Netflix and Amazon may now be offering 4K streaming options, but if you still hanker for the best, uncompressed picture quality from your movie sessions, you should be investing in a UHD Blu-ray player.
While much of the world might settle for streaming video and dismiss physical discs as relics from a bygone age, no consumer video stream can get close to the quality of a 4K Blu-ray at the moment.
What's more, if you've invested in a top-notch television set such as the LG C8 OLED, then it deserves some 4K Blu-ray pampering.
In 2018 the "4K" tax for Blu-ray players has largely gone too. Out favourite decks may still be on the pricey side, but there are affordable picks out there if the budget is tight. Most support 4K Netflix too, which isn't always available in 4K TVs.
That means you can enjoy watching your high-resolution Blu-rays as well as streaming content from the likes of Netflix, Amazon and Google Play TV & Movies. So which 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray player should you go for?
- Don't miss our round-up of the Best 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray movies
What else do I need to watch a UHD Blu-ray?
In order to get a true 4K experience, remember that you'll need a 4K Blu-ray player, a 4K Blu-ray disc and, of course, a 4K TV in order to watch it. Don't have that last one? Check out our guide to the best 4K TV.
If you don't have a 4K TV, your 4K Blu-ray player will still work, but it will only display images in 1080p. Buy a regular Blu-ray instead of a 4K version and it will still play in 3840 × 2160 resolution, but it won't be a native 4K image and will be noticeably different to an Ultra HD Blu-ray.
Enough with the caveats. Here are the the best 4K Blu-ray players in the world:
- Panasonic DMP-UB700
- Oppo UDP-203
- Sony UBP-X800
- Panasonic DMP-UB900
- Samsung UBD-M9500
- Sony UBP-X1000ES
- Panasonic DMP-UB300
- Xbox One X
- Xbox One S
- Samsung UBD-K8500
The Panasonic DMP-U700 is the 4K Blu-ray player we end up recommending most often. It's more affordable than an Oppo deck, and still gets you the amazing picture quality of Panasonic's top-end DMP-U900.
Streaming service support, with HDR-enabled 4K Netflix, is well worth trumpeting and the player does a swell job with 24-bit audio. It supports both FLAC and DSD files.
There's no Dolby Vision support, perhaps the main reason to upgrade to the DMP-UB900. But as it stands the UB700 offers the best balance of price, audio visual performance and features.
Read the full review: Panasonic DMP-UB700
Oppo makes the best Blu-ray players in the world. Or made, we should say. Oppo announced its intention to stop making headphones and Blu-rays players earlier this year.
The Oppo UDP-203 may be the most expensive Blu-ray player on this list, but perhaps you should grab one while you can.
It supports a full suite of both video and audio formats, including the niche SACD, and features three HDMI ports (one for video and audio, one for audio, and another to act as an HDMI passthrough).
It even supports the premium Dolby Vision HDR standard, which is still a rarity in players.
Unfortunately the Oppo doesn't include support for streaming services such as Netflix, but if you want a premium disc player (at a premium price), this is the one for you. It's of particular interest to audiophiles.
Read the full review: Oppo UDP-203
Sony might have been a little late to the Ultra HD Blu-ray party, but its first player is a great machine. It's solidly made, and its overall image quality is superb.
As an added bonus, the player also supports a wide range of audio formats, can play SACDs, and even DVD-As.
So why does the player sit the number three slot in our list? Well, unfortunately it lacks support for Dolby Vision, the high-end HDR format that discs are increasingly offering support for, and which the Oppo UDP-203 does now support thanks to a firmware update. Its also more expensive than our top pick, the Panasonic DMP-UB700.
If you want a UHD player that also doubles as a very capable music player, then the Sony UBP-X800 is a great choice, but if you're after something focussed solely on playing movies, then there are better or cheaper options out there.
Read the full review: Sony UBP-X800
The DMP-UB900 will restore you faith in physical media. In full 4K HDR guise it offers a level of performance that will have new 4K TV owners gasping. Ultra HD Blu-ray brings the experience of 4K digital cinema to the home, and rewards with brilliant colour fidelity, deep contrast and almost three-dimensional clarity.
Factor in solid file playback support, plus 4K iterations of Netflix and Amazon Instant Video, and you have a machine that'll make your new 4K HDR TV look sensational.
Read the full review: Panasonic DMP-UB900
Looking back at it now, Samsung’s first Ultra HD Blu-ray player, the Samsung UBD-K8500 (found further down the list) seems like a bit of a trial run.
Its build quality was rudimental as Samsung tried to undercut rival debut units on price. It didn’t carry any sort of built-in display. Its picture quality was OK as a starting point for a new format, but was soon overwhelmed by more heavy duty rivals. And while the deck did what it needed to, its feature count was soon exposed as pretty limited.
The new $399 (£450, about AU$500) UBD-M9500 feels like such a specific response to its predecessor’s limitations that you can almost imagine Samsung sitting down and ticking the old problems off one by one.
The result is a far more accomplished player that deserves a seat at the serious mid-range 4K Blu-ray player table – even though a couple of deliberate omissions might frustrate some quarters of the AV enthusiast market.
Read the full review: Samsung UBD-M9500
The UBP-X1000ES is Sony’s premium 4K Blu-ray offering, a posh stablemate to the unfeasibly fine UBP-X800. In terms of performance and value, the latter can be considered one of the best value UHD Blu-ray players available, so clearly this more expensive sibling needs to be rather special to warrant a premium.
To that end, the UBP-X1000ES delivers pristine UHD Blu-ray images and its audio performance is excellent, be it via HDMI or two channel analogue. The player is also artfully built, and incorporates a high-end 192kHz/ 32bit DAC and offers a gold-plated phono analogue audio output on the rear.
Ultimately, though, the X1000ES is considerably more expensive than the UBP-X800, and doesn’t quite have the feature roster of the Dolby Vision-enabled, MQA-playing Oppo UHD-203 – and if you’re looking for a UHD player with comparable audio chops (although admittedly not universal disc compatibility), then Panasonic’s DMP-UB900 provides cheaper competition.
Read the full review: Sony UBP-X1000ES
You'll make a couple of compromises if you want to take advantage of the DMP UB300's budget price-tag – there's no built-in Wi-Fi for example, and rear ports are incredibly limited – but thankfully the machine doesn't scrimp where it matters.
Picture quality is excellent, it supports a wide range of audio codecs and formats, and there's also streaming services built in if you're willing to go down the wired ethernet route.
Read the full review: Panasonic DMP-UB300
The Xbox One X is a beast of a gaming console. It offers 6 teraflops of performance, 12GB of GDDR5 RAM and an eight-core CPU clocked at 2.3GHz. By far and away, it's the most powerful device listed on this page. But despite all that power under the hood, it's not the best 4K Blu-ray player. Sure, it can play 4K UHD discs – and it even supports Dolby Atmos audio – but the images that it produces aren't likely to blow you away. That's probably because the Xbox One X doesn't have the same level of picture-upscaling that some of the other dedicated media players on this list have. While the Xbox One X might not be as good of a 4K Blu-ray player as the Oppo or the Sony, we'd like to see either one of those players handle an Xbox One X game.
Read the full review: Xbox One X
Not holding the title of a "proper Blu-ray player" doesn't stop the Xbox One S from being a great, cheap way to play 4K Blu-ray discs.
Sporting a Blu-ray disc drive and the capacity to run Netflix in 4K Ultra HD, Microsoft's latest iteration of the Xbox is a great 'jack-of-all-trades' machine that's capable of satisfying your UHD disc needs as well as playing the latest console game released for the system.
The downside of it being able to do everything is that you'll be working with an interface designed primarily for gaming. The controller that comes with the console isn't the most efficient way to control movie playback, and the machine lacks support for Dolby Vision.
Regardless, if you want a machine that can handle both your gaming and your home cinema needs, the Xbox One S is the console for the job.
Read the full review: Xbox One S
The K8500 is currently the cheapest route into 4K Blu-ray. It's also a useful hub for 4K OTT services from Netflix and Amazon, and while the design is a bit Marmite, you'll be consistently impressed by its loading speed and colourful UI.
You can get better image quality, support for more formats and better build quality by spending more money, but if you want a cheap machine that covers the basics, then the Samsung UBD-K8500 is yet to be beaten on price.
Read the full review: Samsung UBD-K8500