Sony has been using 4K Ultra HD TVs for a long time, but an Ultra HD Blu-ray player was still missing. That is changing this year because the Japanese manufacturer announced the Sony UBP-X800 Ultra HD Blu-ray player.
Sony UBP-X800 – specifications
The Sony UBP-X800 is the first 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray player from the Japanese manufacturer and according to the company itself developed in collaboration with Sony Pictures Entertainment. This, of course, to get the most out of displaying 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray. The player can handle CDs, DVDs, CDs, DVD audio, Blu-ray discs and Ultra HD Blu-ray discs. The player can also display HDR content but Sony has not chosen to provide the player with support for Dolby Vision .
Of course there is also support for high resolution audio and a large number of file formats on board. For example, High-Resolution files up to 192kHz / 24-bit and DSD up to 11.2MHz can be played. DSEE HX should improve the sampling frequency and the bit depth of lesser files. According to Sony this leads to a more natural sound and a broader dynamic range, which comes close to high resolution audio quality. Dolby Atmos and DTS:X are supported in the surround area.
The UBP-X800 comes with two HDMI ports so you can separate audio and video, which is especially useful when your receiver does not support Ultra HD and / or HDR. On the back we also see a digital coaxial output and an ethernet port, while on the front a USB port is placed. The player has a hard Frame and Beam housing that minimizes mechanical vibration according to the company. Via WiFi you can access various apps and your own servers, while Bluetooth makes it possible to listen to audio through a wireless headphone. The sound can also be played simultaneously via the TV, for the other television viewers. It is also possible to connect the speakers to the player via Bluetooth.
Sony UBP-X800 – design
The design of the UBP-X800 may be familiar to some. The device is in fact based on the UHP-H1 Blu-ray player last year. Actually we can extend this line to many parts of this player; the UHP-H1 with an expansion of, among other things, 4K Ultra HD.
The UBP-X800 is a fairly normal and sleek player in appearance, although it is somewhat larger, heavier and more robust than the cheaper competition. The device has a sleek design, with a black band on the front where the drawer is located. There is no display on the front panel and that is certainly striking.
The device has an aluminum housing with a gray-colored top and bottom. The invisible part is also taken over from the UHP-H1. And although it is invisible, it is certainly important. Sony wanted to make a sturdy and stable device that can display audio and video as optimally as possible. This means, among other things, that the chassis and the disc drawer are reinforced, and even the screws are placed in a special way so as not to affect the audio reproduction. High-quality components and a premium design must together ensure the best reproduction of audio and video.
However, the UBP-X800 does not completely match its predecessor. The player weighs 3.8 kilograms a lot more, also more than the competition. The device is 430mm wide and as mentioned the display at the front is absent. We do see a USB port behind, behind a protective cover.
Sony UBP-X800 – ease of use
An important part of the user-friendliness is the remote control. The accessory that Sony supplies with the UBP-X800 is small, plastic and not particularly premium. In that respect he does not really fit his player, but the remote does perfectly what he has to do. The buttons are easily accessible, the remote is comfortable in the hand and the operation is flawless. There is a special Netflix button for the Netflix fans.
Sony has left the menu structure of the past few years virtually unchanged and that is the ease of use. When you start the player for the first time, you are immediately asked to connect to the internet and then you enter the homescreen where you can install apps and change the input. The menu structure for the settings speaks for itself and you can easily browse through all options without getting lost.
The homescreen is not super refined, special or beautiful, but that is not really something we are looking for on a Blu-ray player. It must above all be user-friendly and well-organized, and Sony is doing well. Through the homescreen you have access to all your media, for example in the network, via apps and via a disc in the drawer. In terms of apps, the choice is not enormous, but the most important services are available. This way you have access to Netflix (in 4K), Videoland, Youtube and Spotify. The Opera Appstore has a bit more to offer, but little that you will really warm up for.
Fortunately for Android users, the player also has Screen Mirroring (Miracast). This allows you to view photos, videos or other content from your smartphone on TV. You can also use the SongPal app to pair the player with compatible (wireless) speakers that you have in your home. And, if the remote control can not be found, you can also control the player using the app for your smartphone or tablet.
In terms of ease of use, there is something else that stands out; the UBP-X800 can handle almost all important file formats and discs for audio and video. Even sa-cd, dvd audio and 3D Blu-ray are supported. Do you have a lot of music and videos on USB or your own server? Then the chances are that the player plays all files flawlessly, also in high resolution.
The UBP-X800 is a fairly quiet player and also quite fast. The Oppo UDP-203 is a bit faster, but you can enjoy a movie within 40 seconds after inserting the disc. Also browsing through the interface and your own server goes smoothly.
Sony UBP-X800 – image quality
The Panasonic DMP-UB700 (450 euro), DMP-UB900 (600 euro) and Oppo UDP-203 (849 euro) are currently the main competitors for the Sony UBP-X800, and if Sony can meet the expectations then offers the company is one of the cheaper players with premium audio and video playback. Fortunately, we can immediately report that the UBP-X800 is not disappointing. Not only because you can play almost all your files and discs without a single problem, also because the display is very good. Be careful not to let the player perform image processing; switch off most options and allow the image and audio to be sent to the receiver and TV as “clean” as possible.
Starting with Ultra HD Blu-ray discs from The Revenant, Everest and Life or Pi, among others. With this material, subsampling via 4:4:4 shown on your TV, the UBP-X800 shows its true nature. What is particularly striking is the very tight and natural color rendering, full of subtle transitions, a variety of shades and convincing details. Especially at Everest we see a wide variety of shades of white in the mountains and the sky is full of dynamism and color during the rising of the sun, without becoming saturated. The detailed display is also very good; with subtle small and sharp details that give the picture a bit more depth. During the night scene in Life of Pi we see a dark sea with tight and clearly visible details, opposite a bright moon that splashes from the image. The capture of motion (fast moving images) is fairly smooth, and reasonable because we at the Oppo just saw a little more flexibility in this area.
If we have the HDRtaking an option then only makes it clear that we are dealing with a premium player. The UBP-X800 has a very large dynamic range, which is also clearly visible in the scene in Life or Pi where the bright moon stands in front of the deep blue sea. The dark colors retain their deep tones and remain full of detail, while a detailed but bright moon illuminates the sky. In the wide shots of Everest the white shades of the mountains splash from the screen, while dark details in clothing remain clearly visible. At Everest, for example, we see a bright orange setting sun in the background, in which subtle contours of the mountains can still be seen on the horizon. And that while the dark parts of the foreground are a combination of deep black and detailed shadows. The color reproduction is also very good; with a wide variety of natural skin tones that give a face just that little bit more emotion, and an air with hundreds of orange, white, blue and yellow hints. It is never ‘too much’ but rather refined and subtle but realistic.
Of course we also had 2K Blu-rays with the test, and for that we have once again pulled Gravity out of the closet. Even with this kind of discs, the UBP-X800 does not drop any major stitches, although we do not find the upscaling function to give that premium feeling that native 4K playback did. It lacks here and there just that little bit of flexibility in detail. We are presented with a clean, balanced and dynamic picture, with natural and convincing colors that bring a 2K image to life. The player provides the face of Leonardo in The Revenant with clean and subtle lines, natural skin tones and impressive depth that really makes the emotion come across. The player also performs well in the field of motion; during the scene in which we see the earth fly a few times the detail display is retained and colors are displayed tightly. In addition, the gray gradations and black values are impressive, so that details remain visible in dark parts of the screen and you get a little more depth of feeling.
Sony UBP-X800 – audio quality
But, with a very good video reproduction, we are not there yet. This naturally includes a premium audio reproduction. Looking purely at what is written on paper, the expectations for this are high, and the player does not disappoint in this area either. The image display is accompanied by a very impressive audio reproduction, although you only have digital connections at your disposal and it is therefore the receiver / amplifier that does the work in this area.
With the audio track in the films mentioned above (in our case in Dolby Atmos when available) emotion is provided in dialogues and subtle audio details. Bright details, warm voices and the reproduction of every subtle detail make the audio come to life. In addition, surround effects are placed accurately in the room so you feel like you are in the action and the sound image is sufficiently wide with many convincing details. The entire audio output of the system is well organized, with a clear place in the space for each audio object.
The UBP-X800 is of course also a music player, a real all-rounder. We have again collected the high resolution albums of The Beatles and Muse (Resistance) and played them through the AVR-X6300H and B & W CM9 speakers. Again it must be said that it is the emotion in the vocals that touches us the most. The accuracy, flexibility and clarity give the whole an extra dimension. In combination with a broad sound field and a very tight placement of instruments and vocals in the room you get the idea as if the band is playing in front of you. And for the audiophiles among us, the support for sa-cd and dvd-audio is of course a big plus, though they would probably have liked to see the analogue audio outputs that the DMP-UB900 does have.
Sony UBP-X800 – conclusion
Sony does not make it easier for us with the UBP-X800, especially to name the best Ultra HD Blu-ray players. The Japanese manufacturer with this model is about the same – high – level as the Panasonic players, and knows itself in the field of audio playback and build quality even higher to place. If you want the best of the best in terms of image quality (and Dolby Vision) then the Oppo UDP-203 is still master and master, but you pay the double for that. The Sony is a real all-rounder on which you can actually play all your files and discs, and also have access to content via streaming services and within your own network. Add a user-friendly interface, multiroom capabilities and handy bluetooth options and you have a complete premium Ultra HD Blu-ray player. The UBP-X800 is with a price of 400 euros also the cheapest player of the four and therefore in our view an absolute must, provided that the lack of Dolby Vision is not a dealbreaker for you.