This week we reviewed the Sony UBP-X800 Blu-ray player, an entry-range model offering Bluetooth audio transmission and Netflix compatibility.
As a quick reminder before we introduce the Sony UBP-X800, 4K Ultra HD content is no longer limited to 4K UHD Blu-ray discs. While these discs are the best way to enjoy a 2160p image (8 million pixels, compared to only 2 million for 1080p), some series and movies available in streaming are now offered in ultra-high definition. For example, NetFlix series can be enjoyed in 2160p and HDR via premium membership. Even if you’re not necessarily planning on purchasing Ultra HD Blu-ray discs, you can enjoy ultra-high-definition content with NetFlix VOD. However, Ultra HD Blu-ray discs offer an advantage over 4K streaming. Their extensive storage space guarantees a much faster data transfer rate compared to streaming (10 times faster) and thereby ensures superior image quality as well as compatibility with 7.1 or even Dolby Atmos audio tracks, while NetFlix only offers Dolby Digital.
Sony UBP-X800: presentation and connectors
The Sony UBP-X800 Ultra HD Blu-ray player takes the form of a compact rectangular player without a display on its front panel. Its optical player, placed to the left, is compatible with Ultra HD Blu-rays, Blu-rays, DVDs, Audio DVDs, SACDs, and Audio CDs. In other words, it can read anything. A USB Type-A port lodged behind a protective core on the device’s front panel allows the user to connect a flash drive or hard drive. The Sony UBP-X800 can handle audio and video files as well as photos stored on these data storage devices.
The Blu-ray player’s rear panel features a dual HDMI output, a digital coaxial audio output and an RJ-45 Ethernet connector. The player is also fitted with a WiFi controller as well as a Bluetooth transmitter/receiver.
Sony UBP-X800: compatible audio and video files
Sony designed the UBP-X800 to be compatible with most existing video formats: MPEG-1, MPEG-2, Xvid, AVC, H.264, VC1, WMV9, HEVC, H.265 and VP6/7/8. These codecs are handled by the following containers: MKV, TS, PS, AVI, MP4, MOV, FLV, ASF and Webm. The list of supported audio codecs is also exhaustive: Dolby Digital, Dolby TrueHD, Dolby Atmos, DTS, DTS 24/96, DTS-HD MA, AAC and LPCM.
Of course, support is ensured for the most common audio formats: MP3, AAC, WMA, WAV, FLAC, AC3, DSF and DFF (DSD), AIFF, ALAC (Apple Lossless), Vorbis and Monkey Audio.
Sony UBP-X800: design
A stripped-down, compact remote control is included with the player. It allows the user to control all the functions of the device and can even be used with an HDTV or Ultra HD screen. To enjoy this feature, simply activate the CEC control function for the HDMI input to which the Sony UBP-X800 is connected. The UBP-X800’s HDMI CEC control function is activated by default. Activating the player powers on the TV, and the remote control can be used to adjust the sound volume. A NetFlix button provides direct access to the VOD service.
The interface is relatively simple and the chances of getting lost are slim to none. The different playback sources are represented as icons in the user interface. The player’s Settings menu is found in the upper right corner. Navigation is smooth.
Sony UBP-X800: optical playback
During our test, the Ultra HD Blu-ray discs loaded without any problem. Even The Revenant loaded properly, despite its perfectible pressing. The rotation system is audible at first-without generating intrusive vibrations-before becoming stable and perfectly quiet during playback. Navigating from one chapter to another (UHD or HD BD) is fast, as is navigating through audio tracks and subtitles.
Sony UBP-X800: network playback and Internet connection
The user can access DLNA servers shared on the local network or select from among available web apps via the Sony UBP-X800’s OSD menu. Apart from NetFlix, the offer is essentially limited to Opera TV. This app works as a portal granting access to a variety of content (weather forecasts, video clips, etc.). The Sony UBP-X800 is also compatible with Miracast and can display the image of an Android smartphone or tablet.
Sony UBP-X800: USB playback
The Sony UBP-X800 had no problem handling our USB flash drives in FAT32 and NTFS formats and was equally comfortable with a demanding USB hard drive. Our video files (MKV, TS) were all decoded: 720p, 1080p, 2160p HEVC 10-bit, 576i MPEG-2, etc. In addition to Dolby and DTS formats, the UBP-X800 effortlessly decoded AAC 5.1 tracks. We would have appreciated a “Go To” function to skip to a precise moment of the movie, or to select a chapter with an MKV file. Thankfully, the fast-forward function (3 speeds) may be used to quickly arrive at any point in the video.
Sony UBP-X800: audio and video settings
The Sony UBP-X800 Ultra HD Blu-ray player’s audio and video settings are distributed between two different menus. The user can access the HDMI and coaxial S/PDIF output parameters from the main menu. From there, it is possible to activate or deactivate the high dynamic range (HDR) mode, 24p cinema mode, 4K upscaling, color coding 4:2:2, 4:4:4, RGB and color depth (Deep Color).
For the audio output, conversion from Dolby and DTS audio signals to PCM is handled. It is also possible to set a sampling rate for the S/PDIF output (48/96/192 kHz) or activate the Bluetooth output.
During playback, pressing the remote control’s Option button brings up the OSD menu and allows the user to change settings directly related to the content displayed. For video settings, several display modes are offered: Cinema, Vivid, and two customizable profiles. These profiles can then be fine-tuned using one of three noise reduction filters-blocks (BNR), contours (MNR), and frames (FNR)-as well as by adjusting the luminosity, contrast, hue, and sharpness of the image.
Strong point: it is possible to use the Sony UBP-X800’s Bluetooth controller to connect Bluetooth headphones. We gave this function a try and the experience was very enjoyable. The encoding and transmission of the signal causes a slight audio/video delay which can be easily corrected in the Option menu. Once the time value is set (in microseconds), it is memorized by the player.
Sony UBP-X800: test conditions
We connected the Sony UBP-X800 to an LG OLED65C6V OLED TV, a 65” HDR and 4K compatible model. We watched the following movies in Ultra HD Blu-ray format: The Revenant, Deadpool and Mad Max: Fury Road. We also watched movies and live performances in 1080p and 2160p HEVC stored on our hard drive: Gravity (720p), Star Trek Beyond (1080p), Batman v Superman (2160p), Genesis Three Sides Live (1080p), etc.
The Sony UBP-X800 delivers a slightly blocky image, and we thought it lacked definition. Although this issue can go unnoticed with a LED-backlit TV, it becomes very apparent with an OLED screen. When compared to market leaders such as the Oppo UDP-203 and Panasonic DMP-UB900, both of which are already set up and completely plug-and-play, the Sony UBP-X800 could use a few adjustments. Once the player is properly set up, it is possible to fully enjoy the magnificent photography of The Revenant in HDR. The image is consistently smooth and exceptionally detailed. We deactivated the Auto mode in the video settings interface for the thunderstorm scene in Mad Max: Fury Road (HDR) and preferred the default mode. The sand had a more natural color while maintaining the right amount of contrast. The experience was absolutely immersive.
Important note: we noticed a few black screens on our TV when watching 2160p HDR movies (4:4:4 Deep Color Activated), which we believe were caused by the HDMI cable (average non-branded brand cable) we used. Replacing the cable with a NorStone Jura HDMI cable solved the problem.
Sony UBP-X800: conclusion
For under 400€, the Sony UBP-X800 Ultra HD Blu-ray player does its job. The exhaustive list of compatible video formats, advanced settings and Bluetooth transmission (without sync issues) are real assets. A few adjustments are necessary to obtain smoother blacks and enjoy the fully immersive experience of an Ultra HD 4K movie or series. The integrated NetFlix app is a great addition.
What we liked: the quiet mechanical operation, the extensive list of compatible files, the overall conception, the well-designed remote control, the compatibility with Bluetooth headphones.
What we would have liked: a different adjustment of the player’s default picture settings.