If you're an avid Blu-ray collector and enjoy having physical copies of your favorite movies, you've probably wondered, are there region-free 4K Blu-ray players?
While streaming has seemingly eclipsed physical media now, there will always be room for hard copies of movies and TV shows. Whether it’s because you can actually own the media, internet instability or because of the better quality afforded by physical media, the best Blu-ray players aren't going anywhere just yet.
Technology must always progress, though, and UHD Blu-ray, also known as 4K Blu-ray or Ultra-HD Blu-ray increases the resolution of your movies for an even better experience – if you have the player and television to take advantage of them.
What you may not know is that DVDs, Blu-rays and UHD Blu-rays remain region-locked. While video games have moved, for the most part, away from region locking, movies and TV are still a little behind. The good news is that you won’t need to set up multiple ultra-HD Blu-ray players under your TV thanks to region-free UHD Blu-ray players.
What are Blu-ray players?
Blu-ray players are devices that play, as the name suggests, Blu-ray discs. They’re similar in a lot of ways to a DVD player, and they play DVDs, too.
Believe it or not, DVDs aren’t a high-definition form of media – they top out at 480p, meaning the picture quality pales in comparison to a 1080p Blu-ray disc (provided you have an HD TV).
Blu-ray has actually been around since 2003, when the first Blu-ray player arrived – costing almost $4000, and it only played media recorded by the user because there were no commercially available movies or TV shows.
Thankfully, the technology has grown cheaper, and many users’ first experience of the format will likely have been with the PlayStation 3. Sony’s console was expensive at the time, but it ran games off of Blu-ray discs while also allowing Blu-ray movie playback – something that the PlayStation 4 and 5 have maintained. In fact, rival manufacturer Microsoft backed HD DVD instead but has also adopted Blu-ray as the standard for its Xbox console’s physical games.
Blu-rays can offer higher-fidelity content, both in terms of visuals and audio, over DVDs because they store considerably more data; a DVD can store 4.7GB per layer, or 8.5GB on a dual-layer disc.
On the other hand, Blu-ray discs start at 25GB on a single-layer disc and reach 50GB of data on a dual-layer one. In both instances, dual layers are predominantly used for recording a user’s media, while single-layer discs are the kind you get your favorite movies on.
Ultra-HD or 4K Blu-ray players start at 50GB, with 66GB and 100GB versions. The bigger the data on the disc, the faster the data rate needed to read it, hence specific 4K Blu-ray players.
Are there region-free 4K Blu-ray players?
In a word, yes. There are players that will play your Ultra-HD Blu-ray discs regardless of which region they’re from. There are also region-free non-Ultra-HD Blu-ray players.
So whether you’ve purchased a sought-after copy of a movie from Zone A, B, or C, you’ll be able to play them in the comfort of your own home.
Unlike DVDs, which use numerical regions, Blu-ray regions are as follows:
Region A: North America, South America, United States, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and some other parts of Southeast Asia
Region B: Europe, Africa, Middle East, Australia, and New Zealand
Region C: Asia (other than those listed in Region A)
You can also find region-free Blu-ray and Ultra-HD Blu-ray discs that can be played anywhere, but as noted by Sony’s support site, this is an unofficial designation.
As you can imagine, you can buy region-locked players, too. This is handy if you move to a new country and start to collect movies, and may save you some money versus buying a region-free one.
What’s the best region-free 4K Blu-ray player?
Depending on your budget, there are dozens of choices. Some offer built-in streaming services, too, so you have the best of both worlds, while some are a little more stripped back and don’t have Wi-Fi – which can limit some functionality on Blu-ray discs.
For our money, we’d consider the Sony UBP-X700. Not only does it offer full region-free capabilities for Blu-Ray (both UHD and standard), DVDs, and CDs, but it’ll also offer 3D playback, Dolby Vision support, and built-in Wi-Fi. That means it can take advantage of network features, while also receiving regular firmware updates to keep it in tip-top condition.
It can also send audio to a set of speakers instead of the TV if you’d like.
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