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Streaming video services are abundant, and we love them for their convenience and selection. However, as cutting edge as streaming technology may be, tangible disc players pack a quality punch that streaming just can’t stand up to.
With the proliferation of ultra high definition TVs and other audio/video components, everything we know and love in visual form has been upgraded. Only one issue: our ultra HD TVs need 4K and UHD content. Enter the 4K Blu-ray player, which can play Blu-ray discs with four times the resolution of conventional Blu-ray (at full HD).
What You Need to Know About Blu-ray
Blu-ray is the next evolution of digital video disc content devices. Where DVDs topped out at 480i resolution, BR has an upper level of 1080p. Though these numbers mimic what is available on streaming services, there are other data-based differences which make Blu-ray a superior format.
Image and sound quality are data-dense. The more data that can be transmitted, the more in-depth the experience. While streaming services have done an increasingly better job of transmitting more data rich files, they are still no match for Blu-ray’s capability. Add two other Blu-ray factors and you have a winning formula: HDR and WCG. HDR stands for High Dynamic Range (something streaming services are trying to roll out, but are having success only with exceptional high bandwidth users); WCR stands for Wide Color Gamut. These two acronyms are responsible for the peak performance of Blu-ray, delivering more life-like colors and contrasts, with the ability to draw out even the tiniest of details on screen.
While there are many decent Blu-ray players in the market, to get true 4K content on screen, you’ll want to find a 4K Blu-ray player that is equipped to display 4K content from compatible Blu-ray discs. You’ll also want to make sure you have a 4K or UHD TV to get the most out of this resolution quality.
The best 4K Blu-ray players connect easily to your home theater system, and many are equipped to provide hi-res audio capabilities as well. We’ve also found internet-ready options and options that let you plug in a USB, to access even more content and files.
Streaming may be more convenient, but for a truly remarkable viewing experience, 4K Blu-ray is hard to best. Here are some of the best 4K Blu-ray players to pick up.
1. Sony UBP-X700
Sony has always led the charge in cutting-edge technology when it comes to audio/video equipment. The UBP-X700 is a wonderful addition to any home theater setup and showcases Sony’s commitment to technical advancements in the Blu-ray space.
The company’s “High Dynamic Range” offers more vivid images, while Dolby Vision brings scenes to life with better contrasts and details. Everything is sharpened and heightened — in real time — to near-perfect levels, creating more consistent images. The Blu-ray player hits more colors on the gamut too, to offer a wider range of shades and tones. What you get: more realistic pictures, rather than an overly processed or saturated display.
With hi-res-audio, you’ll be able to enjoy the score the way the composer intended, without compression or dilution.
This set includes a user manual, remote control and two AAA batteries.
PROS: Upscaling brings everything to 4K vivacity.
CONS: Firmware may need to be updated prior to watching but it’s a simple solution.
2. LG UBK90
The LG UBK90 produces stunning video with rich and encompassing audio. LG’s internet-ready unit delivers top quality HD 4K, while USB capabilities let you plug in your content to stream as well.
The player is HDR compatible with Dolby Vision (for scene-to-scene color and brightness optimization) and HDR10. LG’s Blu-ray player is a workhorse, with steady playback and consistent images no matter the type of content you’re watching.
This set comes with a remote and two AAA batteries.
PROS: Legacy playback capable, meaning it can also play DVDs and regular (non 4K) Blu-ray discs.
CONS: The menu screen could use some work.
3. Panasonic DP-UB820
Panasonic’s 4K player is a Blu-ray powerhouse. Utilizing the company’s HCX Processor, this unit replicates a “Hollywood cinema experience,” creating a professional viewing unit built for home use. What you get: better color, clarity and detail in 4K formats like HDR10+ and Dolby Vision, while scene-to-scene mapping automatically adjusts brightness levels on the go. Expect more natural colors and textures on screen.
This Blu-ray player also lets you access 4K content with 4K VOD streaming from apps like Amazon Prime Video, Netflix and YouTube.
Sound-wise, expect rich hi-res audio, while an HDMI “Low Clock Jitter Process” reproduces the sounds from your source material (I.e. your Blu-ray disc) with exceptional clarity and accuracy.
PROS: Alexa capabilities let you control settings using just your voice. The most lightweight option on our list.
CONS: Some found the remote to be clunky and not intuitive.