Welcome to our guide to the best Blu-ray player guide. Whether you’re an avid movie collector, who simply can’t resist commentary tracks and behind the scenes extras, or a hardcore AV enthusiast who demands the best 4K Blu-ray quality possible, there are still plenty of reasons people can’t get enough of Blu-ray discs even in 2021.
Streaming services may offer the ultimate in convenience and choice, but when it comes to rock solid 4K UHD image quality and immersive cinema sound, the humble physical disc still takes some beating – particularly if you’ve already made a heavy investment in discs over the years. If you've invested in one of the best TVs with one of the best soundbars to match, then you want to give it the best material to work with, right?
It mostly comes down to bitrate, which is the amount of digital video information that can be squeezed into each second of video. At a higher bitrate, you can fit in more precise details, more colour nuance, more dynamic range. At lower bitrates, you start to get softer edges, you see blocks of colour that make things look artificial, and there's less detail in dark areas. You might have paid a premium for one of the best OLED TVs to see cinematic detail in dark areas, but what good is it if that information can't even reach the TV?
Streaming services offer a lower bitrate than Blu-ray at pretty much all times, but they're also variable, so if the network's struggling, your quality dips. Blu-rays always deliver the same quality no matter what.
But with Blu-ray players ranging from the budget to the super-premium, what deck should you make a play for?
What is the best Blu-ray player right now?
The Panasonic DP-UB820 is the 4K Blu-ray player we'd encourage people to go for – we're assuming that if you're seeking out a disc player, you're interested in getting high-quality output, and this makes a great pairing with even the most elite TVs. Panasonic's history of working with actual filmmakers really comes through, and image quality is glorious without being a ridiculous price.
If you want a more budget 4K player, the Sony UPB-X700 gives you the best visual bang for your buck, while if you only need an HD player, we'd recommend the Sony BDP-S3700.
Best Blu-ray players: the list
Don’t let the unassuming appearance fool you. This is a high performance video deck in all but weight. It offers Dolby Vision and HDR10+ playback support, has a classy video processor and is a standard component width, making it easier to stack with other AV kit.
The player features Panasonic’s familiar connected platform, and has a number of streaming services on board, including Netflix, Prime Video and YouTube. There’s also voice assistance, with Google and Amazon Alexa (via firmware update).
Beneath the hood lurks Panasonic’s original HCX (Hollywood Cinema Experience) processor, allied to a 4K high-precision chroma processor that interpolates Blu-ray’s original 4:2:0 colour into 4:4:4. The result is brilliant image quality with stability and depth.
Amongst the connectivity options is a 7.1 output, useful if you have an older AV receiver that’s not rocking HDMI connectivity, and there’s DLNA support too, so that it can play compatible files on networked devices. The catch is that like its bigger brother, the DP-UB9000, there’s no SACD or DVD-A music disc playback, but for 99% of us, that's won't be a problem. Here's our full five-star Panasonic DP-UB820 review.
This flagship UHD Blu-ray player is a thing of beauty. Combining class leading picture quality with heavy duty build, it oozes class. It gives the impression that no expense has been spared in its construction.
The DP-UB9000 doesn’t just do a fine job with UHD and regular HD discs, it offers a Playback Info screen that reveals HDR10 metadata like (Maximum Frame Average Light Level) (MaxFALL) and Maximum Light Level (MaxCLL) data from discs. Geeky sure, but it’s always fascinating to see the maximum average brightness for an HDR disc.
The brand’s familiar looking smart platform offers Netflix, Prime Video and YouTube streaming apps, and there’s support for both Dolby Vision and HDR10+ discs. It’s not a Universal disc player though, as it lacks Super Audio CD and DVD Audio functionality.
Still, if you’re after a leading edge disc spinner to partner a top end AV receiver and UHD TV, that isn’t agonisingly expensive, you’ll not find better.
This compact Sony UHD Blu-ray deck comfortably outperforms its modest price tag, delivering crisp, accurate video and surprisingly good audio, complete with Super Audio CD compatibility (on top of the usual BD, DVD, CD playback). Perhaps surprisingly, given there’s no Hi-Res Audio badge on its fascia, the deck will also play Hi-Res audio files up to 24bit/192kHz, be they WAV, FLAC or DSD.
HDR support extends to Dolby Vision (a feature missing on the similarly specified Sony UPB-X800), and helpfully there’s a smattering of apps available from its own integrated smart platform, including Netflix, Prime Video, BBC iPlayer and YouTube. We rate the UPB-X700 an outstanding all-rounder for the cash.
Reavon may be a new name to many, but this French audio specialist has clearly got its sights on the premium player space once occupied by Oppo, and more recently Pioneer. The UBR-X200 is a beautifully specified flagship player compatible with 4k discs and their antecedents, plus SACD and DVD-A - great news for those with significant legacy music libraries.
File format support is similarly wide, and there’s also DLNA streaming from compatible networked drives.
Audiophiles should be particularly impressed with this model. It uses Burr-Brown DACs and custom capacitors for higher-fidelity music playback, and has high quality XLR connection for stereo, alongside an analogue 7.1 output for use with older AV receivers.
Build quality is weighty, with its 1.6mm thick chassis reinforced with a 3mm top plate. The chances of mechanical vibration are slim to none.
The deck also reads MaxFall (Maximum Frame Average Light Level) and MaxCLL (Maximum Content Light Level) information from UHD discs, just like the DP-UB9000.
Looking to give your disc collection an upgrade with a new non-4K Blu-ray deck? This entry-level HD Sony can be considered a solid value buy. Sony’s picture processing always elicits appreciative oohs and ahhs, here bolstered by a number of image processing modes in the menu for those that want to tweak. Just what you’ll need if you have a wall full of DVDs. It’ll do justice to your CDs too.
The BDP-S3700 may be a bit boxy when it comes to design, but helpfully offers a number of streaming apps available from its baked in smart platform, including Netflix, Prime Video and BBC iPlayer. There’s a front-mounted USB slot too, for any media files you may have lying around.
If you’ve worn out your existing player, but don’t plan to upgrade your disc collection to 4k, start here.
How by the best Blu-ray player for you
UHD Blu-ray discs represent the very best available version of a movie available outside a cinema. Typically offering 4k resolution (or as near as the source will allow), HDR (be it standard HDR10, Dolby Vision or even HDR10+) and a wide colour gamut, for greater vibrancy, you’ll see more from your favourite movies on a UHD Blu-ray than any other format.
If you’re upgrading from a regular Blu-ray player (or even DVD) to a 4k machine, we’ve got good news: UHD Blu-ray players will spin previous video disc iterations. However, they can be more picky when it comes to audio formats.
If your disc collection stretches to exotic fare such as Super Audio CD or even DVD-A, then you’ll need to look closely at disc compatibility. Disc players that can handle all of the above are commonly referred to as Universal players.
UHD Blu-ray discs don’t just offer razor sharp pictures, they also boast superior cinema sound, most often Dolby Atmos 3D audio, but also DTS:X. These formats don’t just surround you like regular 5.1, they incorporate height information too. Obviously, to make the most of such AV wonderment, you’ll need a suitable sound system, be it a soundbar or AV receiver.
Player choice is limited though, with the market dominated by two brands: Panasonic and Sony, although you will still find models from other manufacturers, like LG and newcomer Reavon. As we’ll see, price is very much dictated by build quality and features...