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Best Blu-ray and 4K Blu-ray players 2021

Best Blu-ray and 4K Blu-ray players Buying Guide: Welcome to What Hi-Fi?'s round-up of the best Blu-ray and 4K Blu-ray players you can buy in 2021. 

A 4K Blu-ray player is still the best way to go for film picture and sound quality at its very best. The best 4K players offer full fat bitrates for audio and video streams and all but guarantee the right HDR standards (including Dolby Vision and HDR10+), and object-based surround formats such as Dolby Atmos and DTS:X.

There are loads of 4K discs to choose from, so now is a great time to upgrade, and in our experience, picture and sound quality tend to be better than watching a 4K equivalent on Amazon Prime Video or Netflix.

4K players still spin normal Blu-rays and DVDs (remember them?) so there are no problems with backwards compatibility. Some 4K players are also universal decks that can play more niche audio disc formats such as SACD and DVD-Audio.

Our pick of the best Blu-ray players and 4K Blu-ray players all serve up brilliant picture and sound at their respective price points, and you can find our definitive list below.

These are 11 of the best film scenes to test surround sound

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1. Panasonic DP-UB820EB

As an all-rounder, this is the best 4K Blu-ray player we've seen at the money.


Type: 4K Blu-ray

SACD/DVD-A/3D Blu-ray support: No/No/Yes

Outputs: HDMI x2, Optical digital, 7.1 multi-channel analogue

Dimensions (hwd): 6.3 x 43 x 20.4cm

Weight: 3.5kg

Reasons to buy

+Vibrant, immersive HDR picture+Punchy, believable colour balance+Powerful and weighty sound

Reasons to avoid

-Could be dynamically subtler-No SACD or DVD-A support

With the DP-UB820EB, Panasonic has taken the video processing tech out of the flagship DP-UB9000 which features further down this list and placed it it in a more affordable package. And the results are sensational. The player serves up a wonderfully inviting and immersive picture, bursting with colour and detail. It also produces a meaty and exciting sound, which compliments the picture perfectly.

All the main flavours of HDR are supported, including HDR10, HDR10+ and Dolby Vision, which means you can extract the most from 4K content. It's a very good upscaler too, so normal Blu-rays should look the part on your shiny new 4K TV. For the money, you'll struggle to find a better all-round machine, which is why we've placed this What Hi-Fi? Award-winner at the top of our list of the best Blu-ray players.

Read the full review: Panasonic DP-UB820EB

2. Sony UBP-X700

A brilliant 4K Blu-ray player, with an attractive price tag to boot.


Type: 4K Blu-ray

SACD/DVD-A/3D Blu-ray support: Yes/No/Yes

Outputs: HDMI x2, Coaxial digital

Dimensions (hwd): 4.5 x 32 x 21.7cm

Weight: 1.4kg

Reasons to buy

+Crisp, natural-looking picture+Excellent detail and colours+Dolby Vision support

Reasons to avoid

-Sound could be grander-No HDR10+ support

If you want an affordable route into the world of 4K Blu-ray, the Sony UBP-X700 is a great shout. It's one of the most talented 4K players we've seen at this kind of money. It’s a fun, involving performance - pictures are stacked with detail. The Sony displays a wonderfully subtle picture that’s impeccably judged while being hugely entertaining. Sound quality is equally stirring with its zippy, dynamic character complimenting that class-leading picture.

The Sony ticks most of the boxes you'd expect a player to at this price, and includes both Dolby Vision and HDR10 support but no HDR10+.

Despite not flashing the hi-res audio badge, the X700 can also play up to 24bit/192kHz files in all popular formats, including WAV, FLAC and DSD. There's also smart functionality and twin HDMI outputs. This Sony machine is good enough to boost all manner of home cinema systems, so you can buy with confidence.

Read the full review: Sony UBP-X700

3. Panasonic DP-UB150EB

Arguably the best 4K Blu-ray player for those on a tight budget.


Type: 4K Blu-ray

SACD/DVD-A/3D Blu-ray support: No/No/No

Outputs: HDMI x1

Dimensions (hwd): 4.6 x 32 x 19.3cm

Weight: 1.2kg

Reasons to buy

+Punchy visuals+Impressive sound+Great value

Reasons to avoid

-No Dolby Vision

This Panasonic 4K player represents great value for money. Feature-wise, it's a little sparse, but it's the performance that matters, and on that front it delivers. It can provide 7.1 surround sound (using a supported system), and the audio is nicely detailed, with an impressive sense of scale. There's a lot to admire when it comes to picture quality too - dark details are easily strong enough, while it handles 4K upscaling with aplomb. A great budget buy.

Read the full review: Panasonic DP-UB150EB

4. Sony UBP-X800M2

A great player for the money, despite a couple of peculiar traits.


Type: 4K Blu-ray

SACD/DVD-A/3D Blu-ray support: Yes/Yes/Yes

Outputs: HDMI x2, Coaxial digital

Dimensions (hwd): 5.4 x 43 x 26.5cm

Weight: 3.8kg

Reasons to buy

+Crisp, detailed picture+Rhythmic, musical sound+Supports SACD and DVD-A

Reasons to avoid

-Lacks HDR10+-Odd Dolby Vision execution-Could be more vibrant

This mid-range Sony is a bit more capable - and a bit more expensive - than those at the budget end of the market. While it lacks a display on the player itself, its feature set more than makes up for it. It even has Bluetooth, for streaming audio to a pair of wireless headphones - a godsend for late-night viewing.

There's no HDR10+ support, but otherwise it's a very versatile player, playing nice with such niche audio formats as DVD-Audio and SACD. You have to manually enable Dolby Vision for supported content, which is a bit annoying (it should just happen automatically), but this player's superb performance still makes it easy to recommend.

Read the full review: Sony UBP-X800M2

5. Panasonic DMP-BDT180EB

One of the best Blu-ray players, and also one of the cheapest we recommend.


Type: Blu-ray

SACD/DVD-A/3D Blu-ray support: No/No/Yes

Outputs: HDMI

Dimensions (hwd): 4.3 x 31.2 x 18cm

Weight: 1kg

Reasons to buy

+Sharp details+Smooth motion+Dynamic sound

Reasons to avoid

-Doesn't play 4K discs-Small remote-No wi-fi

Making a Blu-ray player for such a low price is no easy feat. Making a good Blu-ray player at this level is more difficult, and a great one harder still. But somehow Panasonic has managed it with the DMP-BDT180EB. If you can live without the 4K Blu-ray playback, the Panasonic is perfect for any entry-level home cinema set-up. Detail levels, colour balance and motion handling are all excellent for the money.

It doesn’t hold back when it comes to audio quality either. Its dynamic delivery is exciting to listen to, voices sound clear and the whole presentation is pretty balanced. If you want a solid upgrade on an old DVD spinner, this Panasonic Blu-ray player won't let you down.

Read the full review: Panasonic DMP-BDT180EB

6. Sony UBP-X1100ES

A hugely capable 4K Blu-ray player, not without its quirks.


Type: 4K Blu-ray

SACD/DVD-A/3D Blu-ray support: Yes/Yes/Yes

Outputs: HDMI x2, optical and coaxial digital, analogue

Dimensions (hwd): 5.4 x 43 x 26.5cm

Weight: 3.9kg

Reasons to buy

+Crisp, clean 4K picture+Entertaining, immersive sound+Universal disc support

Reasons to avoid

-No HDR10+-Strange handling of Dolby Vision-Lacks a premium finish

There's no shortage of excellent 4K Blu-ray players to choose from at the premium end of the market, and the UBP-X1100ES also deserves to be on the list. Like the Cambridge above, it's a universal deck which means it can handle all manner of disc formats, including 3D Blu-ray, SACD and DVD-Audio. It supports HDR10 and Dolby Vision HDR, but there's no support for HDR10+, which is a little disappointing.

Its picture is anything but, though. The Sony serves up a balanced, natural and nuanced image, which displays great depth and an impressive amount of detail. It's a musical player too, with excellent timing and a fine sense of rhythm with music and movies alike.

Read the full review: Sony UBP-X1100ES

7. Panasonic DP-UB9000

A seriously capable 4K player for home cinema enthusiasts.


Type: 4K Blu-ray

SACD/DVD-A/3D Blu-ray support: No/No/Yes

Outputs: HDMI x2, optical and coaxial digital, 7.1 multi-channel analogue, RCA Phono, XLR

Dimensions (hwd): 8.1 x 43 x 30cm

Weight: 7.8kg

Reasons to buy

+Crisp, insightful picture+Dynamic expressive sound+Good selection of features

Reasons to avoid

-Very little at this price

The DP-UB9000 is another player to throw into the mix if you're in the market for a premium machine. Nestled between the Pioneer and Cambridge in this list, the Panasonic is a feature-packed option with excellent picture and sound quality.

Its menu system is a little overcomplicated, but once you've got the Panasonic set up for your particular display, it serves up an entertaining and attention-grabbing image, bursting with colour. There's a great sense of depth and realism to 4K images that makes you sit up and take notice.

Soundtracks are delivered with plenty of weight and power, which is just what you want from a premium player like this. The Pioneer just about pips it for outright musical ability, but the Panasonic DP-UB9000 is still well worth auditioning.

Read the full review: Panasonic DP-UB9000

8. Pioneer UDP-LX500

The best 4K Blu-ray we've tested at this high price point.


Type: 4K Blu-ray

SACD/DVD-A/3D Blu-ray support: Yes/Yes/Yes

Outputs: HDMI x2, stereo RCA

Dimensions (hwd): 11.8 x 43.5 x 33.9cm

Weight: 10.3kg

Reasons to buy

+Crisp, insightful picture+Natural colours+Dynamic, expressive sound

Reasons to avoid

-Few smart features-Still waiting for HDR10+ update

Some home cinema set-ups demand a player with even more focus than the more budget-friendly machines higher up this list. At this level, premium build quality and high-grade components are par for the course, as is the attempt to bring you the best picture and sound possible. The Pioneer UDP-LX500 is the best 4K Blu-ray player in the business.

Feed the player a 4K disc and the picture that greets you is breathtaking. It paints a balanced picture, packed with sensational levels of detail. And the Pioneer sounds as good as it looks, displaying weight, power and a fine sense of musicality and timing.

There's no smart functionality, nor is there a set of multi-channel analogue outputs for legacy AV receivers, but if you've got the budget and a suitable home cinema system to play it through, this 4K Blu-ray player will blow you away.

The only trouble is that the LX500 appears to be out of production. As such, prices are absurd. If you can buy one for close to its original cost of £999/$999, then grab it, Otherwise, you're better off with either the Sony or Panasonic above.

Read the full review: Pioneer UDP-LX500


18 of the best film scenes to test picture quality

Best home cinema deals 2021

Dan is a staff writer at What Hi-Fi? and his job is with product reviews as well as news, feature and advice articles too. He works across both the hi-fi and AV parts of the site and magazine and has a particular interest in home cinema. Dan joined What Hi-Fi? in 2019 and has worked in tech journalism for over a decade, writing for Tech Digest, Pocket-lint, MSN Tech and Wareable as well as freelancing for T3, Metro and the Independent. Dan has a keen interest in playing and watching football. He has also written about it for the Observer and FourFourTwo and ghost authored John Toshack's autobiography, Toshack's Way.

PLAYABLE DISCSBD-ROMUltra HD Blu-ray/ FULL HD 3D/ BD-VideoyesBD-RE/ BD-RE DL (Ver.3)BDAV/ AVCHD/ AVCHD 3D/JPEG/ MPOyesBD-R (Ver.1.3) / BD-R DL (Ver.2)BDAV/ AVCHD/ AVCHD 3D/ MKV/ JPEG/ MPOyesDVDDVD-VideoyesDVD-R*1/ DVD-R DL*1/ DVD-RW*1DVD-Video/ DVD Video RecordingyesAVCHD/ MKVyes/ yes* (*DVD-R/ DVD-R DL)FLAC/ WAV/ ALAC/ DSD/ WMA/ AAC/ MP3/ AIFFyes (DVD-R/ DVD-R DL)JPEG/ MPOyes (DVD-R/ DVD-R DL)+R*1/ +R DL*1/ +RW*1Video/ AVCHDyesCD, CD-R/ -RWCD-DA/ DTS-CDyesMKVyes (CD-R/ -RW)FLAC/ WAV/ ALAC/ WMA/ AAC/ MP3/ AIFFyes (CD-R/ -RW)JPEG/ MPOyes (CD-R/ -RW)AUDIO SYSTEMDolby Digital/ TrueHDyes (Decode and Bitstream Output*2)Dolby Digital Plusyes (Decode and Bitstream Output*2)DTS-HD Master Audio/ DTS-HD High Resolution Audioyes (Decode and Bitstream Output*2)Dolby Atoms/ DTS:Xyes (Bitstream Output*2)FLACyes (Max. 192 kHz/ 24 bit)WAVyes (Max. 192 kHz/ 32 bit)ALACyes (Max. 96 kHz/ 32 bit (7.1ch), 176.4/192 kHz/ 32 bit (5.1ch))DSD (DFF, DSF)yes (2.8 MHz (2ch/ 5.1ch), 5.6 MHz (2ch))AIFFyes (Max. 192 kHz/ 32 bit (2ch))USBSlotyes (1)Front1 (USB 2.0 High Speed)PlaybackFLAC/ WAV/ ALAC/ AIFF/ DSD (DFF, DSF)/ WMA/ AAC/ MP3yesMKV/ MP4 (H.264/HEVC), TS (MPEG-2/H.264/HEVC)yesMPEG-2/ AVCHD/ AVCHD 3DyesJPEG/ MPOyesHIGH QUALITY PICTUREHCX Processor for Ultra HD Blu-rayyesHDRHybrid Log Gamma(HLG)yes4K Up-scaling60p/50p/ 4:4:4 (HDMI2.0)yes*3*424p/ 25pyes*3*44K Direct Chroma Up-scalingyes*34K Networking (4K Video*5 Playback/ 4K JPEG Playback*3)yes4K VODyes*6(NETFLIX, Prime Video etc…)Picture Type Presets(Normal/ Cinema/ Fine Cinema/ Retro Cinema/ Animation/ Live)*7Block/ Randam/ Mosquito Noise ReductionyesVideo on Demand in HD QualityyesUltra HD PremiumyesDeep Colouryesx.v.Colouryes*8HIGH QUALITY SOUNDPure Audio on HDMI (HDMI Low Clock Jitter Process)yesHigh Quality Network Audio Playback (DLNA)yes*9 (FLAC/ WAV/ ALAC/ AIFF/ DSD/ WMA/ AAC/ MP3)SMART FEATURERemote Controlyes(Simple)Subtitle Position/Brightness AdjustmentyesHDAVI Control 5 (VIERA Link)yesInternet Appsyes*12Web BrowseryesNetwork Contents Playback (Client & Renderer)yes*9External HDD Playbackyes*13Network Drive AccessyesBD-Live™yes*14TERMINALHDMI Outputyes (1)LAN (Ethernet) Terminalyes (for Ultra HD Blu-ray, DLNA*9, BD-LiveTM*14, Internet Apps*12 and Firmware Update)OTHERSVideo SystemPAL/ NTSCPower SupplyAC 220-240 V, 50 Hz/ 60 HzPower ConsumptionNormal Use21 WNetwork Standby Off (Quick Start Off)0.3 WHDMI Cable IncludedyesDIMENSIONS, WEIGHTDimensions (W x H x D)320 x 45 x 191 mm *15Weight1.3 kgNOTE*1 Discs recorded and finalized on recording devices.NOTE*2 HDMI connections and compatible equipment (e.g. AV Receiver) required.NOTE*3 For 4K Up-scaling playback a TV with same resolution is required.NOTE*4 For 4K/60p video, a high speed HDMI cable supporting 18 Gbps bandwidth is required.NOTE*5 MP4(4K/25p,30p) bit rate up to 100Mbps/resolution up to 3840x2160.NOTE*6 Some network content services may not be available in your country.NOTE*7 Ultra HD Blu-ray and Photo (JPG/MPO) are not supported.NOTE*8 This function is effective only when reproducing AVCHD data recorded with x.v.Color technology. The function cannot be used with BD-ROM or DVD-ROM discs. HDMI connection is required.NOTE*9 File formats that are not supported by your Network Contents server (DLNA compatible server, etc.) cannot be played.NOTE*10 CD sampling is done at 176.4/88.2 kHz.NOTE*11 A device that supports the Mirroring function and AndroidTM ver. 4.2 or higher is required.NOTE*12 Requires broadband Internet service.NOTE*13 The external HDD with capacities of 4TB or less in processing NTFS/ FAT32 data is supported. Playback is not possible with some external hard disk drives.NOTE*14 To enjoy content, you will need to insert a USB (1GB or more of free space/ sold separately). Requires broadband Internet service.NOTE*15 Excluding the projecting parts.NOTESpecifications are subject to change without notice. All numbers given here are approximate.WARNINGThe recording and playback of content on this or any other device may require permission from the owner of the copyright or other such rights in that content. Panasonic has no authority to and does not grant you that permission and explicitly disclaims any right, ability or intention to obtain such permission on your behalf. It is your responsibility to ensure that your use of this or any other device complies with applicable copyright legislation in your country. Please refer to that legislation for more information on the relevant laws and regulations involved or contact the owner of the rights in the content you wish to record or playback.WARNINGPlayability may vary depending on the contents, discs and quality of the recording. For content recorded for your personal use.WARNINGSpecifications are subject to change without notice.TRADEMARK NOTICEBlu-ray Disc™, Blu-ray™, Ultra HD Blu-ray™ and the logosTRADEMARK NOTICEare trademarks of Blu-ray Disc Association.TRADEMARK NOTICE"AVCHD" and the "AVCHD" logo are trademarks of Panasonic Corporation and Sony Corporation.TRADEMARK NOTICEMPEG Layer-3 audio coding technology licensed from Fraunhofer IIS and Thomson.TRADEMARK NOTICEHDR10+™ logo is a trademark of HDR10+ Technologies, LLC.TRADEMARK NOTICEDolby, Dolby Audio, Dolby Vision, and the double-D symbol are trademarks of Dolby Laboratories.TRADEMARK NOTICEFor DTS patents, see Manufactured under license from DTS Licensing Limited.TRADEMARK NOTICEDTS, DTS-HD, the Symbol, & DTS and the Symbol together are registered trademarks, and DTS-HD Master Audio is a trademark of DTS, Inc. © DTS, Inc. All Rights Reserved.TRADEMARK NOTICEThe terms HDMI and HDMI High-Definition Multimedia Interface, and the HDMI Logo are trademarks or registered trademarks of HDMI Licensing, LLC in the United States and other countries.TRADEMARK NOTICEDLNA, the DLNA Logo and DLNA CERTIFIED are trademarks, service marks, or certification marks of the Digital Living Network Alliance.TRADEMARK NOTICEAndroid is a trademark of Google Inc.TRADEMARK NOTICETHX and the THX logo are trademarks of THX Ltd., registered in the United States and other countries.
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Ultra HD Blu-ray: everything you need to know

It took a few years to gain momentum, but 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray is now a firm fixture of virtually all major film releases.

The first 4K TVs went on sale back in 2012, but it wasn't until 2016 that the first 4K Blu-ray players from Samsung and Panasonic went on sale - alongside, thankfully, an increasing number of 4K Blu-ray discs. Today there are a number of 4K players on the market, you can pick up a 4K Blu-ray film in your local supermarket or online and, as streaming services step up to compete with 4K content, both are getting more affordable by the day.

So what is Ultra HD Blu-ray, how can you get it and how much does it all cost? Allow us to provide some answers...

What is the Ultra HD Blu-ray specification?

The preliminary spec for 4K discs was revealed at CES 2015, after which the Blu-ray Disc Association made the Ultra HD Blu-ray spec official (along with the name and the logo).

This format supports a resolution of 3840 x 2160, and while the specification is no guarantee that a film was actually shot and edited in 4K it does also offer additional technologies that improve picture quality such as higher frame rates of up to 60fps (frames per second) and high dynamic range (HDR). In physical media, HDR is currently delivered in three main formats: HDR10, HDR10+ and Dolby Vision HDR.

The majority of 4K discs come with the standard HDR10. What sets Dolby Vision and HDR10+ apart from HDR10 is the inclusion of dynamic metadata, a proprietary HDR technology that adapts its image frame-by-frame and, theoretically, renders each shot at its best. And what sets HDR10+ apart from Dolby Vision is its lack of licensing cost – TV manufacturers and content studios have to pay Dolby to use Dolby Vision and have little control over its development and implementation.

Initially, HDR10+ had only Amazon Prime Video promising supported content on its streaming site, and although Amazon remains the only major VOD service to offer it, more and more 4K discs in HDR10+ have made their way to market. Nevertheless, it's fair to say that Dolby Vision is comfortably the more widely available of the two formats.

4K Blu-rays are encoded using the High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC) standard (also known as H.265), use 10-bit colour depth and can cover the full spectrum of the Rec.2020 colour space. 

The discs themselves can be produced in three sizes: 50GB with support for an 82Mbit/s data rate, 66GB with 108Mbit/s and 100GB with 128Mbit/s.

What about Ultra HD Blu-ray audio?

The UHD Blu-ray specification also includes object-based immersive soundtracks such as Dolby Atmos and DTS:X. Some Blu-ray discs already support these formats, so it's not unique to UHD Blu-ray, but the next-gen audio soundtracks are more prevalent on Ultra HD Blu-ray discs.

So far Dolby Atmos has been the prevalent format on 4K disc releases, but DTS:X discs do exist. It's worth noting you won't find Atmos and DTS:X soundtracks on the same disc. It's one or the other.

What else does Ultra HD Blu-ray offer?

4K discs also support an optional digital bridge feature, allowing you to copy Ultra HD Blu-ray content to an external hard disk drive and portable devices such as smartphones and tablets.

The spec also mandates all Ultra HD Blu-ray players be able to play legacy Blu-ray discs. Sadly, 3D isn't featured in the Ultra HD Blu-ray spec – but with the majority of TV manufacturers having abandoned 3D ages ago, that's understandable.

OPINION: Here's why 4K Blu-ray is even better than 4K streaming

What Ultra HD Blu-ray players are on sale?

Current UHD Blu-ray players can be sorted into two categories: the under-£400 (affordable) models and the £600-and-above (high-end) players.

The Panasonic DP-UB9000 is the high-end Blu-ray player of choice these days (we're also big fans of the Pioneer UDP-LX500 and Oppo UDP-203, but both have now been discontinued), and it's a serious bit of kit that's worthy of its £900 ($1000, AU$1799) asking price, delivering a picture and sound performance that's well beyond that of its more affordable rivals.

Those more affordable models still offer an excellent performance, though, delivering quality that streaming services simply can't match. Our current favourites include the Sony UBP-X700 and Panasonic DP-UB820EB.

Other budget models from Panasonic and LG do exist, though new models are now released fairly infrequently. Moreover, Samsung dropped a bombshell in February 2019 by confirming it would end Blu-ray player production entirely.

On the games console front, Microsoft's Xbox One S was the first console to be compatible with 4K Blu-rays, though be warned, it's not quite up to scratch compared to rival standalone players.

The Xbox One X also incorporates a UHD Blu-ray disc player with native 4K, HDR and Dolby Atmos support. It’s pricier, has a more powerful processor to handle 4K gaming and, while dedicated players still win out, is an entertaining performer with 4K HDR discs.

The latest console from Microsoft, the Xbox Series X, also plays 4K Blu-rays but without Dolby Vision support despite the format being available via streaming apps (there'll be Dolby Vision games soon, too). That major disappointment, combined with its noisy disc drive, dents the Series X’s credentials as a 4K Blu-ray player – which is a shame because the picture performance is broadly good, with lots of detail, nicely judged colours and sharp edges.

As for the PS4 Pro and PS5? Surprisingly, Sony chose not to give the former the capability, focusing instead on 4K streaming. However, the PS5 does play 4K discs – though once again without Dolby Vision. While the picture is impressive in terms of deep blacks, drama, dynamism and colours it isn't really a match for even the most affordable dedicated 4K Blu-ray players when it comes to subtlety of shading and stability in motion.

What Ultra HD Blu-ray discs are on sale?

Ultra HD Blu-ray discs are now on sale worldwide, with major studios such as 20th Century Fox, Sony Pictures and Warner Bros all in on the action.

Disney joined the ranks in 2017 with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 as its first 4K disc release (and still one of our most-used test discs) before following up with Thor: Ragnarok in 2018.

The likes of Amazon, HMV and Zavvi all stock loads of Ultra HD Blu-ray releases, with the average price of a 4K disc around £20.

Will Ultra HD Blu-ray players play existing Blu-rays?

Yes, Ultra HD Blu-ray players are fully backwards-compatible with existing Blu-rays. Ultra HD Blu-ray discs won't play on old players, though, and you can't upgrade old decks, so you will need a 4K Blu-ray player in order to play 4K Blu-ray discs.

When it comes to regional restrictions, the good news is 4K Blu-ray discs have just one region code: worldwide. Essentially, they’re region-free. They can be played on any 4K player, in any part of the world.

However, your new UHD Blu-ray player will still have to observe the regional restrictions for DVDs and standard Blu-rays that continue to exist.

Most 4K Blu-ray discs come bundled with a standard Blu-ray version of the same film and those discs tend to be region-free as well. Search for the 'ABC' logo or read the fine print on the box, or look it up online to be sure – especially if you're thinking of importing the latest discs from outside your region.

However, it very much depends on the studio that owns the rights and the distribution of individual films as to whether a Blu-ray has region restrictions or not. We've noticed the major film studios (20th Century Fox, Sony and Warner Bros) have released their Blu-rays as region-free, but smaller studios are more likely to have restrictions.

What TV do you need for Ultra HD Blu-ray?

An Ultra HD Blu-ray player will work with pretty much any TV, but unless it's a 4K Ultra HD TV you won't see the disc's full-fat 4K resolution on screen. If your TV doesn't support it, the player will downscale the disc's content accordingly.

Any 4K TV should deliver a 4K picture, but only TVs with more recent specs will be able to take full advantage of what Ultra HD Blu-rays can offer. This includes HDR, which is one of the key factors for getting the best possible picture.

Most - if not all - 4K TVs on sale now support the standard HDR10 spec. When it comes to Dolby Vision and HDR10+, it depends on which manufacturer has backed which tech. LG and Sony are all in on Dolby Vision, with no HDR10+ TVs in their lineups, while Samsung is the opposite – all HDR10+ and no Dolby Vision.

Higher end models from Panasonic and Philips support Dolby Vision and HDR10+, which is great news for those who don't want to pick a side in this particular format war.

While 4K and HDR (or Dolby Vision) aren't necessarily linked technologies, if you're looking for a TV with one, it should ideally have the other in order to get the best picture performance.

Look also for a TV bearing the Ultra HD Premium logo - this means it meets certain 4K HDR standards, including support for standard HDR10. However, it doesn't mean the set necessarily supports Dolby Vision HDR.

Do you need a new AV receiver for Ultra HD Blu-ray?

Yes and no. If your system currently uses an AV receiver to do the HDMI switching, and carry audio/video over HDMI around your system, then this won't work with 4K Blu-ray unless your AV receiver is 4K-compatible.

The good news is most, if not all home cinema amplifiers in the market now are 4K compatible, including the excellent Denon AVR-X2700H and Sony STR-DN1080. Look for HDCP 2.2 and HDMI 2.0a (or HDMI 2.1) in the specifications for a clear indication of 4K compatibility.

Some higher end 4K Blu-ray players have two HDMI outputs so that video can be sent via one to the TV and audio can be sent to an AVR via the other. Alternatively, you can send video and audio from a 4K Blu-ray player straight to your TV and then have the audio sent from the TV to your AVR via optical cable or HDMI ARC.

Is Ultra HD Blu-ray worth it?

We certainly think so. It may be an increasingly niche market but 4K Blu-ray continues to impress us with its incredibly detailed picture quality, and better hardware and advances in HDR technology have improved performance even further.

Ron Martin, VP of Panasonic's Hollywood Lab and a crucial player in the development of Ultra HD Blu-ray, told What Hi-Fi? 4K discs will beat 4K streaming: "[a disc format] is the only repeatable, reliable way to do it. Streaming has certain advantages but many disadvantages."

We've compared how 4K streaming stacks up against 4K Blu-rays and standard full HD Blu-rays - and it's no surprise that 4K Blu-ray beats them all.

What about 8K Blu-ray?

You shouldn't hold your breath for 8K Blu-ray players or 8K Blu-ray discs. While 4K Blu-ray has proven fairly popular and will likely stick around for a long time to come, it's still a drop in the ocean compared to the popularity of streaming and we can't see a future in which any company is prepared to invest the huge sums of money into a new physical movie format when the war is so clearly already lost.

Given the inherent qualitative advantages of physical formats, that's certainly a shame, but with internet connections generally becoming exponentially faster with each year that passes, there's plenty of hope for higher quality movie streaming. Sony's new Bravia Core service, while not 8K, delivers streams in far higher quality than any service before it, potentially pointing the way to a future in which physical media isn't necessary in order to get the best picture and sound.


The best 4K TV shows and films to watch right now

These are the best 4K Blu-ray discs to test your system

Check out our round-up of the best TVs you can buy right now

Get the sound right with one of the best AV receivers

Finally, here are the best 4K Blu-ray players

SONY UBP-X700 4K ULTRA HD Blu ray Player - It's Time To Upgrade


Ray 4k blu


There's more to '4K' UHD Blu-ray than the resolution.


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