Sony 4K UHD Streaming Blu-ray Player | $200 | Amazon
The very fact that we can, on-demand, stream almost anything we want these days, in 4K and with Dolby Atmos or whatever, is incredible. It’s incredible! But it remains true that, for most streaming services, if you watch the same movie on a UHD Blu-ray—honestly, often even just a 1080p Blu-ray—it just looks better. It’s almost an imperceptible difference, yet a difference there remains. That’s why the $60 discount on this Sony 4K UHD Wi-Fi-connected Blu-ray player is not only still relevant, but genuinely worth considering. It has to do with bitrates. When you watch a film, whether on a disc or over the internet, data is being transmitted from the source to your TV—that transmission is called the bitrate. In the case of most streaming services, this bitrate is somewhere around 5-10Mbps—that’s roughly the same as the bitrate of a DVD. Blu-rays hover around 30Mbps, and a triple-layer UHD 4K Blu-ray can go as high as, theoretically, 144Mbps. Some streaming services—Apple TV+ and Disney Plus, for example—have high bitrates, but that information isn’t published, and it’s not like there is some rtings-style website tracking it. If you want to be sure you’re getting the best-possible picture, you need physical media.
This player can handle everything from cleanly-upscaling your old DVDs to crisp viewing of your HDR10 and Dolby Vision movies. It’s compatible with Dolby Atmos and Dolby Digital TrueHD and DTS as well, and can play your 3D Blu-rays if you’re one of those people who actually has a TV that can do that. It has HDMI in and HDMI audio out, a 100Mbps Ethernet port, and Wi-Fi, in case you want to use it for streaming, though you don’t have to do any of that if you don’t want to. In fact, one of my favorite things about this player is that it comes with nothing installed. You boot it up, and it’s just a basic Blu-ray player. Someone in the question and answers on the product page mentions it will install a few apps, but I never did that, so I cannot confirm.
So, yes, I actually own this player, and not only does it do a remarkable job of upscaling, but it even does a decent job simulating HDR with an SDR picture. I won’t act like I use it all the time—streaming is just too convenient—but for those times when I really want to get the best experience out of a movie that I already own on a modern physical format, I am extremely glad to have the option. It gets a strong recommend from me, your dutiful dealsman and old person extraordinaire.