Sony UBP-X800 Ultra HD Blu-ray Player Review


Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $300

AT A GLANCE
Plus
High-quality video upconversion of standard Blu-rays
Plays SACDs, DVD-Audio discs, and native DSD files
Inexpensive
Minus
No announced Dolby Vision support
No analog audio outputs

THE VERDICT
Sony’s ultra-affordable Ultra HD Blu-ray player offers solid video performance, and it also plays SACDs and DVD-Audio discs.

Call it nostalgia, but the launch of an audio or video format strikes me as an opportunity to reflect on what came before it—especially now, with the sun threatening to set on physical media. When the Blu-ray Disc first appeared a little more than a decade ago, Sony was among its main flagwavers. Not only that, but the company’s PlayStation 3 console was considered by many to be the top-performing player in the Blu-ray format’s primitive days. Samsung and Panasonic were quick to push out standalone Blu-ray players, but the folks at Sony took their sweet time bringing their own model to market. When the BDP-S1 did arrive, it was well received for its picture quality—though it had design quirks, including an inability to play CDs.

Jump forward to 2017 and to Ultra HD Blu-ray. Sony again has been among the laggards in shipping its first player, but in this case, better late than never. Why? The PlayStation 4, in contrast to its predecessor, lacks support for this newest video disc format. Sony’s UBP-X800 Ultra HD Blu-ray player, on the other hand, is capable of playing SACDs and DVD-Audio discs, along with standard Blu-rays (and Blu-ray 3D discs), DVDs, and, yes, CDs. And it delivers all that functionality at a low $300 price, a dramatic drop from the $1,000 the company charged for the BDP-S1.

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Like other Ultra HD Blu-ray players, the UBP-X800 supports the default HDR10 format for high dynamic range. Unlike other UHD Blu-ray players arriving this year, including the Oppo UDP-203 reviewed in our May issue and LG’s forthcoming UP970, the Sony appears with no announced firmware update that will enable it to support the Dolby Vision HDR format. (A Sony rep I reached out to responded, “We are still studying that. Nothing to announce at this time.”) However, as of this writing in late April, all existing HDR-enhanced Ultra HD Blu-rays are still HDR10-only, and it’s still too early to know if Dolby Vision’s big claim to fame—scene-by-scene or even frame-by-frame dynamic metadata versus the static metadata used by HDR10—brings any real meaningful benefit. Also, not all Ultra HDTVs are fully compatible with Dolby Vision (hello, Samsung). So depending on your set, the Dolby Vision thing could be a nonissue. And in any event, all UHD Blu-ray Discs carrying Dolby Vision must also carry HDR10.

The UBP-X800 can stream 4K and HDR, and it comes loaded with the Netflix, Vudu, and Amazon Instant Video apps, though HDR is only available via Netflix at present. From a 4K-streaming standpoint, the key omission is YouTube, though Sony says that app will be added in a firmware update. Coming from a company that owns a major music label, I found it odd that the UBP-X800’s app selection—available through the player’s Opera TV portal—doesn’t include popular music-streaming options like Pandora, Spotify, and Slacker. I did find a streaming channel dedicated to rapper Pitbull, but I can’t claim to be a fan.

While the player’s internet music-streaming options are limited, its ability to function as a DLNA renderer gives you the option to stream your own music over a local network. According to Sony’s manual, the list of supported file formats includes uncompressed FLAC, ALAC, and DSD (DSF and DSDIFF), along with compressed MP3, AAC, and WMA9. The player also features Sony’s Digital Sound Enhancement Engine (DSEE HX), which the company says can upscale compressed formats to “near-high-resolution quality.”

Hey, Good Looking
The UBP-X800 has a sleek design and impressive build quality for a $300 player. An internal frameand-beam metal chassis is used to increase rigidity and reduce vibration. Front-panel controls are limited to power on/off and disc tray open/close buttons, and there’s a USB port to plug in a thumb drive.

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Given the player’s hi-res audio credentials, I was surprised to note that its back-panel connections are limited to a LAN port, a pair of HDMI outputs (one of them audio-only), and a coaxial digital jack. Most universal players—Oppo’s UDP203, for example—provide analog outputs so you’ll have the option to let the player perform digital-to-analog conversion. The Sony, in contrast, converts hi-res audio signals to PCM format for output over the player’s HDMI or coaxial digital connections. The exception: DSDformat signals from SACDs or files on connected USB drives, which can be configured for bitstream output to a compatible receiver or preamplifier in the player’s Audio Settings menu. (A bitstream output option is also available for Dolby and DTS soundtrack formats.)

COMPANY INFO
Sony
ARTICLE CONTENTS

COMMENTS
kevon27's picture

Does this play HDCD?

mars2k's picture

Just bought a 75" Sony tv, great picture but much to my chagrin Sony, as a rule , does not support a large number of video formats. In fact support was so limited I would had to convert about 90% of my current library. The task of accessing my DNLA media server fell to my OPPO 203. Do you happen to have a list of supported video formats?...BTW please don't suggest using PlEX or something other that whats already in place. All of my Samsung and Oppo devices can access the lions share of my library out of the box. Sony and Roku just fall short in this regard.

jnemesh's picture

No matter how much people pine for it, the OPEN HDR10+ standard will do everything DV does and not require manufacturers (and consumers) to pay extra for it. Besides, the writing is already on the wall, HDR10 is REQUIRED for UHD Blu-Ray and DV is OPTIONAL. That sealed it's fate right there...along with Samsung's refusal to support it. Face it, it's not gonna happen.

mnc's picture

I don't know why Sony doesn't announce DV support for this. They said that their tv's with the Extreme processor will do DV and Sony is about to release DV UHD discs. It would be real disappointing for them to not update it to DV. If they don't, I will buy the OPPO 203 instead!

thehun's picture

I'm guessing the author only mention 2ch files in the article being used, it would be nice if he could verify/deny if MCH files can be played back as well, from the attached storage or from LAN. Thanks.

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