LG UP970 Ultra HD Blu-ray Player Review
Dolby Vision support is this player's saving grace
What is the LG UP970?The UP970 is LG's first Ultra HD Blu-ray player and, much like Sony, the Korean giant has been a little slow getting to the 4K disc party. Still better late than never and, unlike Sony, the UP970 also supports Dolby Vision, which shouldn't come as a surprise given the close ties between LG and Dolby. Otherwise the UP970 looks like a fairly standard UHD BD player with twin HDMI outputs, support for High Dynamic Range (HDR10) and Wide Colour Gamut (Rec.2020), 2D and 3D Blu-ray support and Ultra HD Premium certification. It's also competitively priced at around £260 as at the time of writing (August 2017), making it the cheapest way to get Dolby Vision support on an Ultra HD Blu-ray player. The question is whether the LG UP970 delivers the goods in general or is it just a one-trick pony? Let's find out.
DesignThe UP970 certainly isn't going to win any design awards and, aside from Panasonic's entry-level UB300, it's the most pedestrian-looking player we've reviewed to date. It's essentially just a rectangular black plastic box with a brushed metal effect finish. At least it's full size – measuring 430 x 46 x 205mm (WxHxD) and weighing in at 1.63kgs – even if the build quality is a bit mediocre. In terms of the front panel there's no display, just a disc tray on the left hand side and a covered USB port over on the right. To the left of the USB port is a power indicator and some basic controls – eject, play/pause, stop and power on/off. These buttons are quite flimsy and because they use icon shapes and are dark silver, they're actually quite difficult to see. That's it as far as the layout and appearance is concerned and, compared to other LG products, we can only assume the design team took the day off when the UP970 passed through their doors.
In terms of design, the UP970 is one of the most pedestrian players we've reviewed to date
Connections & ControlAside from the USB port at the front, all the other connections are at the rear. As is the case with most of the other available Ultra HD Blu-ray players, the UP970 is a digital transport which means it doesn't have any analogue outputs. However you do get two HDMI outputs, one of which is HDMI 2.0a which means it supports 4K/60p, HDR, WCG and HDCP 2.2. The other HDMI output is intended for soundbars and AV receivers that don't support those features and is an audio-only HDMI 1.4 output. The idea is that you connect the main HDMI output directly to your display and the second HDMI output directly to your soundbar or AVR. There's also an optical digital output and an Ethernet port, although the UP970 includes built-in WiFi.The included remote control is actually quite good, it's made of black plastic with a brushed metal effect that matches the player, it's a reasonable size and is well balanced. It's comfortable to hold, easy to use with one hand and has a groove on the back for your index finger. The remote is intuitively laid out and has all the buttons you'll need, including centrally located navigation and playback controls. It's not the best remote we've ever seen and it's definitely not the worst but it's simple, effective and it gets the job done.
There's a basic set of connections including two HDMI outputs, along with a reasonable remote
Features & SpecsWhen looking at the features and specifications of the UP970, there's a nagging feeling that LG's priority was Dolby Vision support and that the rest of the player was something of an afterthought. Still at least LG have recently released the Dolby Vision firmware update, which means the player now possesses its main selling point.
MORE: What is Dolby Vision?So what other features does the player have? Well like every other Ultra HD Blu-ray player it supports 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray playback, along with 2D and 3D Blu-ray, DVD and CD. Along with the disc types just mentioned there's also the option for USB playback, although not over your home network because the UP970 doesn't support DNLA. The player does support 4K streaming from third party providers but the only apps included are Netflix and YouTube with no store available to add more. In terms of video file support via USB the UP970 can handle MPEG 1/2/4, HEVC, Xvid, MKV, AVCHD, M4V, WMV, 3GP, MOV, FLV, VOB, TS and DAT. On the audio side of things the UP970 can bitstream or decode LPCM, Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital Plus and Dolby TrueHD, as well as DTS and DTS-HD Master Audio. It also supports high resolution audio (up to 192kHz) including file types like MPEG 1/2, MP3, WMA, AAC and FLAC. Finally, if you want to look at photos it can support JPEG, GIF, PNG and MPO file types.
The UP970 can convert Dolby and DTS to LPCM, it can down-convert to 2-channel and it can also re-encode other audio formats as DTS. Although it would be more useful if it could convert DTS to Dolby given the lack of DTS support on many soundbars these days including LG's own SJ9. The player apparently supports Simplink but we found the CEC features to be very limited and even with an LG B7 there was no control interaction between the TV and the player. The player can upscale video to 4K and it can also convert HDR to SDR if your display doesn't support High Dynamic Range. There are video enhancement and noise reduction features as well but we would leave those off to ensure the player is sending exactly what is on the disc to the display. The UP970 is certified as Ultra HD Premium by the UHD Alliance but that just basically means it meets all the 4K Blu-ray specifications – so it supports High Dynamic Range (both HDR10 and Dolby Vision) and Wide Colour Gamut (Rec.2020).
PerformanceThe UP970 is simple to set up but that's due more to a lack of options than a slick user interface. In fact the home page feels very outdated with just the option of selecting Movies, Music, Pictures, Premium or Settings. All the Display controls are in the Settings section and the default options are probably best, although make sure the Display Mode is set to 24Hz for movies. The player doesn't contain any noisy fans and the disc tray is reasonably quiet as it opens and closes, although frankly the build quality could be better. The disc loading is fairly fast and navigation and playback is suitably responsive, although depending on how close you're sat to the player you might hear the disc spinning. We tried a number of different discs on the UP970 and all of them played without any issues.
The UP970 will remember where you last stopped playing a disc which is handy but in most other respects the player feels rather antiquated. For example when loading or stopping a disc the screen goes white apart from a logo in the corner related to the type of disc you're playing – CD, DVD or Blu-ray – which looks really old-fashioned. The complete lack of any CEC features is also annoying because turning the player on doesn't also turn the TV on and if the TV is already on, it does detect the HDMI input of the player when you turn it on. This was despite us using an LG TV and the only actual benefit that Simplink offered was the ability to control the TV volume using the player's remote.
Since the UP970 doesn't support DNLA you can't stream content from your home network, although you can do so via USB. The Premium section is where you'll find the video streaming apps but as mentioned previously there are only two – Netflix and YouTube. That is two more than Oppo have managed but it's still pretty lame and since there appears to be no app store, you also can't add any more. At least the two apps that are available support 4K and HDR but frankly anyone looking for an all-round digital hub had best look elsewhere because the UP970 is fairly limited.
MORE: What is Dolby Vision?If you leave the UP970 in its default settings it will automatically set its output to match the native resolution of your display. So if your TV has a native resolution of 4K, the player will upscale all lower resolution content to match that resolution. We tested the upscaling of the UP970 with high definition content (both disc and steaming) as well as standard definition content from DVD and the player was perfectly capable with high definition content but fairly mediocre with standard definition material. At least the UP970 did a decent job of converting HDR to SDR (Standard Dynamic Range), although if you're TV doesn't support HDR we'd definitely be looking at alternatives.
As with any regular Blu-ray player we would expect the UP970 to be able to handle high definition Blu-rays effectively, taking what is on the disc and delivering it without changing the signal in any way. Where the player can add value is in terms of the quality of its scaling to 4K and here the LG at least proved to be quite capable. As mentioned the scaling on the UP970 is fairly good and it played all the discs we tried with no problems, delivering lovely looking images that were free of any judder. When you consider how much LG has dropped to hit a specific price point, we should be grateful that they haven't followed their main rival Samsung and also dropped 3D Blu-ray support. Thankfully the UP970 was just as capable here as it was with 2D disc, playing the 3D Blu-rays we tried without any issues and delivering nice images.
LG clearly feel that anyone investing in an Ultra HD 4K Blu-ray player won't be that interested in watching DVDs any more but if that is still a priority for you then we'd recommend looking else where. The player can handle both PAL and NTSC DVDs and the cadence detection was fine but the deinterlacing definitely could have been better. There was some tearing of interlaced signals and some artefacts on the video mixed with film tests. The motion produced from the test DVDs was generally fine and, as already mentioned, the scaling was good but even so, the UP970 was probably the least impressive Ultra HD Blu-ray that we've tested when it comes to DVDs.
The audio performance of the UP970 was exactly what we'd expect from a digital transport with the player handling CDs without any apparent issues. The LG can also support high-res audio via USB and, perhaps more importantly from the perspective of its performance as a disc player, the UP970 can decode or bitstream Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio. Which means that if you have a suitably equipped soundbar or AVR you can bitstream the audio and enjoy the Dolby Atmos, DTS:X and Auro-3D soundtracks found on many Ultra HD Blu-rays.
The audio and video playback was excellent but the big selling point is Dolby Vision support
- Excellent playback
- Good 4K upscaling
- Dolby Vision support
- Twin HDMI outputs
- Easy to setup
- Only two streaming apps
- Limited set up options
- No DNLA support
- No display
- No CEC support
LG UP970 Ultra HD Blu-ray Player Review
Should I buy one?The answer to that question really depends on whether or not you want Dolby Vision support. If you do then the LG UP970 is definitely worth considering because it's the cheapest way of getting Dolby Vision disc playback. However if you're not interested in Dolby Vision then things are a lot less clear-cut. The simple fact is that as an Ultra HD Blu-ray disc player it's uninspired and rather boring. It's almost as if LG felt compelled to release a player but, aside from the inclusion of Dolby Vision, they made the least amount of effort. So you get a player whose chassis is a plain black plastic box with minimal controls and no display. There's limited connections, although you do get two HDMI outputs, and built-in WiFi but there's no DNLA support or even basic CEC compatibility, whilst the only video streaming apps are for Netflix and YouTube.
At least the UP970 is easy to set up, if only due to the general lack of options when configuring the player. It's also a perfectly capable player when it comes to Ultra HD Blu-ray playback and its picture and sound quality over HDMI is flawless. The image scaling was also very good and the LG can play both 2D and 3D Blu-rays, along with DVDs and CDs. Disc navigation was reasonably responsive but the player could be a little noisy on occasion and it wasn't as slick as the competition. The video file support via USB is fairly comprehensive and the music file support includes high resolution audio but to be honest we'd expect that from any player these days. Ultimately the LG UP970 earns a recommendation because at £260 it's the cheapest way to get Dolby Vision disc support but in all other respects there are better players available.
What are my alternatives?If you want Dolby Vision support but don't like the sound of the LG UP970 then the only other alternative currently available is the Oppo UDP-203 but that will set you back £649. Since you could literally buy two UP970s for the price of one UDP-203 and still have change for a bunch of discs, you hopefully understand why it was awarded a recommended badge. However if you're not interested in Dolby Vision then there are loads of sensibly priced options. If you're looking for a great all-round player, with plenty of features and playback options then the Panasonic DMP-UB700 is a definite possibility at around £270. Alternatively you could look at the Samsung UBD-M9500 at around £290, it doesn't play 3D Blu-rays but in all other respects it's an excellent Ultra HD Blu-ray disc spinner with a slick user interface, plenty of features and a great performance. Finally if you want the ability to play DVD-Audio and SACD discs on your new 4K Blu-ray player then the Sony UBP-X800 is a superb universal player, although it is a bit pricier at £329.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £270.00
Ease Of Use8
Value For Money8
Our Review Ethos
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