Then the COVID-19 pandemic happened. My wife and I found ourselves trapped in a cramped Brooklyn apartment with a restless 18-month old. At the end of the day, all we wanted was easy entertainment before we had to wake up and relive the insanity of the coronavirus times again. Sure, there's tons of stuff to watch on Netflix and Hulu, but we've also got a large library of Blu-rays (4K and HD alike) that we love revisiting. And after suffering through yet another inexplicable Xbox One X crash while playing a movie, I decided it was time to make the jump.
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My research eventually led me to Sony's 4K Blu-ray lineup, specifically the UBP-X800M2. It's still a bit pricey, but I managed to save a bit by picking up a refurbished model. It handles Dolby Vision well (though sometimes I need to manually select it in the disc's menu), and does a great job of upconverting HD Blu-ray discs to 4K. Its remote is simple and easy to use. And as a bonus, it also supports high-resolution SACD and DVD-Audio, two other niche formats I couldn't help but support over the last two decades. (Sigh.)
From the moment I popped in John Wick 3, I knew I made the right decision. The movie started up far faster than anything did on my Xbox One X. And after a bit of fiddling with the settings, the player also delivered a far better looking 4K Blu-ray experience. The bright neon lights of Manhattan danced together with the dark, rain-slick city streets effortlessly. And thanks to Dolby Vision's ability to handle its metadata dynamically -- essentially, letting it remap its HDR tuning for every single scene -- everything just popped a bit more compared to normal HDR10 footage. HDR10 has the advantage of being an open source format, but it handles metadata in a static way, which could lead to artifacts on some TVs (This AVForum post explains the metadata differences well).
Since I've picked up this Sony player, I've found myself enjoying the process of picking out a Blu-ray from our library a lot more. As a cinephile and someone who will never trust streaming services entirely (even if I'm "buying" a movie digitally), I'll always have a special place in my heart for physical media. These discs are important to me, so I might as well treat them to a special player of their very own.