Sony UBP-X1100ES 4K Blu-ray Player Review
The choice of the professionals
What is the Sony UBP-X1100ES?The Sony UBP-X1100ES is the latest 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray player from the company's professional division. As a result, it boasts numerous features aimed specifically at custom installation, such as being fully certified by the leading home automation system vendors and offering extensive control options. However, it also includes a host of features that are sure to please enthusiasts as well.
For a start, the X1100 supports universal disc playback, which means it can handle CD, DVD, DVD-Audio, SACD, 2D and 3D Blu-ray, and 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray. With Oppo's departure from the market, that makes this one of the few players to offer universal disc playback. You also get support for a comprehensive selection of video and audio file types, as well as Hi-Res Audio formats.
Naturally, the X1100ES supports High Dynamic Range (HDR10 and Dolby Vision), along with Dolby Atmos and DTS:X immersive audio. There's also support for 4K streaming services, HDMI and Bluetooth connectivity and a seriously impressive level of build quality. It costs £749 as at the time of writing (June 2019), which isn't cheap but it might be the ideal solution for anyone looking for a universal digital transport.
DesignThe Sony UBP-X1100ES looks identical to the outgoing UBP-X1000ES, with the same sleek lines and minimalist design that centres around a glossy black mid-section sandwiched between two stippled charcoal grey metal slabs. As you'd expect from a high-end model aimed at the custom install market, the entire player is not only pretty but also extremely well made and engineered.
The X1100 also uses the same frame-and-beam (FB) chassis as the earlier model, offering a rigid structure, along with a honeycomb top plate, heat sync and offset insulator feet designed to reduce the effects of airborne and mechanical vibration. For the custom installer, there are also removable rack-mount ears that offer further protection against vibration and electrical noise.The disc tray is located on the far left, behind a flap that covers most of the front fascia and drops down automatically when discs are being loaded. On the far right, there's an eject button, a power button and a USB port behind a tethered cover. There's also a display on the front, which shows basic information relating to disc playback. The UBP-X1100ES measures 430 x 54 x 265mm (WxHxD) and weighs 3.9kg.
The design is an exercise in minimalist elegance and the construction is tank-like
Connections & ControlAside from the USB port at the front, all the connections on the Sony UBP-X1100ES are located at the rear. Here you'll find two HDMI outputs – the main HDMI output is version 2.0 with support for 4K/60p, high dynamic range (HDR10 and Dolby Vision), 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, an optical digital output, stereo analogue outputs, and an Ethernet port, along with built-in Wi-Fi (2.4GHz, 5GHz). In addition, the X1100ES has an IR remote in and an RS232 serial connector for system control. There are no multichannel or balanced XLR stereo analogue outputs but that's hardly an issue these days, and I'm sure any self-respecting installer will be using HDMI.Since the UBP-X1100ES is aimed at the custom install market and will probably be used with a dedicated control system, the included remote control is fairly basic. It's a step up from the one included with the Sony UBP-X700, but it's disappointing compared to the zapper included with the Panasonic DM-UB9000.
However, it gets the job done, with playback controls located towards the bottom, navigation options in the centre and 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. However, the biggest disappointment is a lack of any backlight, which is a massive pain in a darkened home cinema.
There are no multichannel analogue outputs and annoyingly the remote lacks a backlight
Sony X1100ES Features & SpecsThe Sony UBP-X1100ES boasts a solid set of features, many of which are aimed at the custom install market. In terms of the specs, the headline grabber is universal playback, which means it can handle 4K Ultra HD Blu-rays, regular 2D and 3D Blu-rays, SACDs, DVDs, DVD-Audio discs and CDs. 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 X1100 is locked to Region B for Blu-ray and Region 2 for DVD.
The X1100 supports High Dynamic Range in the form of HDR10, broadcast HLG, and Dolby Vision but, unlike the Panasonic players, it doesn't currently support HDR10+. It also 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 and DTS:X via bitstream. However, make sure that BD Audio Mix Setting is set to off, otherwise you won't be able to bitstream immersive audio to your receiver.
The home page has been completely redesigned and is now much simpler. There are four options in the centre for Disc, USB, Network, and Setup, and beneath these you can select Netflix, Amazon Prime, and YouTube. I suspect that Sony is assuming most custom installers will offer alternative methods of accessing video streaming services, which is why the options are so limited.
All three support HDR10, and Netflix also supports Dolby Vision although, just like the Panasonic players, it outputs everything in Dolby Vision even if it wasn't created using that HDR format. The Amazon Prime app doesn't support Dolby Vision and neither Netflix or Amazon support Dolby Atmos, which is a shame. On the plus side, the Sony will match the frame rate of most content, thus avoiding issues like judder.
The Sony 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 and the player's 32-bit DAC is compatible with DSD (at up to 11.2MHz), along with FLAC, ALAC, and LPCM at up to 192kHz. There's also support for WAV, AAC and MP3, and the 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 X1100 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-X1100ES has an Ethernet port and built-in Wi-Fi (2.4 and 5 GHz) with MIMI (Multi Input Multi Output), so you can use the player as a DMP (Digital Media Player) and DMR (Digital Media Renderer), For 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 ihiji, a cloud-based network management solution used by custom installers for remote maintenance.
In testing, I found the X1100ES 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 I've tested. As you would expect, given the build quality, it was also reasonably quiet and the disc drawer mechanism is nice and smooth in operation. The player provides the option to move subtitles, which can be very useful for people using 2.35:1 screens.
There's a solid set of features but the video streaming services are limited
Setup & OperationThe Sony UBP-X1100ES is fairly straightforward to set up, simply connect it directly to your display if using it with a TV, or connect it to your soundbar or AV receiver first. If your soundbar and AV receiver don't support HDMI 2.0 and HDCP 2.2, then connect HDMI 1 directly to your screen and HDMI 2 to your soundbar or AV receiver. Make sure the player's picture mode is set to Direct, this will ensure the Sony is outputting exactly what's on the disc.
The simplified OS makes accessing content much easier, and it's preferable to the tile-based system found on previous Sony players. The Setup menu is also easy to use, and it's best to leave the majority of options on their default settings. The Sony can play 4K discs, upscale lower resolution to 4K, and convert HDR to SDR if necessary. However, there are less picture control features than Panasonic offer, with the X1100 leaving the display to tone map HDR content, rather than trying to optimise it in the player.
One annoying aspect of the player's setup is that for Dolby Vision playback you have to turn that feature on in the menu. However in doing so the player will output HDR10 and Dolby Vision content as Dolby Vision. That is far from ideal, because HDR10 content should be displayed as it was created, and not converted into Dolby Vision. The only way around this problem is to leave the Dolby Vision setting off so that HDR10 is output as HDR10, and then manually turn on Dolby Vision when playing a Dolby Vision disc.In terms of operating the player, things remain fairly simple with basic playback, pause, stop, skip and scan. If you press the Display button on the remote during playback, various information appears on the screen such as how the content was encoded and what the player is actually outputting. This can be useful for checking things like the bit depth, colour space, chroma subsampling, and bit rate. If you press the Options button, there is an additional pop-up menu on the right of the screen. From here you can access any connected Bluetooth devices, access the disc menus, the video settings, and shift the subtitles.
This player offers plenty of flexibility in terms of set up, operation and control
PerformanceThe Sony UBP-X1100ES is a classy piece of kit, and was pretty much perfect in terms of its performance. It passed all my tests and delivered a superb picture performance, which is really what I would expect from any well-made player. All it should be doing is outputting exactly what's on the disc over HDMI correctly, with no manipulation.
Thankfully, the X1100 isn't doing anything it shouldn't and it handled Ultra HD Blu-rays with ease, flawlessly reproducing the 4K resolution, 10-bit video depth, WCG and HDR encoded on the discs. The images were free of any banding, unnecessary processing, colour issues or back door noise reduction, and the Sony automatically detected a display's native capabilities and optimised its output accordingly.
The majority of default settings will tailor the output based on the display's EDID information, and they do a good job. However, the output of the player can be customised in the menu, including selecting 4:4:4 chroma upsampling which worked extremely well. When a 4K display doesn't support HDR, the Sony automatically detects this and down-converts the HDR to SDR and I also found this to be very effective.
Overall the X1100ES is an excellent 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray player when it comes to high dynamic range, and effectively handled both HDR10 and Dolby Vision. The Sony had absolutely no issues detecting and outputting the correct format and played back all the discs I chose without a hiccup. The player also supports Hybrid Log-Gamma, but I wasn't in a position to test that.
However, the X1100 (or any Sony player) doesn't currently support HDR10+, and while there aren't many discs available which support the format that does put it at a disadvantage to Panasonic's players. Sony's decision to not include HDR10+ shouldn't come as a surprise because it doesn't support the format on its TVs either. Interestingly, Sony does support IMAX Enhanced on its TVs, and HDR10+ is used on IMAX Enhanced discs.
The Sony delivered some gorgeous images with 4K Blu-rays encoded in HDR10, with films like Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2, Black Hawk Down, and First Man all looking stunning. The latter disc is also encoded with Dolby Vision, and the player had no problems when it came to playback of that format. The images from UHD Blu-rays were simply flawless, with deep blacks, excellent shadow detail and saturated colours.Since the UBP-X1100ES didn't put a foot wrong with 4K discs, I would expect a similar level of performance with both 2D and 3D Blu-ray discs. This was the case, and the Sony played back both types of discs perfectly without any unwanted image enhancements. The 2D Blu-rays looked accurate in terms of contrast and colours, while the 3D discs were completely free of any crosstalk or other artefacts.
However what really impresses is the scaling, which is excellent and results in sharp and detailed images that appear free of any unnecessary processing, colour issues or back door noise reduction. This extended to standard definition content as well and the X1100 did an excellent job of deinterlacing and scaling low resolution images for an Ultra HD screen.
As I've already mentioned, the X1100 supports 4K HDR from the three built-in video streaming service apps: YouTube, Netflix, and Amazon. It can deliver HDR10 from all three, along with Dolby Vision from Netflix. Unfortunately, the latter output everything in Dolby Vision, even if it wasn't created using that format. This seems to be a common issue when using the Netflix app on a Dolby Vision 4K disc player.
I wasn't able to get Dolby Vision or Dolby Atmos from Jack Ryan, which as far as I'm aware is the only content on Amazon that currently uses these formats, but to my surprise, I couldn't get Atmos from Netflix either. Since the X1100ES doesn't support HDR10+, I obviously couldn't get that from Amazon Prime.
In terms of frame rate the player dynamically adjusts the output signal based on the content, so a 23.976/24 frames per second (fps) series or movie will be sent at 23.976/24Hz and anything at 30 fps at 60Hz. Unfortunately, Sony players aren't able to do this with 25 or 50 frames per second material, so motion on UK content isn't displayed optimally, although overall it was very watchable.
The X1100 can decode both 5.1 and 7.1 Dolby TrueHD or DTS-HD Master Audio. It can also bitstream soundtracks, and it had no problems with immersive audio formats like Dolby Atmos, and DTS:X. It handled DVD-Audio and SACD discs extremely well, delivering excellent stereo and multichannel audio via HDMI. It can also deliver analogue stereo via the dedicated two-channel RCA outputs.
The Sony was equally as adept when it came to CDs, delivering an excellent performance with two channel audio. The X1100ES also did a great job with various audio files over my home network, making it an excellent all-round digital media player. As you'd expect from a player aimed at the custom install market, the player was bullet-proof in operation and was able to play anything I threw at it.
The disc playback was both universal and flawless, while the operation was bullet-proof
- Universal disc support
- Impressive picture performance
- Dolby Vision support
- Excellent audio performance
- Extensive range of features
- Extremely well made
- Very quiet in use
- No multichannel analogue outputs
- No balanced XLR outputs
- Video streaming limited
- Dolby Vision implementation not ideal
- No HDR10+ support
Sony UBP-X1100ES 4K Blu-ray Player Review
Sony UBP-X1100ES VerdictThe Sony UBP-X1100ES is an excellent all round 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray, that can deliver a flawless performance with just about any disc you decide to pop in the drive tray. The player is aimed at the the custom install market and as such it's extremely well made, with a robust and reliable performance. The 4K playback is superb, and if you're looking for DVD-Audio and SACD support the Sony is currently the cheapest option.
The sound quality is also impressive, although there are no multichannel analogue or balanced stereo XLR outputs. There's also no support for HDR10+, which puts the player at a disadvantage to some of the competition. The video streaming services are a bit limited, but the problem of Netflix outputting everything in Dolby Vision appears a common issue on 4K disc players.
However, in all other respects, the Sony UBP-X1100ES is a cracking 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray player, and comes highly recommended.
What are my alternatives?If you're looking for universal playback, the obvious competitors to the Sony UBP-X1100ES are the Pioneer UDP-LX500 (£999) and UDP-LX800 (£2,199) players. These disc spinners aren't cheap, but they both offer exceptional build quality and a similar set of features to the Sony (including a lack of HDR10+ support).
In terms of overall performance, the Panasonic DM-UB9000 is definitely worth considering. It has a level of build quality that is even better than the Sony and a price to match, setting you back £849 (although that looks cheap compared to the Pioneer players). The UB9000 doesn't support DVD-A or SACD, but it has just about everything else, including support for HDR10+. It also has cutting edge HDR optimisation features, balanced stereo XLR and multichannel analogue outputs, and it boasts an excellent backlit remote control.
The UB9000 is, like the X1100 an exceptional 4K disc player, but if you're less concerned about build quality and a fancy remote, then the Panasonic DM-UB820 is the current player to beat. It has an almost identical set of features to the UB9000 but will only set you back £289, making it an absolute bargain.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £749.00
Ease Of Use9
Value For Money7
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