Many will proclaim that optical media is dead and that streaming is the way ahead, but one look at the quality of the latest blockbuster movies on Ultra HD Blu-ray and you'll change your mind.
Ultra HD Blu-ray hit the headlines in 2016. With a standardised format, discs and players are now readily available, so it's full steam ahead as we cast those ageing DVD players aside, retire the venerable Blu-ray player and step into the future. Moving into 2017, things are only getting better for Ultra HD Blu-ray.
There's currently only one feature missing from the available players and that's Dolby Vision support. If that's essential, you'll need to wait for LG to launch its player later in the year.
Our top recommendation...
As Ultra HD Blu-ray is still fairly new, the selection of players is limited. Our top recommendation fuses affordability with performance, making it our top pick if you're looking for an Ultra HD Blu-ray player.
1. Panasonic DMP-UB700 Ultra HD Blu-ray player
Buy the Panasonic UB700 on Amazon.co.uk for £298.15
The Panasonic UB700 fuses a conventional design that will fit into any entertainment centre, or happily sit on display, with the essential connectivity to bring the glory of Ultra HD Blu-ray to your 4K HDR TV. There's twin HDMI so you can separate audio into your AV receiver if you want to.
While the UB700 doesn't have the audio focus or the connections of the UB900, it retains the same picture quality, while being much more affordable. It offers wonderful handling of the latest optical discs, it offers 4K content from streaming services (if you need them), without looking quite as strange as the Samsung K8500's curved design. The user interface is a little ugly and the remote could be better, but as a complete package, it's the video quality that shines through.
Read the full review: Panasonic DMP-UB700 review
The best of the rest...
There are more options out there however, so if you're looking for the cheapest Ultra HD Blu-ray player, or something more fully featured, here are some other options to consider.
2. Panasonic DMP-UB900 Ultra HD Blu-ray player
Panasonic's pitch with the UB900 is to give you the best of everything: this is an accomplished player that goes beyond all others in offering you connectivity and granular options to control your content. Packaged into a slick box offering a substantial design, Panasonic want the UB900 to appeal as much to audio fans as it does to video. Not only does it offer exemplary audio and video performance, the UB900 comes fully loaded with 4K steaming services too, from Netflix and Amazon.
The user interface could be a little more refined, but there's a substantial remote to help keep you in control. This all comes at a price, however, with the Panasonic DMP-UB900 asking £649.
Read the full review: Panasonic DMP-UB900 review
3. Oppo UDP-203
When it comes to sheer quality, it's the Oppo UDP-203 that you want. This is the most advanced player on the market at the moment, offering the widest support for different disc formats, as well as the greatest wealth of connections. When playing Ultra HD Blu-ray it also bests the Panasonic UB900 in terms of sheer quality, and it promises (following a firmware update) to support Dolby Vision. Not that there are any discs, yet.
Outstanding build quality and a wealth of advanced options, such as the ability to strip the HDR metadata to let you just enjoy the visuals on a non-HDR player, make this a player that should appeal to cinephiles. But in return, it's the most costly player on the market and if you're just looking to revel in HDR Ultra HD goodness, then you'll make huge savings by picking a different player.
Read the full review: Oppo UDP-203 review
4. Samsung UBD-K8500 Ultra HD Blu-ray player
It wouldn't be fair to call the Samsung K8500 the "no frills" player, but it's certainly simpler than the Panasonic rival, with fewer options and fewer connections. For those looking for that simpler approach, that makes it a winner, as the K8500 just concentrates on delivering stunning visuals from your Ultra HD Blu-ray discs. For many, that's exactly the point. There's plenty of streaming goodness, however, offering Netflix and Amazon in 4K HDR.
What's less impressive, however, is the quirky curved design. That might work if you're placing it near a curved television, but for many it's an oddity when placed among your other AV boxes. The remote is also small and rather unsubstantial. The rear advantage that the Samsung K8500 offers is that it's the cheapest player available.
Read the full review: Samsung UBD-K8500 review
5. Xbox One S
When Microsoft launched the Xbox One, it was pitched as an entertainment centre. That may have got gamer's hackles up, but with the Xbox One S now offering Ultra HD Blu-ray playback, as well as supporting 4K streaming services, it's a media centre with skills that are hard to rival: being able to play the latest HDR games is just one string to its bow.
The Xbox is a physically bigger box than a conventional player and unless you have the Xbox One Media Remote you'll be using a gaming controller, so things aren't quite as slick as a dedicated player, but then they aren't as expensive either. In fact, for those who aren't hardcore AV enthusiasts, the Xbox One S is a tempting all-round entertainment solution, especially as support for Xbox 360 games is now extensive too.
Read the full review: Xbox One S review