Sony announced its first 4K Blu-ray player in September of 2016, the , and while it looked like it was "the business," it was also a sobering $700 (£725 or AU$940). This was followed by the UBP-X800, and most recently the , which crucially adds .
Despite the presence of the newer player, the Sony X800 is still available and offers excellent playback quality plus a design that feels solid and high-end, unlike typical non-4K players today. Its $249/£400/AU$499 price compares well against other manufacturer's players such as the $559 "videophile"( but still available). Yet the sticking point is Sony's own X700. It's cheaper, and has better support for HDR formats.
In the 12 months since we reviewed the X800 a lot has changed -- more 4K players have come out, prices have come down, and Dolby Vision has become a more viable format. Performance-wise there's not much to separate the X700 and X800, except that the more expensive player is marginally better at DVD playback. As a result the X800 is no longer our go-to 4K player, and we now present two alternatives: If you want streaming apps and Dolby Vision, get the X700; if you want to save money and get an even faster player, but no streaming apps, theis an out-and-out bargain.
First published May 27, 2017.
Update May 8, 2018: The introduction and conclusion of this review have been updated to account for more recent reviews, including the Sony X700. The X800's Value rating dropped from 8 to 7, and its overall rating was lowered from 8.1 to 7.9.
The design of the X800 is virtually identical to the more expensive X1000 with its low-slung, "book-on-its-side" appearance. The most notable difference is that there's no display on the X800.
The front of the unit is pretty sparse, the disc tray hides behind a drop-down panel and another pull-away panel fronts a USB port. The only visible features are the Sony logo and buttons for power and eject, which are a little too close together -- I found it was easy to accidentally hit one instead of the other. With no Play control on the unit you will need the remote to perform almost all of the functions.
The design mimics the receiver: the top and bottom edge of the unit are textured steel with gloss black stripe across the middle. It's also built solid -- hold the unit in your hands and the X800 has a pleasing heft to it.
The X800's remote is the adorable candy bar similar to other recent Sony components. It offers the handy Home button near where your thumb rests and several functions can be performed with the remote alone, including launching Netflix. It trounces the terrible, tiny clicker Samsung ships with the UBD-K8500.
4K Ultra HD Blu-ray is the latest disc-based standard, and it includes features such as 4K resolution (3,840x2,160 pixels) and better color depth.
The Sony also offers support for HDR video in the form of HDR10, but not Dolby Vision. Format wars are never fun, but this one is shaping up to be a "DTS vs. Dolby" situation which means the two may happily coexist and have minimal effect on us, the end users. Among major TV makers only Samsung has yet to support Dolby Vision. We'll have to wait till the first discs arrive in June 2017 to test the efficacy of the disc format, but from what we've seen with streaming, the differences over HDR10 won't be drastic.
While Oppo has gone the extreme videophile route with its UDP-203 and slashed all streaming features, the Sony has gone in the complete opposite direction. The UBP-X800's accent on streaming comes through from the Sony's home screen -- it's a grid of numerous streaming services and a single "disc" icon.
The number of different apps the player offers keeps growing every time I turn it on and it now has over two dozen, including all of the crowd pleasers like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, Pandora and Spotify. We're particularly pleased to see the inclusion of Mubi which is an excellent, curated movie service.