The new Sony UBP-X800M2 was released just days ago and we’ve spent some time giving the player a test drive. If you’re thinking about picking up the X800M2 here’s a hands-on review that can maybe help you decide.
The Sony UBP-X800M2 is pretty much an updated X800 that fixes what the previous model lacked: HDR with Dolby Vision. This was an incredible oversight by Sony as even their cheaper X700 model supports Dolby Vision. We hope the new Sony X800M2 will also support HDR10+ which improves upon the HDR10 specification (although we don’t have any confidence it will, and the amount of HDR10+ content is extremely limited).
The X800M2 retails for $299 which is $50 more than the X800 at $249. However, considering the X800M2 comes with two free 4k Blu-rays: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse and Jumanji: Welcome To the Jungle that together are valued at about $40, the price almost equals out. The 2 free movies are only being offered for a limited time so order from Amazon or Best Buy while still in stock. [Update: The X800M2 is priced $28 on Amazon.]
The design, size, and weight of the X800M2 are exactly the same as the X800 (which followed the UHP-H1). It’s 17” wide by 2” tall with a depth of 10-½”. It’s a simple yet elegant design with a combination of rough matte black and smooth glossy finish. The Sony logo sits on the front left corner of what is a really wide disc tray. On the right, High-Res Audio, 4k/HDR and Ultra HD Blu-ray brand logos cover a USB port that can be accessed by flipping the front plate open.
The remote control is light as a feather and for this reason may seem a little bit on the cheap side. It doesn’t have much style to it either (compared to more stylish remotes from Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, and Samsung) but is rather rectangular and clunky. But, it’s got all the buttons and we’d rather see practicality rather than design in a remote.
Sony boasts the X800M2’s frame-and-beam chassis construction which includes reinforcements to minimize micro-vibrations and provides additional electrical shielding. At over 8 pounds the player isn’t exactly light (a few pounds more than the Panasonic DP-UB820-K), but nowhere near as heavy as Pioneer’s 22-pound UDP-LX500 (although in an entirely different class).
Upon setup the player quickly displays a message to go into the Setup for a Software Update. This can be done via internet (Ethernet or Wi-Fi) or USB drive (via the front port) and is recommended upon first use especially since this player is hot off the press. The X800M2 can be updated to firmware version M454.R.0050 (the unit ships with M45.R.0046) and this update is supposed to improve image quality in specific scenes. This sounds like it could be for HDR10+ but there is nothing in the update documentation that mentions HDR.
When setting up for the first time you’ll get a Power consumption warning. This is a message asking you to allow other devices to turn on the M2, which means even if the unit is off it will be consuming more power as it’s essentially in a sleep mode waiting for communication from other devices to turn back on.
The unit tells you to make sure to set up HDMI correctly for Ultra HD 60p and/or HDR content on your 4k TV, home theater system, sound bar, etc. (depending on the manufacturer those settings may vary). However, for Bravia TVs that support 4k 60p the “HDMI signal format” should be set to “Enhanced format.”
The HDMI cable should be premium grade or capable of 18Gbps for the player to maximize output. And, the cable must be HDMI 2.0a to support HDR. This may be obvious to home theater people but for newbies it’s always a good idea to invest in quality cables — even if outrageously priced. Keep in mind some retailers will up the price of cables (because they can!) so be sure to shop around.
In general, ports have become very minimal on 4k Blu-ray players in the last several years. A couple of HDMI connectors, Ethernet terminal, and Coaxial Digital Out connector on the back, and one USB port on the front (hidden by a front plate) is all the service you get (and all you might need) with the X800M2.
However, one of the critiques of the X800 was lack of optical and stereo analog audio output, and this may remain a ding for the X800M2. But with HDMI audio being so prevalent is there really a need for the older formats? Plus, you do have the coaxial option. More complex home theater systems are going to have a receiver with plenty of input/output formats anyway.
The X800M2 is a Smart device, meaning, it can connect to the internet and run popular apps such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, and YouTube out of the box. You might check for the latest updates on these apps. We always suggest streaming directly through an app if possible rather than through another device like an Apple TV or Fire TV. Because, why have another device in the chain? Unless, of course, the apps become antiquated and your media player is providing a much better user experience.
The X800M2 plays content up to 3840 x 2160p resolution, performs 4K upscaling at 60p, offers up to 12-bit color (although 10-bit is the norm), and 24p True Cinema to maintain the original frame rate of the film.
Like the X800 the X800M2 supports Ultra HD Blu-ray, BD-ROM, and Stereoscopic 3D (profile 5) physical media, as well as many other disc formats. In terms of video formats the X800M2 can play HEVC, VP9, VP6, MPEG-2. MPEG-4 AVC, Xvid, WMV9, AVCHD, VC1 and Motion JPEG. It also supports JPEG, GIF, PNG, MPO MPF 3D and BMP photo formats.
If should be mentioned also that the player will optimize playback of HDR content on non-HDR TVs with “HDR to SDR” conversion technology. However, this could backfire depending on the content. It’s possible the converted image will look worse than the SDR (Standard Dynamic Range) image which the 4k Blu-ray or Blu-ray were color graded for. While a benefit could be a wider range of contrast, you might not be happy with the color rendering. We recommend turning off conversion or turning off HDR completely for non-HDR TVs.
If at all possible, you shouldn’t be buying a 4k BD player without support for both Dolby Atmos and DTS:X. Both object-based audio formats can create immersive environments with the right speaker systems. And although these audio formats are best experienced with speakers that physically surround you, there are some sound bars with built-in multiple speakers that direct sound to different locations through Atmos and DTS:X. Highlights of the X800M2 (as well as the X800) include support for high-res audio codecs like AAC and WAV, and DSD 11.2 MHz as well as SACD and DVD-A playback.
As mentioned above the X800M2 features separate HDMI ports for video and audio so you can make sure the sound is optimized. The second HDMI port ships with a sticker covering it and is clearly labeled Audio Only. You may as well leave this on if not connecting an HDMI cable for audio.
There are plenty of settings on this player but here are some you should be aware of.
- Bravia Mode — we might recommend turning this Off if not using a Sony Bravia TV (the default is On).
- HDR Output – Be sure to have this set to Auto (not Off) for outputting HDR content to your display.
- Dolby Vision Output – Also be sure to turn this on for Dolby Vision content. However, Video Settings and 3D playback are unavailable when turned On. In fact, the Video Settings option available through the Option button on the remote is turned off when DV is enabled.
- Display Type — You can choose between a TV and projector.
- Output Resolution — This should stay to Auto unless you want to play a lower resolution for some reason.
- 24p Output — This option has several settings, the most important of which is Ultra HD Blu-ray/BD-ROM. Set this to Auto so the player adjusts to the disc.
- 4k Upscale Setting — You should definitely keep this on Auto (1 or 2) to enhance lower resolutions to Ultra HD quality.
One of the coolest features about the X800M2, and one that would be a welcome addition to any Blu-ray or streaming media player, is the ability to play audio through a Bluetooth device. The X800M2 allows this through the Bluetooth settings on the player. You just go into the settings and choose a Bluetooth device. You can also select to listen to HDMI output and a Bluetooth device simultaneously, but the setting option for dual output must be selected.
With both turned on you might find a delay between audio and video, in which case you will have to adjust the Audio Sync settings provided in the pop-up menu.
You can also set the Wireless Playback Quality to several different options including Auto, Sound Quality, Standard, and Connection. Auto, again, is probably the best setting here.
To adjust the volume of the Bluetooth device you have to click the Options button on the remote and select Volume from the popup menu (you can’t adjust the volume using the remote buttons because those are specific to hardware (not software in the case of Bluetooth).
You might have to adjust the audio sync though if using an external Bluetooth speaker.
For this article, we tested four different 4k Blu-ray Discs: Alien (4k/HDR10+), Game of Thrones: Season One (4k/Dolby Vision), Avengers: Age of Ultron (4k/HDR10), and Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald (4k/Dolby Vision). The variety in age of these films/shows was purposeful to see how a remastered 70’s movie might compare to a more recent release.
The X800M2 turns on quickly and operates quietly. The discs also seemed to load up fast enough. We’re not sure if this is an improvement over the X800 but the previous player did get dinged for slow disc loading. The X800M2 loads discs just fine.
What we really wanted to look at for this player is the HDR output. The remote has an Info button that displays a bunch of information including the source spec and what the HDMI connection is actually outputting. For ‘Crimes of Grindelwald’ the source is indicated as 4k/24p HDR BT.2020 YCbCr 4:2:0/10 bit. This stayed the same regardless of whether Dolby Vision was turned on or off (with HDR still enabled).
The HDMI Output did change depending on whether or not HDR was turned on or off, or, whether external audio output was being used (for this test the built-in TV speakers were used). So, while the source of audio is 48kHz Dolby TrueHD 7.1 channel the actual output is just 2-channel.
However, what was interesting is the HDMI Output stayed at 12-bit even when HDR is turned off. This might mean the HDMI is capable of 12-bit (even though the source and TV are not displaying 12-bit).
Audio Changes on the Fly
Here is a nice feature to have. While watching a 4k Blu-ray disc audio formats can be switched on the fly using the Audio button on the M2’s remote control. You can also select audio descriptions and subtitles without exiting the movie.
When turning on the player for the third time (after watching some of Game of Thrones: Season One and Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald) the disc tray would not open to pop in Alien. I tried turning the player off, using both the remote button and front plate button and neither worked. And, the screen indicated “No Disc” in the player even when it did have a disc. After several minutes of turning off and back on again the tray finally opened. I just hope this isn’t a sign of bad things to come!
The Options button on the remote brings up all kinds of disc goodies like Bluetooth Output, Display Info Position, Playback buttons (Play, Pause, Top Menu, etc.). What I didn’t like was whenever a setting is selected within the section the whole menu just disappears, This can be frustrating especially when trying to set up and test different options. In order to change a setting you have to start with the Options button again.
Addition: Another issue is with Dolby Vision HDR. Just like all the Sony’s in this class Dolby Vision must be manually enabled in the player’s settings. This holds true for every new disc inserted (with Dolby Vision) that you want to watch. It’s a pain, but at least it works!
For $300 you can’t go wrong. The Sony UBP-X800M2 is a fully-capable 4k/HDR Blu-ray Disc player that can be used for either a Dolby Vision or HDR10 TV (or dual HDR TV if you can afford it! Also Read: Vizio’s 2019 4K HDR TV Lineup & Pricing). The player supports both Dolby Atmos and DTS:X and includes HDMI audio out so you can set up your audio system separately from video. One of the best features, albeit clunky at times, is the ability to listen to audio with wireless Bluetooth headphones (or hook up a Bluetooth speaker if you want).
Price Update: Amazon is selling the Sony X800M2 for $249 with Prime free shipping. And, they have a limited time offer with two free 4k Blu-rays included in the box.
The Cheaper, Sony UBP-X700
If you are looking for a bargain the older UBP-X700 (2018) is less expensive than the UBP-X800M2 and includes Dolby Vision support. It plays 3D Blu-ray Discs, streams HEVC, MPEG-4/AVC etc., and supports Dolby Atmos, DTS:X and high-resolution audio formats. However, the UBP-X700 does not include Bluetooth. That means no wireless headphones. And, it is a smaller unit (12-3/5″ wide x 8-1/2″ deep) if you’re looking for the standard 17” rack system size. If those things don’t matter to you, right now the UBP-X700 is selling for $149 on Amazon (MSRP $249). There is also an updated version of the Sony UBP-X700 (2019) that sells for $229 on Amazon.