Sony UBP-X1000ES Ultra HD Blu-ray Player Review
It's a good player but you can get more for less
What is the Sony UBP-X1000ESThe Sony UBP-X1000ES is the latest Ultra HD Blu-ray player from the company and it comes hot on the heels of their first 4K disc spinner – the UBP-X800. This new model is primarily aimed at the custom install market and, as the ES suffix might suggest, it's intended to be a higher end player. Of course that comes at a price with the X1000ES retailing for a hefty £725, which is a serious mark-up over the X800's current £299 asking price. What do you get for paying more than double the cost of the X800? Well, the X1000 boasts a front display, additional connections including analogue stereo outputs and dedicated features for custom installers. Like the X800, it's also a universal transport so you can play DVD-Audio and SACD discs as well. What is doesn't have is Dolby Vision support, so anyone hoping the X1000 would be the first Sony player to include that will be disappointed. The market for Ultra HD Blu-ray players is highly competitive these days, so the UBP-X1000 needs to be really impressive if it's to have any hope of justifying its hefty price tag. Let's find out...
DesignAt first glance the UBP-X1000ES looks identical to the cheaper X800, with the same sleek lines and minimalist design. It has the same glossy black mid-section sandwiched between two stippled charcoal grey metal slabs and, as you'd expect from a high-end model, the entire player feels solid and well engineered. The X1000 also uses the same frame-and-beam chassis that offers a rigid structure to help eliminate micro-vibrations, as well as provide effective electrical shielding. Just like the X800 there's a disc tray on the far left, behind a flap that comes down automatically when loading discs, and on the far right there's an eject button, a power button and a USB 2.0 port behind a tethered cover. The only difference between the two players is that the UBP-X1000 has a display on the front, which shows basic information relating to disc playback. The X1000ES includes rack ears, measures 430 x 54 x 265mm (WxHxD) and weighs in at 3.9kg
The design and build quality is the same as the X800 but now there's a front panel display
Connections & ControlThe main difference between the X800 and the X1000ES is to be found at the rear where, aside from the USB port at the front, all the connections are located. As with the X800 there are two HDMI outputs – the main HDMI output is version 2.0 with support for 4K/60p, HDR, Rec. 2020 and HDCP 2.2, whilst the secondary HDMI output is version 1.4 for sending audio to older soundbars, processors and receivers. There's also a coaxial digital output and an Ethernet port, along with built-in WiFi (2.4GHz, 5GHz). In addition, the X1000ES also has an optical digital output, stereo analogue outputs, an IR remote in and an RS232 serial connector for system control.Whilst we appreciate that the X1000ES is aimed at the custom install market and will thus be used with a dedicated control system, it's still rather disappointing to discover that it has exactly the same controller as the X800. It's a decent enough little handset for a player costing £299 but we'd expect more on a remote that comes with a player costing £725. As with the X800, the playback controls are located towards the bottom, navigation options are in the centre and there's an assortment of source selection and shortcut keys at the top – including one to access your favourites and another to launch Netflix without going to the Home screen. The controller is comfortable to hold and easy to operate with one hand but it's rather small and the lack of any backlight is annoying in a darkened home cinema.
The X1000ES has the same remote as the cheaper model but adds more connections
Features & SpecsThe UBP-X1000ES boasts all the same features as the X800, with a few extras aimed at the custom install market. So you obviously get 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray playback but the X1000ES is also a universal player, which means you get playback of regular 2D and 3D Blu-rays, SACD, DVD, DVD-Audio and CD. It should be stressed that universal playback is different from multi-region playback, so although the Ultra HD Blu-ray disc format is region free, the X1000 is locked to Region B for Blu-ray and Region 2 for DVD.
The X1000 supports all the main surround formats including the ability to decode and output Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio as 7.1-channels and pass Dolby Atmos, DTS:X and Auro-3D via bitstream. However, make sure that BD Audio Mix Setting is set to off, otherwise you won't be able to bitstream Dolby Atmos to your receiver.
The X1000ES can handle just about every file format imaginable, so you can stream Xvid, WMV, MKV, MOV, AVI, AVCHD, MPEG2 and MPEG4 video files via USB or your home network. There's also support for Hi-Res Audio such as FLAC, ALAC and DSD (11.2MHz at two-channel), as well as support for WAV, AAC and MP3. Sony include their DSEE HX digital sound enhancement engine which upscales the frequency and dynamic range of MP3s and other compressed music to create a higher resolution experience.
The player also includes Bluetooth TX and LDAC which transmits three times the data of normal Bluetooth, for higher quality sound with compatible Sony headphones. You can use the free Sony Music Center app on your mobile or tablet to stream content wirelessly from the X1000 to other connected speakers and devices in your home, as well as send audio to your TV via HDMI, and to a wireless speaker over Bluetooth, at the same time.
The UBP-X1000ES has an Ethernet port and built-in WiFi so you can use the player as a DMP (Digital Media Player) and DMR (Digital Media Renderer), along with screen mirroring (WiFi Miracast) with compatible smart devices. For the custom installations there's also IP Control over CAT 5 cable or Wi-Fi networks, RS232C two-way control and IR-IN. A web browser interface is also offered, along with support for ihiji8, a cloud-based network management solution used by custom installers for remote maintenance.
Sony's tile-based smart platform is included on the X1000, making it easy to access apps and you can also customise the page using a large '+' button. The system includes Netflix, Amazon, Wuaki TV and YouTube, along with BBC iPlayer, BBC News, BBC Sport, Demand 5 and Spotify. There's 4K support via Netflix, Amazon and YouTube, although at present only Netflix appears to offer HDR streaming as well.
In testing we found the X1000ES to be quite responsive when actually navigating discs and it was equally as fast with loading. It could get to the menu on an Ultra HD Blu-ray in just over 30 seconds but was a little faster with regular Blu-rays and very quick with DVDs, making it one of the most responsive loaders we've tested. As you would expect, given the build quality, it was also reasonably quiet and the disc drawer mechanism was nice and smooth in operation.
Sony UBP-X1000ES Video Review
Ultra HD Blu-ray PlaybackWe've reviewed a lot of Ultra HD Blu-ray players to date, in fact we've seen every model that is currently available. So we can say with some certainty that, as long as the player isn't doing anything it shouldn't be, the 4K images produced over HDMI will be identical from one player to another. Having already reviewed the near-identical UBP-X800, we had a pretty good idea what to expect from the UBP-X1000ES and it didn't disappoint. It handled all the Ultra HD Blu-rays we tried with ease, flawlessly reproducing the 4K resolution, 10-bit video depth, wider colour gamut and high dynamic range (HDR) encoded on the discs. There are video settings in the menu but don't be tempted to fiddle with them, just make sure the player is set to Direct.
The X1000ES had no problems automatically detecting a display's native capabilities – we tested it with Sony's VPL-VW260ES 4K projector and LG's 55B7 OLED TV – and optimising its output accordingly, although there are also plenty of opportunities to tweak the output including selecting 4:4:4 chroma upsampling which worked extremely well. If a 4K display doesn't support HDR, the X1000 will automatically detect this and down-convert the HDR signal to Standard Dynamic Range (SDR) instead and the same applies if, for some reason, you're using the Sony with a Full HD display.
Overall the X1000ES was an excellent 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray player when it came to HDR10 but we should point out that it doesn't support Dolby Vision. Although a lot of people were expecting Sony's next Ultra HD Blu-ray player to support Dolby's HDR format, the X1000ES is basically the same player as the X800 and, as far as we can tell, neither player can support Dolby Vision and nor will they be able to, even with a firmware update because they use the wrong chipset.
Blu-ray PlaybackThe maxim that all Ultra HD Blu-ray players should be the same over HDMI also applies to regular Blu-ray playback, although the player's ability to upscale the image can be a factor, unless you're using the upscaling in your display. Just like it's cheaper sibling, the UBP-X1000ES delivered a flawless performance with both 2D and 3D Blu-ray discs, playing them back perfectly without any unwanted image enhancements. The scaling on the Sony was also excellent, producing sharp and detailed images that looked free of any unnecessary processing, colour issues or back door noise reduction. Overall it was a great performance from the X1000ES in terms of both 2D and 3D Blu-ray playback and in comparisons we couldn't see any difference between the upscaling in the player and that of the Sony VPL-VW260ES or the LG 55B7.
Standard Definition PlaybackAlthough a player can add value in terms of regular Blu-ray playback thanks to its ability to upscale the 1080p image to 4K, it has an even greater opportunity when it comes to standard definition content where most of the image is effectively being interpolated for an Ultra HD display. We don't watch DVDs that often these days but using our test discs and a few superior DVD releases from the past, we found that the UBP-X1000ES did an excellent job of deinterlacing and scaling the standard definition images for an Ultra HD screen. In fact the performance is on a par with Sony's VPL-VW260ES 4K projector and even on a ten foot screen, DVDs were genuinely watchable... at least until we switched back to Full HD and Ultra HD and were quickly reminded how much things have moved on in twenty years.
Streaming Video ContentThe UBP-X1000ES supports 4K video services from the likes of Netflix and Amazon and whilst the performance is impressive, only Netflix also supports HDR. However the X1000ES has one very useful feature, it can dynamically adjust the output signal based on the framerate of the content. As a result, a TV series or movie that uses 24/23.976 frames per second (fps) will be sent to the display at 24Hz and anything at 30 fps will be sent at 60Hz. As a result playback will be as smooth and film-like as possible, although you will need to make sure you enable this feature in the Settings Menu as it’s off by default. Unfortunately Sony players aren't able to do this with 25 or 50 frames per second material but this type of content is less common on video streaming services.
Audio PlaybackIn terms of audio playback, this is one area where there is a slight difference between the X1000ES and the cheaper X800. Both support DVD-Audio, SACD, CD and Hi-Res Audio files and both will sound identical over digital outputs but the X1000ES includes an optical, as well as a coaxial digital output. However it's the inclusion of stereo analogue outputs that really differentiates the two players. The stereo analogue outputs sounded good but we're not sure whether they really add much value, partly because if you want to listen to multi-channel audio you'll still have to use an HDMI output and partly because you could buy a very good DAC (Digital-to-Analogue Converter) for the £426 difference in price.
However, the X1000ES is an accomplished performer in terms of sound quality and is capable of decoding both 5.1 and 7.1 Dolby TrueHD or DTS-HD Master Audio into multichannel PCM if necessary. It's also very capable when it comes to bitstreaming Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio soundtracks, along with immersive audio formats like Dolby Atmos, DTS:X and Auro-3D. It handled both SACD and DVD-Audio discs with ease, delivered an excellent audio performance via multichannel and stereo, and was just as good with CDs. It also did a great job with high-res audio files and was able to get the best from compressed sources, making the it a first class performer and an excellent audio source.
It delivered a great performance but why does it cost more than twice as much as its sibling?
- Universal disc support
- Superb disc playback
- Excellent audio performance
- Good range of features
- Front panel display
- Analogue outputs
- Very quiet in use and well-built
- No Dolby Vision support
- No multichannel analogue outputs
- Very expensive
Sony UBP-X1000ES Ultra HD Blu-ray Player Review
Should I buy one?The Sony UBP-X1000ES is a perfectly good 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray player that delivers a flawless performance as far as playback is concerned. Whether you're watching UHD Blu-ray, 3D Blu-ray, regular Blu-ray or good old-fashioned DVD, it can deliver a fantastic picture and it can also stream a large number of file types in both 4K and HDR. It also supports the main 4K video streaming services but only the Netflix app appears to offer HDR as well. The X1000ES is no slouch in the audio department either, with playback of DVD-Audio, SACD and CD, as well as Hi-Res Audio capabilities with support for just about every file format imaginable.
The thing is that the much cheaper UBP-X800 can do all of this as well and it has an almost identical design and level of build quality, not to mention the same remote control. So what do you get for an extra £425? Well the X1000ES has a display on the front, some extra connections including analogue stereo outputs and various features aimed at custom installers. It's the latter that the X1000ES is really intended for, which gives you an idea of the kind of mark-ups found in the custom install market. Ultimately despite the Sony UBP-X1000ES being an excellent Ultra HD Blu-ray player, the simple fact is you can get as good as and even better for less.
What are my alternatives?Well if you can live without a front display, stereo analogue outputs and system control features, and we suspect you can, then the obvious choice is the UBP-X800 which is almost identical and will currently only set you back £299. However at £725, Sony's UBP-X1000ES manages the surprising feat of making Oppo's UDP-203 look cheap. The latter costs £649 but for that you get all the same features as the X1000ES, not to mention a better remote control and 7-channel analogue outputs for those that are interested. The Oppo also supports Dolby Vision, something that the X1000ES doesn't and we suspect never will support, making it an even better choice. Yes the UDP-203 has no streaming apps at all but that's easy to fix with the £76 you'll save, making it hard to understand who would actually buy the UBP-X1000ES outside of the custom installers.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £725.00
Ease Of Use8
Value For Money7
Our Review Ethos
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