The best 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray player will introduce a truly fantastic viewing experience to your home and will significantly boost whatever set-up you currently have in your living room (promise).
We’ll get to how a 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray player can so dramatically improve your at-home viewing soon, but for now let’s address the elephant in the room.
We know a 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray player might not be sitting at the top of your must-have tech wishlist right now – that’s okay. This will definitely apply to anyone who doesn’t have the cash to splash out on a new device right now or anyone else who feels happy with their current subscription to a streaming service, like Disney Plus, Netflix or Amazon Prime Video.
In fact, if you rely on any of these services for all your movie and TV needs, then you might not even have any DVDs or Blu-rays anymore to play on a new device anyway – especially if you have a subscription and TV that already supports 4K resolution streaming.
But all that aside, even though many people are using streaming services exclusively these days, there are many who still opt for Blu-ray instead, or as well, as a Netflix or Disney Plus subscription. That’s because if you have a deep appreciation for film, you’ll know that the best 4K Blu-ray players offer what no online streaming service can and that’s a reliable, cabled input that really makes the most of your films.
What’s more, it allows you to watch them how the directors originally intended – that’s without lags and spinning wheels interrupting you. With a physical DVD, you can also get access to all of the fantastic behind-the-scenes, deleted scenes and exclusive content that so often accompanies the newest DVD releases.
In summary, what one of the best 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray player guarantees 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.
Streaming services might have improved dramatically over the years, but many still struggle to maintain 4K resolution over your Wi-Fi or Ethernet – especially as some have been intentionally limiting available bandwidth amidst increased demand.
Watching your favorite movies and TV shows from a Blu-ray disc also eradicates buffering or varying resolution that you may currently be suffering through, and can offer the latest high-end HDR and audio formats (including Dolby Vision, HDR10+, Dolby Atmos) that are not always available on demand. Now TV, for one, is incredibly still locked at HD streaming.
If you’re trying to justify a shiny new 4K Blu-ray player, it might sweeten the deal to know that it 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 through to your TV.
However, we’re pretty certain that 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 as well, and we’ve run through the Xbox and PlayStation hardware supporting the 4K Blu-ray player standard too.
Best 4K Blu-ray players 2021: ranked
- Panasonic DP-UB9000
- Panasonic DMP-UB700
- Pioneer UDP-LX500
- Sony UBP-X800
- Sony UBP-X1000ES
- Panasonic DMP-UB300
- Xbox Series X
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
If you’re sussing out a gaming console to play your 4K Blu-rays and DVDs, it’s worth keeping in mind the next-gen Xbox Series X, which launched in November 2020.
Granted, the console is hard to get hold of right now, but it could be worth it as a long-term investment, both as a gaming machine and as a 4K Blu-ray player for your home, all combined in one piece of hardware.
The Xbox Series X also supports Dolby Atmos audio and Dolby Vision HDR – neither of which you’ll find on the PS5 – though the Dolby Vision support is limited to streaming services and doesn’t extend to the disc drive, hence why the console is so low in this list. (You’ll only get regular HDR10 over disc.)
As a stand-in for other 4K Blu-ray players in this list, the new Xbox is a pretty good bet, if you can accept its HDR limitations. Not to mention its native 4K gaming, incredibly powerful processing, and Quick Resume features set to elevate your stay-at-home gaming.
Read the full review: Xbox Series X
The Sony PS5 is helping to keep 4K Blu-ray technology alive with its dedicated disc drive – in the mainline console, at least. While you can buy a slightly cheaper discless version for $399.99 / £359.99 / AU$599.95, it’s the standard edition console we’re interested in here.
The PS5’s disc drive can play 4K Blu-rays – which is fitting, since Sony helped to popularize Blu-ray players with the PS3 two whole console generations ago.
However, as an all-round media center, the PS5 isn’t quite as advanced as the Xbox Series X. It doesn’t support Dolby Atmos audio, nor does it support Dolby Vision HDR over streaming (although neither console supports the dynamic HDR format over disc).
As a games console with a 4K Blu-ray player baked in, though, it’s a handy two-in-one solution – and if you were already planning on buying a PS5 console, it may save you looking for additional disc-playing hardware alongside.
Read the full review: PS5 review
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.