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Top 4K Blu-Ray Players
A 4K Blu-ray player offers picture quality four times higher than 1080p and additional enhancements that deliver stunning visuals and audio.
I think it would be an understatement to say that specifications can be confusing. A few of the terms you’ll need to learn are HDMI, HDR, and WGC.
A laser reads a Blu-ray disc. In comparison to older players, it has a shorter wavelength, so it can store more information in the same space.
Panasonic - Streaming 4K Ultra HD
PROS: Outstanding image quality. Powerful processing shines on higher-end 4K TVs and projectors. Offers 4 options for color-mapping, depending on the output device. Outputs Dolby Atmos. Can play Ultra HD Blu-ray discs.
CONS: Shows off best on high-end displays.
LG UBK90 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray Player
PROS: Upscales content. Large array of ports. Crystal-clear and high-resolution. Utilizes Dolby Vision and HDR10 technologies. Plays 3D movies. Compatible with a huge list of formats. Sports dual-band Wi-FI and 4K streaming optimization.
CONS: Only 3 streaming apps YouTube, Netflex, and Amazon Prime Video.
Sony UBP-X800M2 4K UHD Home Theater
PROS: Excellent picture quality. Plays 4K Ultra HD discs. Dolby Vision. Integrated 4K streaming YouTube, Amazon Prime, and Netflix apps, USB port, Plays Blu-ray, DVDs, and CDs, Dolby Atmos and DTS X capable. Can output audio to Bluetooth headphones.
CONS: Somewhat limited streaming options.
Sony UBP-X700 4K Ultra HD Home Theater Streaming Blu-Ray Player
PROS: Includes built-in apps so you can stream Netflix and Amazon Video. Built-in WiFI makes it easy to connect to your local network. Compatible with Ultra HD and SACD discs as well. Updated to Dolby Vision.
CONS: Only supports older 2.4 GHz Wifi networks Plastic build.
LG 3D Ultra High Definition Blu-Ray 4K Player
PROS: Optimized for HDR playback. Plays 4K Blueray, Blu-Ray, and DVDs. Convenient USB port. Excellent audio quality Works with TVs featuring lower resolutions. Offers Ethernet connection for firmware updates.
CONS: No integrated streaming apps.
HOW DO I DEFINE 4K?
It is the most recent advancement in visual standards. The previous big step was from 720p to 1080p (HD or high definition). We have 2160p (ultra-high definition, also known as UHD or 4K).
4K and UHD are not the same: 4K is a cinematic standard (4096 x 2160p). Somehow, people settled on 4K since it’s roughly 4,000 pixels wide. UHD is the consumer standard (3840 x 2160p). Similar, but not identical.
Nevertheless, the term 4K has become accepted among manufacturers of consumer devices. 4K screens can fit four times as many pixels into the same space as an HD screen, dramatically improving visual quality.
What to look for when choosing a 4K Blu-ray player.
Dynamic range (HDR) is a technology that alters the brightness and contrast of each pixel to produce dazzling colors and a complete sense of depth. It is available in two versions: Dolby Vision and HDR10. It would help if you had a 4K TV with the same system to take advantage of it. Some of the better players offer both HDR10 and HDR20.
Another technique for enhancing images is Wide Color Gamut (WCG). In contrast to HDR, which affects contrast, WCG enhances all screen images’ red, green, and blue components, resulting in a more vibrant picture.
This is another term commonly used to imply that the 4K Blu-ray player image is the same quality as the original film. Neither a comparison nor an independent standard are readily available, so you have to take the manufacturer’s word for it.
Blu-ray discs can deliver cinema-quality audio. Using an HDMI cable, they automatically provide sound to your TV in any standard audio format. However, with the right equipment, that can be dramatically enhanced. For instance, soundbars are almost universally supported.
Whether full multi-speaker surround sound can be used depends on the connectivity available. There are too many possibilities to go here, but Dolby Atmos is one popular option.
There are limited, if any, options for entry-level 4K Blu-ray players. More expensive models incorporate the latest advancements. Some models provide coaxial support, allowing you to use old but still high-quality audio.
If you’re starting from scratch, you can base your decisions on your intended screen and Blu-ray player combination. If you already have a sound system, you’ll need to check compatibility more thoroughly.
Apps: Streaming apps from companies like Netflix and YouTube may or may not be available on a particular 4K Blu-ray player. Those who bought players without them have been disappointed that they cannot be downloaded and added later. If you plan to use your device for streaming as well as disc playback, make sure you know what you’re buying.
With WiFi, you can watch your 4K Blu-ray discs on your laptop, tablet, or smartphone, though you won’t get the full benefits of 4K. An absolute minimum of 25 Mbps bandwidth is recommended (though it won’t guarantee flawless transmission). It might work, but a direct Ethernet connection is recommended for best results.
The 4K Blu-ray player should play any DVDs and CDs you already own if they came from commercial sources, such as films, music, and photos. If you have created the content yourself using a less standard format, you need to be supported.
Occasionally, the term “Blu-ray DVD” is used, but it is technically incorrect. Blu-ray is an advancement over DVD. The exact size and disc type allow much more information to be stored.
It’s not uncommon for people to unpack their 4K Blu-ray players, set them up, insert a disc, and then be disappointed by the image quality. It’s good, but it’s not the outstanding picture they expected. The Blu-ray disc – or, instead, the film on it – is likely to blame.
If the film was not shot at 4K in the first place, it can’t be shown at 4K. Although it can be upscaled – just like when you put an old DVD into a new 4K player – software will fill in the gaps from the lower resolution original rather than giving an exact representation. Many actual 4K films are available, but classics – from Gone with the Wind to Alien – predate the technology and cannot take advantage of the technology’s benefits.
Typically, you connect your 4K Blu-ray player to your TV via a high-definition multimedia interface (HDMI) cable. Even though they only cost a few bucks, these aren’t always provided.
Currently, there are two HDMI standards: 1.4 and 2.0 (a or b). HDR and WCG require the 2.0 standard. Some Blu-ray players support both.
An intermittent image display is sometimes the fault of your HDMI cable – it is not difficult to damage. Make sure it is properly connected. Move it around. What’s wrong is when the image clears and then breaks up again. Replace the cable.
PRICES OF 4K BLU-RAY PLAYERS
Although you can find inexpensive Blu-ray players for under $100, we would advise caution even if they appear to offer the connectivity and compatibility you need. It’s not usually the technology at fault, but rather the physical quality of the case, connection, and disc mechanism. These are prone to early failure.
You can get good quality 4K Blu-ray players from recognized brands for between $150 and $250. These are the best deals for those with a modest budget.
Until you get to the high-end, fully-featured players that are meant to be an integral part of a home cinema system, there’s a noticeable price difference. Prices range from $600 to over $3,000.