With the latest optical format,, it's Microsoft's turn to lead the pack. Sony decided to omit 4K disc support from its , leaving the as the sole console capable of delivering the highest-quality home video under the sun. At 12 months of age, the $250 One S has grown into a fine console, and its inclusion of 4K UHD playback is one of its best features.
Meanwhile dedicated 4K Blu-ray players sell for around the same price or even more, and can do far less. So the question for people who want to watch 4K Blu-ray becomes: Is there any good reason to buy one of them instead of the One S?
To find out, I pitted the Xbox against three high-profile 4K Blu-ray players -- the Samsung UBD-K8500 and the -- to see which presented the best performance for the money., the
Despite the Xbox One's considerable power and capabilities, I consider its menu system a nightmare. The on-screen display is confused, convoluted and makes finding anything more difficult than before. And that's just games. As the Xbox is not a disc player first and foremost, you may have to burrow down to access the Blu-ray app.
Of the four 4K BD players I've tested so far, my favorite interface is the Sony. It puts content first, and lets you tailor your shortcuts so your favorites -- say Play Disc, Netflix and Pandora -- are right in front of you.
The Xbox One S is actually pretty fast when it comes to loading discs and streaming Netflix. While the 2016 Samsung UBD-K8500 is still the fastest I've seen at loading 4K discs, Microsoft's console is second fastest among the four. Sure, the Xbox is beaten in most of the other tests, but it only loses out by a couple of seconds each time. You probably wouldn't notice the difference in real-world use.
|Time to load (s)||Microsoft Xbox One S||Oppo UDP-203||Samsung UBD-K8500||Sony UBP-X800|
|Netflix (until menu)||10.01||N/A||7.64||4.26|
|'MI:III', player on, disc tray open||15.43||14.81||10.00||12.41|
|'Batman vs. Superman' UHD, player on, disc tray open||37.69||39.3||28.78||44.43|
While you may expect a dedicated player to produce a better picture than a game console, that wasn't the case. The Xbox One S passed all of the tests I threw at it -- whether DVD, Blu-ray or 4K disc. From everything I could see, it was just as good as the dedicated players. It was able to correctly replay film and video content from DVD and Blu-ray test discs well, without stuttering or leaving jaggies. And 4K high dynamic range () content popped in exactly the same way it did on the Samsung, Sony and Oppo players -- whether via streaming services or discs.
Be aware that if you want to stream HDR, only Netflix and Amazon are supported on the Xbox One S right now -- no YouTube or Vudu yet. By comparison, the Samsung only does Amazon HDR, while the Sony only has YouTube HDR.
Should you buy a dedicated player?
With similar speed and image quality across all of the players, why buy anything but the Xbox One S for 4K Blu-ray playback?
The main reason is if you watch a lot of discs. The interface of the Xbox One S muddles things and makes the process of playing stuff more annoying than a dedicated player. The $18is also worth the investment if you don't want to use the Xbox's game controller.
But that's pretty much it, and for most people the interface differences aren't worth paying extra to get a dedicated player. If you want to do any gaming at all (and even if you don't), the Xbox One S is worth buying over a dedicated player. It's capable, compact and comparatively fast. And until those other players go down in price, it's by far the best value in 4K Blu-ray playback.
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