Sure, going to the movie theater is fun. The big screen, the booming speakers, the thrill of listening to the audience cheer or gasp or laugh with you; it's all part of the experience! On the other hand, once you snuggle into your own couch with an amazing 4K Blu-ray player, you've got a whole new experience on your hands.
Even with the digital projectors in theaters and a giant screen, nothing compares to the crispness of 4K video. You just can't beat the ability to pause at your favorite scene and rewatch it again and again. And did we mention how insanely clear the picture is?
If you are one of the 56 percent of homes with broadband that does not have a Blu-ray player yet (much less a 4K Blu-ray player), what are you waiting for?! Launched in the United States in 2006, Blu-ray is vastly superior to DVD in every conceivable way. Capable of storing up to 50 gigabytes of information compared to a DVD's 4.7 gigs, Blu-rays can hold any length movie at pretty much any quality imaginable. After watching the splendor of high definition, watching old school DVDs is, frankly, painful. And that's not even including all of the bonus features!
Speaking of bonus features, Blu-rays are damn near indestructible. We've all had a favorite CD or DVD be ruined by a single scratch, especially if we have kids. Kids are the ultimate destructors of discs. Just having to wipe their fingerprints off of them repeatedly can end in disaster! But because Blu-rays are actually more vulnerable to being ruined by scratches, they're coated with a sealant that makes them extremely hard to scratch in the first place. They're actually quite safe to allow all but the most aggressively destructive child to handle. Curiously, this is not a main marketing point for the technology, and most people (parents) remain unaware of it. An untapped market, to be sure.
Now, it's true that proper broadband can deliver the same HD quality as a Blu-ray. But that leaves you at the mercy of cable outages and whether or not they're still offering the movie you want to see when you want to see it. When you have a Blu-ray, you can watch whatever you want whenever the heck you want to watch it!
So, seriously, time to upgrade.
If Blu-ray is so awesome, why bother with 4K?
If Blu-ray makes DVD look sad (and it really does), 4K Blu-ray does the same to standard Blu-ray. The colors are even crisper. The contrast is even sharper. It literally gives you a wider spectrum of colors. It's hard to convey just how ridiculously powerful the human eye is at picking up color and detail in the real world and how much of that detail is lost on even high-resolution video. That's why pictures and videos of sunsets and sunrises are never as good as the real thing. That being said, 4K is an awfully large step in getting us closer to all of the nuance we take for granted with the two fleshy cameras Mother Nature built for us.
The only caveat here is that you need to have a 4K TV to take advantage of the power of a 4K Blu-ray player. But honestly, if you have the TV, why wouldn't you get the 4K Blu-ray player to go with it?
How We Are Rating 2018's Best 4K Blu-ray Player
In order to do a fair assessment of our contenders, we are going to try to give as much of an apple to apple comparison as possible. Considering they're all more or less the same product, that shouldn't be too difficult. The only real outlier will be the Xbox One, but we'll get to that.
How crisp is the picture? How fast do the discs load? Can it survive falling off a two story building? Okay, no one cares about that last one, but not all players are made equal. Some are just going to be made of sterner stuff than others.
This can directly affect the price, so it depends if you're looking for all the bells and whistles or the bare bones. Streaming, outputs, inputs, upscaling (making standard definition look more like high definition), if these matter to you, we got you covered.
Sleek and smooth? Large and bulky? How a 4K Blu-ray player looks may be trivial to some people. But to others who are building a stylish home entertainment system, how it blends in with the rest of your equipment can be incredibly important. Don't judge. That's our job!
Most people don't think about the remote when they purchase, well, anything! But it's actually quite vital to the experience. You can be the best 4K Blu-ray player on the market and not be worth owning because your remote is garbage. A frustrating remote layout can ruin an otherwise amazing system (and we have an example of this below). Sure, you'll get used to it, but that's not the point.
Reference Quality Video with HDR & Dolby Vision
Lossless, High-Resolution Audio
UHD, Blu-ray, 3D, DVD, DVD-Audio, SACD and CD
The Oppo is, to be blunt, a beast of a machine. Weighing in at almost nine and a half pounds, it can double as both a 4K Blu-ray player and a blunt weapon to fight off home intruders. It's large, bulky, but it sure does have all the whistles and bells!
The Oppo produces one of the top images currently available. You get that delicious 4K experience from both Blu-rays and ultra high definition media files. In fact, you can pretty much play any kind of media on it. From lowly homemade music CDs to flash drives with downloaded videos to upscaled DVDs, the Oppo does it all. It has not one, but two USB posts, WiFi, and an ethernet port. This makes the Oppo an integral part of your home entertainment system. It doesn't, however, have streaming services built into it as many other players do.
It also has a number of different outputs allowing you to hook it up to a variety of television types. This includes an HDMI audio only output for those with heavy duty home theater sound systems. The remote to control all of this has just about everything you'd need at your fingertips. It's not a cool and exciting remote, but it's not an impediment, either.
- See the unrivaled visual clarity of 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray™
- Play almost any disc and file format
- Stunning picture with 4K upscaling up to 60p
- Listen to music from multiple formats
- Dual HDMI outputs for A/V separation and clearer sound
Sony's entry is slim and unobtrusive. Perfect if you want something simple, not so much if you're looking to make a statement. But don't be fooled by its unassuming looks, the X700 is plenty powerful, offering a top of the line 4K image. It also sports a full range of streaming services like Netflix and Hulu, and you can stream in 4K from Netflix, Amazon Prime, and YouTube. By the time this article goes to post, the X700 should also be able to play Dolby Vision, a new format that's a step up from even 4K.
The X700 only has a single video HDMI output although it does have both HDMI and Dolby optical audio outputs. It's WiFi ready but includes an ethernet port as well. There's a single USB port on the front.
The remote is the same type Sony makes for many of its Blu-ray players. It's small, simple and basic. It's functional, but it doesn't give you nearly as many options as it could. It does not, however, get in the way of the experience, so there's that.
4K Ultra HD Blu-ray
- 360° content playback
- Built-in Wi-Fi
- Smart Blu-ray
As far as straight 4K Blu-ray goes, Samsung's entry is easily in the running to be 2018's best 4K Blu-ray player. It supports HDR, the rival format to Dolby Vision, but not both. That's not necessarily an issue since no televisions currently support both formats anyway.
The unit itself is simple and attractive as is its menu system. Unlike most of the other players, the M9500 allows access to the main menu while the disc is playing and runs along the bottom, so it doesn't intrude much on the movie. Speaking of the menu, the M9500 does offer streaming services and most of the ones that offer 4K streaming work.
The remote is a vast improvement over the previous model (which, I kid you not, did not have dedicated fast forward and rewind buttons). It's simple and doesn't feature a lot of shortcuts but considering you can access the menu in mid-movie, you don't really need them.
The M9500 makes excellent use of Bluetooth, allowing you to turn your Android phone into a second screen. Some movies have content that can appear on your phone while you watch the film. Or you can watch regular TV while a movie is playing (you know, in case you can't miss the weather report or something...).
Like every Blu-ray player, the M9500 has a USB port although this one is on the side. This is a questionable design choice. Not everyone has their player out in the open where the sides are easily reached. Removing it from the front to make it look sleeker is understandable but not at the risk of making it inaccessible.
Storage: 1TB Hard Drive
Graphics Processor Speed : 853 MHz
Graphics Memory Capacity : 32 MB
CPU: 1.75 GHz 8-core AMD Octa-core
This is what you've been waiting for, right? Or not. Either way, it's time for the little game system that kicks some serious 4K butt. Considering that the Xbox One is a game system as opposed to a dedicated movie player, it's natural to assume it doesn't do 4K justice. And you'd be wrong. Microsoft made sure the Xbox One is a state of the art 4K Blu-ray player. It even upscales with the best of them. It loads slightly slower than the competition but nothing that's going to be a deal breaker. The Xbox One does offer the full range of streaming services as well as 4K streaming on some (but not all) of them.
On the other hand, as a gaming platform first, the user interface is not designed with your movie watching experience in mind. Further, you're stuck using the game controller to navigate unless you buy the media remote. The media remote is minimalist but fully functional and well worth the purchase if you don't want a clunky controller interfering with movie night.
The back of the system is a bit different from our other offerings. Unlike all of the others, the Xbox One has an HDMI in so you can run your cable box through the Xbox One. No more switching channels to play games! Other than that, it's pretty standard. USB ports, HDMI out (but only one), Ethernet, and optical audio output.
The system itself is a bit larger than most 4K Blu-ray players and comes in black or white (more on that in a second). However, unlike every other player, the Xbox One has a ridiculous number of skins you can apply to make it look like almost anything you can imagine. Customization is a lovely option.
Xbox One S and Xbox One X
- Includes bonus Gears of War 4 digital code (emailed 10 days post-purchase)
- Games play better than ever¹
- Experience immersive true 4K gaming
After the initial release of the Xbox One back in 2013, Microsoft decided to split the system in two. There would be one system for hardcore gamers and one for the more casual crowd. The Xbox One S is the casual system that is a moderate upgrade to the original. It still retains the full range of 4K Blu-ray features so if you're looking for a good player with the added bonus of having a top-notch game system attached, this is the one for you.
With the Xbox One X you're getting not just a serious 4K Blu-ray player, but a 4K video game player. Yes, you read that correctly. The Xbox One X is capable of playing 4K video games, something which has not existed until now on a home console.
Either system is an excellent choice depending on whether you're looking for the ultimate gaming experience or to just occasionally indulge a bit of light gaming.
Insert Disc, Prepare for Awesomeness!
It would be easy just to say, "this is the best 4K Blu-ray player" and be done with it but that doesn't take your personal needs into account. The Oppo is pretty expensive, but if you are building an interconnected home media system, its ability to play almost any kind of media file and connect to most sound systems is invaluable. If you're going all in on HDR in the HDR vs. Dolby Vision format war, then Samsung's UBD 9500 and its very reasonable price point is the way to go for you.
Unless you have a philosophical objection to video games, the price point of the Xbox makes it a clear winner if you want an inexpensive 4K Blu-ray player that's Dolby Vision compatible and can play some great games. If the price is your overriding concern, Sony's X700 is the way to go.
Now get out there, make your choice and get ready for a mind-blowing movie experience!