We love streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video as much as anyone, but if you’re serious about getting the maximum possible image quality from that brand new 4K TV, you’re still going to need a disc. It may seem like a throwback to last decade, but the fact is, the only way to get the maximum fidelity out of your favorite films and TV shows at present is to watch them on Ultra HD Blu-ray.
And for that, there are few players that offer the same level of quality from a footprint as minimal as Sony’s UBP-X700. With fantastic image and audio processing and support for both HDR10 and Dolby Vision HDR formats, this affordable Sony player is a great option for those looking to take their home theater to the next level.
Out of the box
For how well it renders the picture and sound of your favorite content, the X700 is a remarkably non-descript device to look at. A simple black box with an angled lower section and a silver Sony logo on the front, the player is designed to blend in among all your other home theater components.
As you’d expect, the device comes with only a power cable and a small remote (plus two AAA batteries), leaving you to supply and HDMI cable to connect it to your TV, projector, or A/V receiver. The remote has big buttons that are easy to see, and we like its compact form factor and reliance on a style of batteries we typically have around — some other players use large watch batteries, and that’s just annoying.
Features and functions
The biggest reasons to buy the X700 are its great video and audio processing. As mentioned above, the player support both major formats of HDR (high dynamic range) — HDR10 and Dolby Vision — making it a versatile option that enhances virtually any modern 4K TV. It’s worth noting that, though HDR10 is supported by most modern TVs and projectors, Dolby Vision support is rarer, so you’ll want to check to make sure your TV is compatible if you want the more dynamic contrast afforded by Dolby Vision, and/or whether you even need it in the first place.
The X700’s also a built-in streaming player with apps for Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, among others.
Like all Ultra HD Blu-ray players, the X700 also supports HD Blu-ray, DVD, CD, and SACD formats, meaning it will play back virtually any disc in your collection. It’s also a built-in streaming player with apps for Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, among others. We still prefer the streaming interface of most modern TVs and, even better, outboard streaming devices like the Roku Ultra or Amazon Fire TV Cube — both because of their better interfaces and voice search capabilities — but it is nice to have streaming onboard if you don’t want to switch sources.
In terms of inputs and outputs, the player has everything we’d want: There’s two HDMI output ports on the back panel, a coaxial audio output, Ethernet port (there’s also built-in Wi-Fi), and a USB input on the front panel.
The overall build quality of the X700 is high, but we couldn’t help but feel a bit disconcerted at how light it is. The drawer that holds discs feels a bit flimsy when opened, too — the plastic cover in front of it feels more precarious in operation than we’d like. Still, it’s not like anyone will be lugging this with them on the go, and as a piece of hardware to stick on a shelf, it does the job just fine.
The same goes for the utter lack of any display on the device. Frankly, we don’t really need one on a simple disc player, especially given that the built-in interface on your TV screen is very simple to use.
The first time we turned on the player, we used this interface to navigate to the onboard settings menu, where we found everything we needed was already set to “Auto” — indicating that the player would automatically detect the format and quality of a disc and do its best with whatever we threw at it. This may be less than ideal for those who love to have full control over the settings, but for novices it’s an easy, plug-and-play solution that works quite well. If you do find yourself wanting to, say, let your TV upscale a 1080p Blu-ray instead of utilizing the X700’s upscaling engine, you can simply turn upscaling off.
The UBP-X700 offers fantastic image quality without any hassles.
Regardless what you’re playing, the UBP-X700 offers fantastic image quality without any hassles. We tested the X700 with the BenQ HT2550, using an assortment of Ultra HD Blu-ray, standard Blu-Ray, and DVD sources. In all instances, we were impressed with the image processing offered by the lightweight player, which brought outstanding picture regardless of whether we were playing 4K or upscaled content.
When watching The Martian via Ultra HD Blu-ray, we were particularly impressed with the HDR10 performance, which offered bright highlights and excellent contrast when rendering images from the Martian landscape. We also loved the way that the player upscaled our standard Blu-ray copy of The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King. The bright greens were particularly well rendered, standing out amidst darker backgrounds in the film. Heck, even our trusty old DVD copy of Space Jam looked better when spun inside the X700, appearing a bit less grainy on our massive 100-inch projection screen than we’ve seen it before (though still very clearly upscaled from standard definition).
It didn’t come as a surprise that the audio quality offered by this player was equally impressive; Sony has long made some of our favorite audio processors on the market, and is currently the manufacturer of our favorite headphones. Especially when watching via our 4K projector, the massive soundstage offered by the X700 fooled us into thinking we were back at the theater. Films we typically watch on streaming services via our Roku Ultra had much more vibrant sound when listened to on disc through the Sony player, with surround sound audio and voices becoming even more vivid. This is typically the case with any comparison between Ultra HD Blu-ray and streaming video, but it was clear the player itself was a big part of the improvement.Our Take
With great sound and image quality and a small footprint that will fit alongside even the sleekest setups, the UBP-X700 is a great option for those who are looking to make the most of their home theater without breaking the bank.
Is there a better alternative?
If you’re after a player that supports both Dolby Vision and HDR10 formats, there aren’t any obvious alternatives to the UBP-X700. But if you’re after something that simply plays Ultra HD Blu-Ray discs, the more-affordable LG UP870 is a good option – though it does not include any streaming capabilities. If you’re also a gamer, it may be worth taking a look at the Xbox One S, which can play Ultra HD Blu-ray discs with HDR10, and costs just a touch more than the UBP-X700.
How long will it last?
Sony has a history of building long-lasting products, and we don’t expect this one to be any different. If you purchase a UBP-X700, we’d expect it to last for years of steady use.
Should you buy it?
Yes. If you’re looking for a great player that supports all your HDR content — and won’t force you to cut into your vacation fund — the UBP-X700 is among the best options you’ll find.