Cyber Monday 2023 is the perfect time to consider buying a stand-alone 4K Blu-ray player. Home video used to be so simple. With DVDs and Blu-rays, you could expect your video game console of choice to play your favorite discs and do it well. But now, things are messy. Both Microsoft and Sony sell consoles without disc drives. And even their best hardware lacks top-of-the-line features available on dedicated 4K Blu-ray players. (Not to mention the fan noise in these gaming beasts.)
For the first time in decades, it makes sense to buy a stand-alone player. Which one should you get? And why are the prices all over the place? As Polygon’s resident Blu-ray obsessive (be sure to read our list of the best Blu-rays of 2023), I have the answers!
I’ll keep this simple. Panasonic’s current lineup is widely regarded as having the best options. Both Popular Science and What Hi-Fi have the Panasonic DP-UB820 atop their respective lists of the best Blu-ray players. Wirecutter has that model as its upgrade pick; its main choice is the slightly less capable DP-UB420.
Both players are on sale at Best Buy and Amazon through Nov. 27.
For the average home video enthusiast, we recommend the cheaper UB420, which is normally available for $249.99 and currently on sale for $199.99. It plays 4K Blu-rays, standard Blu-rays, 3D Blu-rays, DVDs, and audio CDs. It has high-resolution audio output, built-in Wi-Fi, and support for high dynamic range color (in the HDR10, HDR10+, and HLG formats). The UB420 is also compatible with a wide variety of additional disc and media formats — a boon for people who like to burn their own discs or play files from USB drives.
For those who don’t mind spending more money to have the absolute best, we recommend the DP-UB820. It’s basically identical to the UB420, except it’s faster, and it supports Dolby Vision HDR — which you won’t get from gaming consoles, either — as well as 7.1-channel analog audio output.
If you’re confused about Dolby Vision, we recommend that you Google your current TV model to see if it even supports that HDR format — many TVs and discs don’t. Which is to say, again, the cheaper 4K Blu-ray player of the two here will do just fine for most folks!