Sony UBP-X700 4K Blu-ray Player Review
Sony finally adds Dolby Vision to a 4K player
What is the Sony UBP-X700?The Sony UBP-X700 is the latest 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray player from the company, and is intended to offer a cheaper alternative to its previous UBP-X800. The new disc spinner retains many of the features found on the more expensive player, but also adds Dolby Vision support.
The X700 retails for just £198 as at the time of writing (June 2018), making it one of the cheapest players available, especially when you factor in SACD playback and the planned Dolby Vision update. Although the X800 was well received last year, many were disappointed by its lack of Dolby Vision support, so is this the player that Sony fans have been waiting for?
Sony X700 DesignThe X700 sports a very different design to the X800, which used a metal construction and a superior level of build quality. The new player is composed largely of plastic, and feels flimsy and cheap in comparison; it's lightweight, smaller and has an angled chassis at the bottom. Obviously Sony had to do this to reach a certain price point, but it does mean the X700 isn't as impressive in terms of look and feel as the previous model.Just like the X800 there's no display and the bare minimum of front panel controls, in fact all you get are power and eject buttons. Beneath the power button is an open USB port, and all the other connections are at the rear. The front flap drops down when the disc tray comes out, but the mechanism is a bit clunky and noisy. The player comes in black with a gloss and matte two-tone finish, measures 320 x 45 x 317mm (WxHxD) and weighs 1.4kg.
Compared to the X800, this new player feels rather flimsy and is a bit noisy
Connections & ControlAside from the USB port on the front, all the other connections are at the rear. Here you'll find twin HDMI outputs, one of which is version 2.0 with support for 4K/60p, 10-bit, High Dynamic Range (HDR10 and Dolby Vision), Wide Colour Gamut (Rec.2020) and HDCP 2.2. The second HDMI output is version 1.4, and is designed to send audio to soundbars and AV receivers that don't support HDMI 2.0.
The only other connections are a coaxial digital audio output and an Ethernet port for a wired connection, although the X700 also has built-in WiFi. Finally there's a connector for the external power supply, which is another difference compared to the X800. Since there are no analogue outputs or digital-to-analogue converters (DACs), the X700 is basically a digital transport.The provided remote control is smaller and simpler than the one included with the X800, but it gets the job done. I did find it a bit fiddly to use, especially some of the smaller buttons, but although it feels small in the hand it is well-balanced. All the controls you need are present and correct, including navigation and playback buttons, along with a Home button and one for directly accessing Netflix.
As you'd expect these days, you don't need to use the remote to actually control the X700, and Sony also provide the option of using your tablet or a smartphone to control the X700 using the Video & TV Sideview app, which is freely available for iOS and Android. The app is actually quite good, although I generally found simply using the provided remote was easier than reaching for my phone or a tablet.
The connections are the same as the X800, but the remote is smaller and more fiddly
Sony UBP-X700 SpecificationsIn order to reach a lower price point Sony has dropped some features from the X700, so there's no support for Hi-Res Audio and DSEE-HX upscaling and no DVD-Audio disc playback either. While the loss of Hi-Res Audio is a shame, the lack of DVD-Audio isn't really a big deal and the player still supports the more popular SACD disc format. In terms of other disc formats the X700 is fairly comprehensive, with support for 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray, along with CD, DVD, Blu-ray and 3D Blu-ray.
The player's capabilities also extend to excellent upscaling, allowing the Sony to make the most of lower resolution disc formats, whether that's Blu-ray or DVD. Since it's also an Ultra HD Blu-ray player, the X700 supports 4K, HDR10 and a wide colour gamut in the form of the Rec.2020 colour space. It can also convert HDR content into standard dynamic range (SDR), thanks to Sony's proprietary algorithms that map the brightness and colour space to older 4K TVs that don’t support the HDR10 format.
The big new feature on the X700 is support for Dolby Vision, unfortunately Sony's update hadn't been released at the time of the review, so I was unable to actually test it. What is Dolby Vision? Well, HDR10 uses a single peak brightness for an entire film, which can cause problems with overall brightness on less capable HDR TVs. Dolby Vision uses dynamic metadata that changes the peak brightness from scene to scene, delivering greater detail in both the darker and brighter parts of the image.
Sony’s roll-out of Dolby Vision for its TVs has been less than ideal, resulting in the creation of a new Dolby Vision profile. Although there are 4K players already available that include Dolby Vision, they might not support this new profile. Since the X700 is a Sony player it will definitely support this new Dolby Vision profile, making it the player of choice for owners of Sony TVs.
Along with Dolby Vision there is an open-source version of HDR called HDR10+, which also uses dynamic metadata. The X700 doesn’t support this HDR format, and as far as I'm aware Sony has no plans to add HDR10+ to their TVs and players in the future. However since there are no actual discs available that support HDR10+, the lack of the format on the X700 is largely academic.
The player might not actually be certified as a Hi-Res Audio product, but it still supports 24bit/192kHz and covers all the popular files including DSD (up to 11.2MHz with 2-channel content), FLAC, ALAC, WAV, AAC and MP3. So the X700 can still be used as an effective source of digital music. There’s fairly comprehensive support for video file formats as well, including XVID, WMV, AVCHD, MPEG2 and MPEG4.
As for movie soundtracks, the Sony can also decode lossless Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio soundtracks, as well as bitstream Dolby Atmos and DTS:X soundtracks. The player is equally as accomplished on the streaming side of things, offering 4K HDR video via Netflix and Amazon Prime. It also includes BBC iPlayer and Demand 5, along with Wuaki TV, Opera TV, YouTube and, for music fans, the ubiquitous Spotify.
The player uses a simple but effective graphical interface, built around a home page composed of tiles that allow you to access different services and content. These tiles can be customised, with commonly used apps added and less popular ones removed. There’s also excellent DLNA support, so you can easily access content from your NAS device or media server. Finally the X700 supports Miracast Screen Mirroring from compatible smartphones.
There's a decent set of features, headlined by Dolby Vision support
Sony X700 PerformanceThe X700 delivered exactly the kind of performance I would expect from a Sony player, and was pretty much perfect. In fact my only real complaint has nothing to do with picture and sound quality, and actually relates to the noise the player makes. Since the build quality is rather plastic, the player is fairly clunky when navigating a disc and a bit noisy during playback. It's on a par with the UP970 that I have at home, and definitely noisier than the UBP-X800 that I reviewed last year. It will very much depend on what you're watching and where the player is located, but on quieter content I was often aware of the player, which isn't ideal.
Aside from that, the X700 aced all my tests and delivered a superb picture performance. If a player is simply outputting what's on the disc over HDMI correctly, then one player should be the same as another. Thankfully the X700 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 unnecessary processing, colour issues or back door noise reduction, and the Sony automatically detected a display's native capabilities and optimised its output accordingly.
However there are also plenty of opportunities to tweak the output including selecting 4:4:4 chroma upsampling which worked extremely well. When a 4K display doesn't support HDR, the X700 automatically detects this and down-converts the HDR to SDR and I also found this to be very effective. Overall the X700 is an excellent 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray player when it comes to HDR10 but, as I have already mentioned, the Dolby Vision update hasn't been released yet. So I wasn't able to test that aspect of the Sony's performance, which is unfortunate because the addition of Dolby Vision is its biggest selling point.
I would expect an equally impressive performance from the X700 when it comes to both 2D and 3D Blu-ray discs and so it proved, with the Sony playing back the discs perfectly without any unwanted image enhancements. What really impressed is the scaling on the player, which is excellent and produces 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 X700 did an excellent job of deinterlacing and scaling low resolution images for an Ultra HD screen.
The X700 supports 4K HDR video services from the likes of Netflix and Amazon, and the performance was impressive, with the player dynamically adjusting the output signal based on the framerate of the content. So a 24/23.976 frames per second (fps) series or movie will be sent at 24Hz and anything at 30 fps at 60Hz, resulting in playback that was smooth and film-like. Unfortunately Sony players aren't able to do this with 25 or 50 frames per second material, so content on UK catch-up services isn't displayed optimally, although it still looked very watchable.
The X700 is a digital transport, so there's no reason to expect it to sound any better than any other player over HDMI or coaxial digital output, but the Sony 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, DTS:X and Auro-3D. It handled SACD discs very well, delivering a great audio performance via multichannel and stereo, and was just as adept when it came to CDs. The X700 also did a great job with various audio files over my home network, making it an excellent all-round digital media player.
As a player the X700 doesn't put a foot wrong and is a bit of a bargain at its current price
- Excellent disc playback
- Dolby Vision
- SACD support
- Good range of apps with 24p support
- Great price
- Build quality could be better
- Noisy in operation
- No analogue outputs
- No display
Sony UBP-X700 4K Blu-ray Player Review
Should I buy one?
If you're in the market for a new 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray player, then the Sony UBP-X700 should certainly be on your shortlist. The disc spinner has a decent selection of features, including SACD playback and Dolby Vision support. To hit a lower price point Sony has dropped certain features, such as Hi-Res Audio support and DVD-Audio playback, but the X700 can handle plenty of file types and all other disc formats.
The biggest concession that Sony has made to the player's lower price point, is in terms of the construction materials used and the overall build quality. The player is smaller, lighter and largely composed of plastic; as a result it feels cheaper than the X800 and is also noisier in operation. The included remote control is also a bit small and fiddly, but it gets the job done.
However the new player is a solid performer, with flawless playback of 4K discs and excellent upscaling of lower resolution content. The X700 is a digital transport, which means the audio is also perfectly good over HDMI or coaxial digital, but it isn't designed to be an audiophile product. The user interface is simple but effective, and the support for streaming services is fairly good.
The Sony UBP-X700 is definitely worth considering whatever display you have, but owners of Sony TVs might well benefit from this new player the most – especially in relation to Dolby Vision. That latter feature makes the X700 one of the cheapest ways of playing discs that use it, making the Sony a definite bargain. Although it's worth considering even if you don't want Dolby Vision.
What are my alternatives?If you're looking for a cheap 4K player that supports Dolby Vision, then your options are limited and you're definitely looking at the LG UP970. This isn't the flashiest disc spinner ever made, it has a very limited smart platform and it can sometimes be a bit noisy in playback. However at £169 the UP970 is the cheapest way of getting Dolby Vision support.
If you're not interested in Dolby Vision but like Sony products, then the UBP-X800 is certainly worth considering. It might be a year old but it's still a great player, with superb build quality, universal disc playback and Hi-Res Audio support – giving its the edge over the X700 in most respects apart from Dolby Vision. You can also pick it up for a very reasonable £285, thus making it even more attractive.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £199.00
Ease Of Use8
Value For Money10
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