Dedicated Blu-ray player 4K vs Xbox One
So, at this stage, you might be persuaded to buy a 4K Blu-ray player and are probably turning to an Xbox One that offers Blu-ray 4K playback. While Xbox One is a good entry point for players trying to immerse their toes with 4K Blu-ray, it comes with some significant caveats.
Firstly, while the Xbox One Netflix app supports Dolby Vision output, its 4K Blu-ray player does not. Dolby Vision, with its ability to optimize the image frame by frame, offers a much more captivating and nuanced image than the HDR. Except Samsung, all major TV manufacturers support Dolby Vision and there is a growing library of 4K Blu-ray that supports the format.
The lack of a second HDMI output port for audio on Xbox One is also a problem for those with an older receiver or soundbar that can not go through 4K video with HDR. Dedicated Blu-ray players are equipped with two HDMI outputs; one to send the video to the TV and the second output to send the audio to the receiver. With the Xbox One single-sided HDMI output, you lose high-resolution audio options like Dolby TrueHD or DTS-HD, unless you upgrade your receiver or soundbar too.
A dedicated Blu-ray player will generally be quieter and even faster boot disks.
The best of the group
There are two main reasons why Panasonic's UB9000 is the 4K Blu-ray player to beat.
For one, the UB9000 is the first 4K Blu-ray player on the market to support all four HDR formats including HDR, HDR10 +, HLG (HDR format preferred by broadcast media) and Dolby Vision.
Its characteristic killer, however, is the "HDR Optimiser". of Panasonic that as the name suggests suggests the mapping of the tones of the HDR content to adapt to the capabilities of the display. Now this is something that HDR 4K televisions do alone, but most of them, especially those with limited brightness, which is common in entry-level and mid-range models, often struggle to properly tone HDR content of maps. This results in a clipping or loss of color saturation.
I tested the UB9000 with my 75-inch Sony Bravia 900E; a mid-range LED TV with a full-array local dimmer. Although it's a big TV that can become quite bright, HDR is not exactly one of its strengths, but that's where the HDR optimization feature of the UB9000 made a difference by day and by night .
Collecting content that has been burned to 4000 nits of peak brightness is a good way to test the HDR chops of any player or TV. Cue the opening scene at Sully, where the plane plows through the buildings in downtown New York, creating an explosion that fills the screen. With the HDR optimizer turned off, the explosion is bright but the highlights are turned off. By activating the HDR Optimizer, the different nuances of the fireball become clearly defined, making the parts of the building under fire even more visible. The image is not only much more pleasing to the eye, it feels closer to what the director intended.
While the transformation was not so dramatic for my most capable LG C7 OLED 2017, I still preferred to map the dynamic tones of the UB9000 on televisions because it generally produced a more detailed picture.
Of course, it is also possible to access Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and YouTube through the UB9000 with the added benefit of being able to use the HDR optimization function even on content streaming, which makes the experience tangible again. of vision.
The UB9000 will also give new life to old DVD and Blu-ray discs, with a high quality upscaling without any unwanted image enhancement. The only real complaint against the UB9000 is that it does not support playback of Dolby Atmos or DTS-X on Blu-ray discs played via external memory (disk only). We hope that Panasonic will solve this problem with a firmware update in the near future.
HDR or bust
Panasonic's UB9000 is a reference class, but its HDR Optimizer function puts it in a separate league. At $ 1649 it's not cheap, but the good news is that Panasonic also offers a step-down model, the UB820, which sports all the same video features as the UB9000 (including the HDR Optimiser), but with a sales price of just $ 549 that make it an indispensable value.
Krishan is an award-winning Australian technology journalist.