A high-quality unit for high-definition viewing.
The world of home entertainment viewing has changed radically over the last 20 years, probably more than any other time preceding it. In that time, we’ve seen the once-dominant VHS video cassettes (and more niche Laserdisc) be supplanted by the DVD, which in turn has been exceeded by the HD Blu-ray format, and now that has been surpassed by the 4K HDR Blu-ray disc, which offers approximately 4x the resolution of a standard Blu-ray disc.
For serious collectors and cinephiles, the 4K HDR Blu-ray is the format of choice by a long stretch. Not just because of higher resolution (2160p compared to standard Blu ray’s 1080p) but because the vast majority of films released in 4K have been sourced from the original camera negatives (if shot on film) for their new release, ensuring maximum fidelity and detail unlike anything seen before in home viewing prior.
This increase in 4K awareness has risen in tandem with many people upgrading their home television sets to 4K HDR flatscreens. Many do so to watch sporting events on, others do so to watch movies on, but whatever the reason, the sheer quality of the image is unsurpassed. As 4K has gained ground in the public consciousness, so has the sale of 4K Blu-ray players. All the major players have released their own 4K players, and Sony was no different with their flagship X800 model.
So how does it compare with other 4K players? We’ll dive in and see for this article, comparing and contrasting its pros and cons.
Fire it up, let’s go…
One thing to notice about the X800 is just how similar in appearance it is to its more expensive premium counterpart, the X1000, with a thin height making it look almost like a book lying on its side.
Another thing you notice upfront is that it has no display at all. None whatsoever. This certainly gives the X800 a sparse, utilitarian look. All you have, upon opening a panel is a ‘Play’ button and an ‘Eject’ button, both placed very close together. What this means is you have to use the remote control for pretty much all functions.
The unit itself is very sturdy and well-built with a satisfying heft to it that at least gives you encouragement that it will last a good while.
The remote control itself is a typical Sony ‘candy bar’ shape that is surprisingly and pleasingly user-friendly in its layout.
Obviously the main feature selling point of the X800 is the pin-sharp picture resolution and striking color reproduction, both of which are exemplary on this model with no qualms or complaints here.
It also offers HDR10 color grading which gives the picture an added ‘pop’.
As for streaming services, the X800 comes with over two dozen apps to choose from and a very easy-to-navigate interface for them. It includes all the favorites like Amazon, Netflix, and Hulu, but also adds Mubi too, which is an excellent movie service that adds credence to the X800.
For these streaming services, the X800 has 4K capabilities for Netflix, Amazon, and Youtube (although the latter only is HDR compliant).
In terms of playback capabilities for various formats, it will play DVDs, standard Blu-rays, CDs, and even more niche disc formats like DVD-Audio and SACD. You can also stream content over a network, including 24/192 and DSD audio resolutions.
The X800 has ports for HDMI, coaxial digital, WiFi, Ethernet, and Bluetooth.
The X800 stacks up no problem in overall performance with rival 4K players with little to no difference in terms of picture quality. One slight, but minor, downside is that it took around 10 seconds slower to load a 4K disc in the X800 than a rival player used as comparison for this review. Not a major issue in any way, but just included for the sake of completeness.
The X800 loaded Netflix in a mere 4 seconds and that is fast by any standard, so points for that one.
In terms of playing standard Blu ray discs in the X800, this reviewer thought it held up very well. The 1080p pull-down resolution was handled very satisfactorily and the image quality even improved slightly in my opinion.
For the record, I’ve never been a fan of playing standard-definition formats like DVDs in a high-resolution player for Blu rays. The HD unnaturally brightens the DVD image in a way it wasn’t intended and to my eyes looks and feels wrong. That being said, the X800 handled the DVD image quite well, although sometimes the frame rate and resolution pull-down made itself known, but turning on the 24p function on the X800 solved that problem.
Audio on the X800 is pristine and clear with a 48 kHz output that was very pleasing to these ears.
All in all, the X800 is a prime piece of kit that does everything you would want from a 4K player and for the most part, does it very well indeed. And with a very affordable $300 price tag attached, this is a great entrance point to anyone dipping their toe into 4K waters for the first time. Highly recommended.