A new 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray player might not be the device at the top of your technology wishlist. We get it. If you have a subscription to a streaming service, like Netflix or Disney Plus, you might not even be buying DVDs of Blu-rays anymore, full stop.
But if you have a deep appreciation of film, you’ll know that the best 4K Blu-ray players offer what no online streaming service can. And that’s reliable, cabled input that really makes the most of your movies.
What that looks like is no slow internet connection, drops in service, or insufferable buffering will stop you as you try to binge your favorite films or TV shows. Yes, streaming services have improved on that front over the years. But they’re still far from perfect.
In fact, even if you manage to maintain a consistent connection with your TV streaming service, the majority might still struggle to meet 4K resolution you’re looking for over your Wi-Fi or Ethernet – if you have a 4K TV, of course – and in 2020 particularly many are limiting available bandwidth amidst increased demand.
Watching movies and TV shows from a disc reduces buffering or varying resolution that you may currently be suffering through, and can offer the latest high-end HDR and audio formats (Dolby Vision, HDR10+, Dolby Atmos) not always available on demand. Now TV, for one, is incredibly still locked at HD streaming.
- Got your player already? Check out our round-up of the best 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray movies
It’s worth mentioning that a 4K Blu-ray player will still be able to play HD Blu-rays too, as well as any regular DVDs you still have. There’s also the capability to upscale those lower-resolution formats up to 4K before feeding them to your TV.
Blu-ray as a technology won't be around forever – and the departure of both Oppo and Samsung from the market signals that new 4K Blu-ray player hardware is now going to be few and far between. But for now, these players we've brought together still represent the best of home cinema, and aren't obsolete quite yet.
As you'll see below, games consoles will keep the technology alive for a good few years yet, and we've run through the Xbox and PlayStation hardware still supporting the 4K Blu-ray player standard too.
Best 4K Blu-ray players 2020: ranked
- Panasonic DP-UB9000
- Panasonic DMP-UB700
- Pioneer UDP-LX500
- Sony UBP-X800
- Sony UBP-X1000ES
- Panasonic DMP-UB300
- Xbox One X
- Xbox One S
4K Blu-ray players
The DP-UB9000 is Panasonic’s latest flagship 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray player and, after Oppo started winding down its competing devices, the new model finds itself in one of the top spots in the high-end player market.
That said, beautifully made and enviably specified, this flagship 4K disc spinner is unashamedly premium. The plastic and tin build, familiar on mainstream Blu-ray players, has been replaced with heavy metal and luxe design.
Beyond its good looks, however, the DP-UB9000 is also the first UHD deck from Panasonic to support all key HDR flavours: vanilla HDR10, its dynamic sibling HDR10+, HLG and Dolby Vision. The latter is included, despite the fact that Panasonic isn’t supporting Dolby Vision on any of its 4K TVs.
Not only is the player more than capable with images, it has audiophile aspirations as well, sporting high quality DACs, two-channel and 7.1-channel analogue outputs, and Hi-Res Audio support. Toss in a host of smart features, and the UB9000 ticks nearly every box in the book.
Naturally all these flagship features don’t come cheap - but, for those seeking the ideal replacement Blu-ray player after Oppo’s collapse, the Panasonic DP-UB9000 is a more than adequate replacement.
Read the full review: Panasonic DP-UB9000 review
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
While its £999 ($999, AU$1999) price tag might be a bit intimidating, Pioneer has produced a peach of a player with the UDP-LX500. This heavyweight home cinema hero deserves to be shortlisted by all high-end upgraders, and can comfortably claim to be one of the best universal 4K Blu-ray players available for less than a grand.
There are caveats though. It’s not quite as brilliant a video performer as its main rival, the cheaper Panasonic DMP-UB9000, and it’s not quite as well finished either. However, if music is as important as movies to you, it’s clearly got broader appeal. Move over Bradley and Gaga, a new AV star is born.
Read the full review: Pioneer UDP-LX500
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 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
Both consoles will ship with 4K Blu-ray disc drivers, and it might make sense to wait a few months for a next-gen console rather than settle for an older Xbox One model, or a standalone 4K Blu-ray player.
Granted, the PS5 and Xbox Series X will be more expensive than their current-gen counterparts, and we're expecting a price tag in the realm of $499 / £499 (around AU$750) for both, or not much less. But for a machine that lets you play all your Blu-rays, as well as incoming PS5 games or Xbox Series X games, it may well be worth it for you.
What else you need
What else do I need to watch a 4K UHD Blu-ray?
That being said, before you plunk down some money on a new player, make sure you already own a 4K TV in order to watch it – if you don't have one, then check out our guide to the best 4K TV.
If you only have an HD TV or monitor, your 4K Blu-ray player will still work, but it will only display images in 1080p – whatever the max resolution of the disc.
On the flip-side of that, an HD Blu-ray disc will still play in 3840 × 2160 resolution on a 4K TV – upscaled to fill in the extra pixels – but it won't be a native 4K image and will be noticeably different to an Ultra HD Blu-ray.