for local media playback. Bluetooth audio output is also supported, allowing you to connect directly to a soundbar. Disc support for the X800M2 is incredibly competitive. It will decode SACD, DVD-Audio, DVD, Blu-ray, 3D Blu-ray, and Ultra HD Blu-ray discs. From either the USB port or your home network, the X800M2 supports the most popular audio and video formats, including DSD audio and, as mentioned above, H.265 video.
The user interface is basic, but it's snappy and intuitive, giving you direct access to your disc drive, USB port, streaming apps, and settings menu. I opted to connect to the internet via WiFi, and I did run into an issue trying to connect to my router's 2.4Ghz band, but had no problems connecting to the 5Ghz band. This may be an issue with my Asus RT-AC66U router, but it's something worth noting.
One thing that impressed me with this player was how quickly discs loaded. This may be the fastest player in this regard that I've personally encountered, even compared to players costing more than double its price. Video processing quality on the X800M2 is competitive in performance to players near its price point. Test patterns revealed relatively good video upscaling, chroma upsampling, and deinterlacing. 24p video is output with proper film cadence. Playback of 1080p content upscaled to 4K by the X800M2 looked good, without noticeable artifacts. Users with a large library of 1080p content should be happy with the overall performance.
For UHD Blu-ray playback, I was sure to check out Dolby Vision-encoded movies, as support for this format is one of the main selling points for this player. It should be noted Dolby Vision isn't enabled by default. You'll need to go into the settings menu and toggle it on, otherwise the player will default to the more basic HDR10 video. Once I enabled this setting, with any Dolby Vision disc I tried, the player automatically triggered Dolby Vision mode and passed it along to my LG B8 OLED television properly. On all the Dolby Vision-encoded Ultra HD Blu-rays I watched, video quality was noticeably improved over the stock HDR10 video. Specifically, specular highlights were better resolved with more detail. Shadow detail seemed more realistic too. With more and more titles being mastered in Dolby Vision, it's nice to see Sony fully support the format with this player. I just wish that Dolby Vision was auto-detected by the player. The lack of such auto-detection means that if you've turned DV on, you need to turn it off to watch non-DV discs.
The HDR10 performance is admirable, too, though--competitive with players near the X800M2's price. However, if a Dolby Vision disc is available and you have a compatible TV, it's well worth it to make sure you have Dolby Vision enabled. I did notice one other issue with Dolby Vision content, though: Unlike some of the other Ultra HD Blu-ray players I've had here, the X800M2 doesn't seem to report BT2020 as the color space of the content to the display. Whether or not this will cause issues with color point mapping is going to be display dependent, but is something worth noting. Your display may incorrectly map colors to a REC709 gamut instead. For HDR10 video, the player correctly reported BT2020 to my display.
For the built-in streaming apps, Dolby Vision HDR is also supported. However, just like with discs, you need to be sure that Dolby Vision is enabled in the settings menu to be able to access it. For Netflix, you need to be subscribed to their top-tier service ($15.99 a month), otherwise you're stuck with 1080p SDR streamed content. For Amazon Prime, you'll need a Prime membership to have access to Dolby Vision content. Similar to discs, Dolby Vision made a noticeable improvement in overall image quality and, in my opinion, it's definitely worth the subscription fee if you have a Dolby Vision display.
To test out how well the X800M2 tonemaps HDR content to SDR, I hooked it up to a 1080p LCD television I have in my guest bedroom. The player immediately knew I was connected to an older non-HDR display and gave me the option to manually adjust the tonemap to better suit the brightness, color, and dynamic range capabilities of the connected display. The tone mapping controls don't give you as much flexibility as you get from a Panasonic player, but what is included is intuitive and easy to use and should breathe new life into an older display, saving you a few bucks before needing to upgrade. The lower you set the tonemap, the brighter the image becomes subjectively. I did notice some clipped highlights on occasion, but overall the performance is respectable, especially considering the price point of this player and that it's even an option to begin with.
While I don't use a soundbar for my television, I was still able to test out the player's Bluetooth capabilities by connecting it to my Bang & Olufsen Beolit 15 Bluetooth speaker. Sound quality was excellent when listening to music videos via the built-in YouTube app. However, you can take things up a step by using Sony's proprietary LDAC Bluetooth encoding mode with compatible devices to get the best wireless audio. If you plan on using the player with a Bluetooth speaker, double check to see if it supports the LDAC codec.
Comparison and Competition
LG's UBK90 is priced identically to Sony's X800M2. Both players support Dolby Vision; however, unlike the UBK90, the X800M2 supports HEVC video decoding via your local network or USB port. The X800M2 also supports HDR-to-SDR tonemap conversion, whereas the UBK90 doesn't. Additionally, the X800M2 supports SACD and DVD-Audio, whereas the UBK90 does not. As such, the X800M2 is the clear winner when it comes to value.
With the variety of content I played through the X800M2, video quality was competitive with similarly priced players out there. However, the X800M2 adds in support for SACD, DVD-Audio, and HEVC video file playback, as well as HDR-to-SDR conversion, adding extra value.
For $299, Sony's UBP-X800M2 may be the most value-packed Ultra HD Blu-ray player out there currently. For that reason alone, if you're in the market and looking to spend around $300, I'd recommend giving this player serious consideration.