It may seem strange to purchase a disc player when the best streaming services offer less compressed audio and video than their streaming counterparts, meaning a visibly and audibly improved experience inside your beloved home theater. The best Blu-ray players also make it possible to watch an old copy of your favorite movie that hasn’t been licensed to stream, making them a must-have for those with long-running collections.
If you’re going to buy a player, we recommend going all the way: Ultra HD Blu-ray players will future-proof your setup and provide a level of picture quality you’ve never seen before. That said, whether you’re looking to change out a broken Blu-ray player or upgrade to a gorgeous Ultra HD, we’ve got a pick for you.
Check out our favorites below, from affordable replacements to the highest-performing boxes around; then browse through our list of the best 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray discs to really show off what your system can do, and our picks of the best Dolby Atmos movies to rain down the sound effects.
Why you should buy this: Dolby Vision and HDR10 compatibility, plus the ability to playback a wide variety of audio and video formats.
Who it’s for: The home theater enthusiast that’s looking for a gorgeous picture, excellent sound, and the ability to play any kind of disc imaginable.
How much it will cost: $560 to $700
Why we picked the Oppo UDP-203:
Oppo has long been one of the best high-end home theater companies, making excellent looking and sounding products that easily meet the demands of even the nerdiest viewers and listeners.
With its UDP-203, the company partnered with MediaTek to offer one of the finest image decoders money can buy, joining that video tech with an 8-channel digital-to-analog audio converter from AKM. These image and audio processors combine to provide gorgeous picture and sound. The UDP-203 supports all the latest video and audio encoding, including bleeding-edge video formats like HDR10 and Dolby Vision and top-end Dolby Atmos and DTS:X object-based audio.
From discs to digital audio or video, there’s almost nothing the small black Oppo box won’t play. The UDP-203 will not only spin 4K Blu-ray discs but also upscale standard Blu-ray video to 4K, as well as play DVD, DVD-Audio, SACD, and audio CDs, even going so far as to offer two USB 3.0 ports for playback of high-quality digital audio and video. Those with media servers will also be delighted to note that it offers an Ethernet port and built-in Wi-Fi.
Other ports worth noting include dual HDMI outputs — one HDMI 2.0 for modern Ultra HD TVs, and one 1.4 for connecting to older receivers — as well as an HDMI 2.0 input for connecting an external streaming device. The player also has 7.1-channel analog audio outputs.
If you’re in the market for a player that will provide excellent picture and great sound for years to come, the Oppo UDP-203 is as good as they come.
The best budget Ultra HD player
Why you should buy this: It comes at a low price, but doesn’t sacrifice image quality.
Who it’s for: The audio and video enthusiast on a budget.
How much it will cost: $120 to $250
Why we picked the Samsung UBD-K8500:
If you’re looking to enjoy your favorite Hollywood blockbusters in full 4K HDR glory but don’t want to tap your vacation fund to do it, there isn’t a better affordable player on the market than the Samsung UBD-K8500. Among the first Ultra HD players available, the small curved box still competes with much more expensive players for overall picture quality. Its ability to upscale standard 1080p HD video to 4K is a handy feature, offering an extremely wide color gamut and gorgeous detail, especially when watching on a current-generation HDR TV. In addition to spinning back all your favorite discs — the UBD-K8500 will play any CD, DVD, or Blu-ray disc you feed it — the player also can play 4K streaming content from Netflix, YouTube, and Amazon via built-in Wi-Fi and Ethernet connections. It even offers Bluetooth, should you want to stream audio from your phone without a wire.
Our full Samsung UBD-K8500 review
The most fun
Why you should buy this: You want an Ultra-HD player and also love to game.
Who it’s for: Those who want the maximum amount of functionality (and fun) for their money.
How much it will cost: $210 to $300
Why we picked the Xbox One S:
If you’re also into video games, there’s no more perfect option to spin your Ultra HD Blu-ray discs than the Xbox One S. An attractive gaming console with sleek looks and a great price point, this version of the Xbox One is our favorite, with tangible improvements in performance over other, older versions of the console that include the addition of an Ultra HD player.
Like most high-end Blu-ray players on the market, the console features a USB 3.0 port, Ethernet, S/PDIF, and USB 3.0 ports, in addition to two HDMI ports (one in, one out). A one-stop solution for everything from gaming to high-end A/V viewing, the Xbox One S offers 4K streaming and a beautiful picture, with HDR 10 support that provides extremely vibrant colors. If you’re looking to add as much functionality as possible to your home theater at a still-affordable price point, the Xbox One S is a very enticing choice.
Our full Xbox One S review
The most affordable with Dolby Vision
Why you should buy this: HDR10 and Dolby Vision support at the lowest possible price
Who it’s for: The A/V enthusiast who wants the most future-proof setup for the least amount of dough.
How much it will cost: $170 to $180
Why we picked the LG UP970:
Those who want the most options in terms of picture quality for the money will probably be after something like LG’s UP970, which offers both HDR10 and Dolby Vision support in a small and affordable black box. As both formats compete for the HDR crown, you’ll be able to sit back and relax in the knowledge that your player can do both, with excellent upscaling for non-4K Blu-ray discs and built-in Netflix and YouTube playback to boot.
A front-facing USB 2.0 port allows for music and videos to be streamed through the device, with two HDMI ports (one in, one out), an Ethernet port, and an optical audio out to complete the list of ports. In addition to great video quality, the player should sound great, with support for Dolby Atmos, Dolby TrueHD, and DTS: HD Master audio formats. LG did a great job with this player, making a utilitarian device with an excellent picture that’s poised to last you through this entire generation of home theater tech.
The best 4K Upscaling
Why you should buy this: It will make your standard Blu-ray discs pop on that new 4K TV.
Who it’s for: Viewers who don’t want to make the leap into 4K Blu-ray discs, but want to squeeze the best possible picture out of their current collection.
How much it will cost: $40 to $200
Why we picked the Sony BDP-S6500:
If you don’t know whether you’ll ever make the leap into Ultra HD Blu-ray, but you want to view your current collection at the highest possible quality, there’s no better option on the market than Sony’s BDP-S6500. A standard Blu-ray player that upscales 1080p Blu-ray content to 4K for the latest generation of TVs, the player takes your now-aging collection and makes it look prettier than ever on your new screen.
In addition to offering awesome disc playback, a powerful Wi-Fi chip and Ethernet port enable fast 4K streaming. Finally, Sony’s TV SideView app lets you control your screen from your smartphone, as well as share your entire smartphone screen with your TV, which is great for showing friends and family pictures and video.
The best replacement player
Why you should buy this: You need a cheap replacement for your current Blu-ray player.
Who it’s for: Viewers who need a new Blu-ray player to play their favorite CDs, DVDs, and Blu-ray discs, but who never plan on buying any Ultra HD Blu-ray content.
How much it will cost: $39 to $100
Why we picked the Samsung BD-J5700:
Some people are so into streaming that they don’t ever plan on buying a disc again — but everyone needs a way to play back their CD, DVD, and Blu-ray collection. That’s where the affordable Samsung BD-J5700 comes in. A simple player with Dolby TrueHD audio and built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth for audio and video streaming, this curved black box will allow you to enjoy your once-coveted discs in great quality, as well as play back digital audio and video from your smartphone or PC. If you’re looking to replace a recently broken player, this is absolutely the one for you.
How We Test
We begin each model year by bringing in the top-tier televisions from each of the major brands, including Samsung, Sony, LG, and Panasonic. These premium televisions help set the highest standard for the year, managing expectations for each model below them, and providing context among the competitors.
We typically test any media player with a number of these high-end TVs, checking compatibility and performance over a series of weeks or even months in our A/V testing room.
When possible, we’ll place two competing models side by side to analyze picture quality differences, providing real world context to the specifications provided by each manufacturer.
We make a concerted effort to test every aspect of a given player, making sure to provide the most thorough feedback possible to our readers. After all, you’ll be living with your new player for years to come, and we only want to recommend devices that we ourselves enjoy.
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