The 4K Blu-ray player that is built into Xbox Series X was not intended to be the star attraction. Sony’s new console is, naturally, a gaming machine. Support in the disc-carrying PS5 version for the latest video disc format is a welcome home cinema bonus.
Sony’s decision not to include a 4K Bluray player in its PS5 could have far-reaching consequences for home entertainment.
Many manufacturers have left the 4K Bluray player market and many others are not interested in updating their ranges. Physical media fans like myself love the possibility of the PS5 or Xbox Series X allowing 4K Bluray players to be installed in tens and millions more homes than ever before. Even if 4K Bluray is only discovered by a small number of console owners, this should result in far greater sales and a better long-term outlook for an industry that has been ravaged due to video streaming.
Sony’s decision not to include a 4K Bluray player in its disc edition of the PS5 makes it all the more pleasing considering that they failed to include one in their PS4. The PS4 Pro does not have one. Even though both the Xbox One S X and X had one.
I had my own theories as to why the PS4 behaved this way. However, Sony lamely attempted to justify its PS4 failure by saying that streaming was the future for home video. Today, we have the 4K Bluray-toting PS5.
What can we expect from a 4K Bluray player that is also a powerful Sony games console? These are mixed signs.
The upside is that, although Sony’s 4K Blu-ray players can be a little awkward to use, they are extremely efficient for their price range.
The downside is that none of the 4K Bluray players included in the Xbox One S and X, or Series X, are exceptional examples of their kind.
It is also obvious that the PS5 does not support HDR10+ premium HDR formats or Dolby Vision. Compatible TVs and players can access additional scene-by-scene HDR image data from discs that support one or both of these formats to create better, more dynamic images. Users are limited to the HDR10 standard, which does not provide any scene-by-scene image data. TVs must make the most of the less available data.
Sony has not supported HDR10+ on any of its TVs, or standalone 4K Bluray players. I think it would be optimistic to expect the format to appear on the PS5. Sony’s 4K Blu-ray players have supported Dolby Vision in the past. Although it was a bit awkward (see this review on the Sony X1100ES) for more details. It would have been great to see Dolby Vision on the PS5’s 4K Bluray player.
This situation may change. Dolby Vision does not depend on hardware integration up front, so it may be possible to add Dolby Vision to the PS5 via a firmware update. This is what actually happened with the Xbox One S or X. However, the DV support for those consoles did not allow streaming, and it was not compatible with 4K Blu-ray playback. Sony should have already announced that Dolby Vision would be coming to the PS5 soon, I think.
Other features are also lacking in the PS5’s 4K Bluray player. For example, the player doesn’t have the option to indicate to the player which type of display it is connected to so that it can adjust its output accordingly. There is no way to adjust the audio sync, which would have been appreciated by anyone using the console’s audio through an ARC/eARC TV. This setup can often cause lip synchronisation issues with other TVs and soundbars.
The PS5’s lack of audio sync adjustment is especially unfortunate. This is because, as reported in this older article, some PS5 users are experiencing issues with 4K HDR and HDR passing through their soundbars. The only way for them to enjoy surround sound and 4K HDR from their PS5s is via the potentially slow ARC/eARC route.
It is not possible to remove HDR from a 4K HDR photo. This can be useful for low-brightness projectors. However, this option was unlikely to be available on a 4K Bluray player integrated into a console.
It appeared at times that the PS5’s 4K Bluray player couldn’t play Dolby Atmos and DTS:X object-based sound formats. I could not get either format to trigger on the audio system, even though I had selected bitstream output (rather that the default Linear PCM option) from the console’s main Audio Output Menu.
I discovered that the PS5’s 4K Bluray player app has a separate bitstream output option. This is something people who use PS4 consoles could have reminded me of, as the PS5 approach is exactly the same. You will need to click the PS5’s Options button (the small, white one at the top of the touchpad), scroll down to the “three dots” icon, then select settings. Finally, choose Bitstream over the Linear PCM. That’s it!
This is an additional problem. The console’s Audio Format Priority Selection screen (rather than 4K Blu-ray’s) has separate options for Bitstream and Bitstream (Dolby). Even though the console does not currently support Dolby Atmos, DTS:X or any streaming app, it will still play Dolby Atmos.
Even though the PS5 does support these audio formats via streaming apps or games, it is odd that there are two Dolby Atmos/DTSX priority options available rather than one Bitstream out option.
This situation may become more clear when object-based sound is more prevalent in the PS5’s gaming, or more likely, the streaming app ecosystem.
The bottom line is that the 4K Bluray player can play back Dolby ATmos and DTSX audio into your system once you have figured it out.
Select your mode
One last thing to note about the set-up. The PS5 does not support automatic low latency mode switch. This means that you will need to manually change your TV’s Game modes to Cinema or Standard when viewing 4K Blu-rays on your console. You may experience some side effects to your 4K Blu-ray quality, such as lower backlighting performance or flatter colours, depending on the TV.
There are a few noise reduction settings available in the Blu-ray player App’s options menu. This is a slight surprise. These settings work well with grainy HD sources but are not as good as the NR systems found in many entry-level TVs. They also don’t seem to do much for 4K playback. The only thing they do is make the picture look more processed.
The disc drive on the PS5 can be viewed in a variety of formats. Or, rather, how few it doesn’t support. While 4K Blurays, HD Blurays, and DVDs are available, 3D Blurays and CDs are not supported.
Sony has taken this form. Sony has made it clear that the PS4 does not support CDs. In fact, Sony stated that CDs could cause damage to your system. 3D support was added only via firmware updates after the PS4 launched.
It is possible that the PS5 will get the same 3D support – possibly in line with future updates to the PlayStation’s Virtual Reality hardware. This doesn’t seem likely, however, considering the decreasing number of 3D-capable monitors and the new 3D Blu-rays on offer.
The PlayStation Blog is also very clear on 3D. Answering the question, “Does PS5 support 3D Blu-ray Movies?” the short answer is “No, 3D stereo output is not supported by PS5”. Sony has not indicated that it is considering adding 3D stereoscopic output to the PS5 yet.
The PS5 has proven to be a superior standalone 4K Bluray player in terms of features. But can it make a claim for its performance? Actually, yes.
First impressions of the PS5 4K Bluray player in solo action, without any comparisons with other players reveal a picture I noticed on an LG OLED TV test screen. It is detailed, bright, colorful, and dynamic. This is a significant improvement over the HD Blu-ray experience. HDR10+ is available to enhance 4K Blu-rays HDR images even without Dolby Vision (on Samsung TVs).
Black levels appear deep and consistent. Without artificial enhancement, detail levels look true 4K. The highlight brightness and baseline levels appear to be ‘HDR’. Video noise appears contained. The colors look rich, expressive and vibrant, with the extra vibrancy and power you would expect from HDR discs that have wide colour gamuts.
So far, so good. Let’s immediately try to rekindle the warmth by putting the PS5 against the Oppo 205, a 4K Blu-ray monster.
Dolby Vision is badly missed
This comparison revealed one thing right away: how disappointing it was that Sony didn’t equip the PS5 with Dolby vision. For consistency, I will be focusing on the 4K Bluray of It that I used to compare the Xbox Series X 4K Blue-ray player. The additional picture information provided by the Oppo 205 to the LG CX television consistently produces a more controlled, balanced, natural-looking image.
As Eddie heads down the road toward the sun, just before his first encounter with his ‘infected dream’, the Oppo shows that the sun behind Eddie is controlled and not flared out. The Oppo also shows subtle color detail around the sun, which is lost in the brighter, but less controlled, PS5 image. The PS5’s darker, but more controlled saturations make it more obvious that there is more color noise behind Eddie’s wooden house.
The back of Eddie’s left knee is another striking difference between the PS5 HDR10 color performance and the Oppo Dolby Vision. This looks very sunburnt on the PS5 HDR10, but it appears much more natural on the Oppo.
A single frame such as this It 1 is enough to show the benefits of Dolby Vision’s enhanced colour mastering and extra data to optimize the TV’s presentation of intense images.
The black power/phone lines that run across the image at 48.29 in the It sequence appear cleaner and more refined when you focus on the smaller details. They appear ‘bitter’ and slightly thicker on the PS5.
The image of the PS5 with the 48:29 still frame looks slightly noisier than that of the Oppo, especially around the edges. The image’s background trees have a little less detail and sharpness, particularly those right of Eddie’s hip. This may be partially due to Dolby Vision’s extra color precision, which brings out subtler green shading. However, there is a more detailed look to the PS5’s tops of trees that is more transparent.
It is important to emphasize that the PS5’s It sequence’s photos look brighter and more bolder when using the LG TV’s Standard picture preset rather than in Dolby Vision from Oppo. The PS5’s HDR-impact images can certainly be praised. The Oppo’s photos look more natural and more controlled, getting more from the HDR ‘range’ portion. However, the PS5’s brightness results in a slightly more flat, more natural, slightly exaggerated look.
The LG TV’s Movie preset gives a more calm take on the PS5’s image, but there is still a lack of balance and precision.
It’s important to point out that the PS5 doesn’t support Dolby Vision as many 4K Blu-ray players, including Sony’s, but Mad Max Fury Road provides a more accurate comparison of the PS5’s capabilities with the HDR10 format. The 4K Blu-ray does not have an HDR10 master so the Oppo cannot leverage its DolbyVision advantage.
The results of this head-to-head are, not surprisingly, significantly closer. The PS5 actually gives a decent account considering its price and the fact that it’s part of a larger entertainment ecosystem than just a video disc spinner.
The PS5’s Mad Max photos aren’t as sharp as those of the Oppo; however, if you freeze it at exactly seven minutes, when Immortan Joe is wearing his transparent armor and begins to fit with his helmet, the Oppo shows slightly more detail in light reflections and, particularly, the medals, badges, and medals.
Beauty in the Detail
The color looks a little more refined, controlled and richer in certain areas, such as Joe’s red ribbon that is attached to his ‘500’ badge. There’s also less noise in particular areas like the circuit board ornament. A helpful photo to illustrate the differences is at 08:32. Immortan Joe looks down upon a crowd below. You feel more like you are seeing actual people than a blurry mass vaguely human forms. This is due to both the Oppo’s improved color management and enhanced detail reproduction.
The Oppo’s image looks a little more three-dimensional thanks to this collection of strengths. This is actually what makes the Oppo’s HDR10 images stand out from the rest.
It is important to remember that the Oppo 205 cost PS1,300 when you could buy it. Despite the price difference, the PS5’s photos are still superior to the Oppo’s, but they are not disgraced. Particularly in black level and brightness performance. Also, the PS5’s pictures are better than the Oppo’s.
To make HDR10 more fair, I ran the PS5 against a Panasonic UB820 4K Blu-ray player. It is a mid-range deck that costs around $500 in the US and a bargain PS300 here in the UK. You can turn it off to keep the vanilla HDR10+ master that is the basis of all HDR10+ or DolbyVision masters. This option was available immediately so I could perform a direct HDR10 PS5 comparison using the same It sequences that I used for all my Xbox Series X 4K Bluray tests.
It’s difficult to distinguish the UB820 and PS5 pictures from Eddie as he walks into the sun before his Pennywise encounter. The Panasonic shows a little more detail and color neutrality in the fascia, left side of the house, and around the edges. This took a lot of hard looking. The noise is also less noticeable on the shaded side of house and near the power lines at the top right.
PS5 vs Panasonic
This shot shows the trees on the PS5 as well as the UB820. They are almost identical in terms of sharpness, detail, and color tone refinement. Actually, the color of both the PS5 and UB820 is almost identical, from Eddie’s “sunburned” leg to the renderings of the trees, and the bright blue sky, is nearly the same.
As we enter the Losers Club at carnival ground at 1:09:00, there is a slightly more noticeable difference between the players. The wire running across the sky to the right of the statue of Paul Bunyan appears noisier on the PS5. The background’s red “ice cream” writing is slightly cleaner and more prominent on the Panasonic player. Additionally, the colors of the flags and balloons appear marginally more refined on a standalone deck, giving the image a more 3D feel.
The differences that I described were difficult enough for the PS5 to be happy even in this photo.
To properly assess the PS5’s black performance, I also used the It comparisons. It doesn’t have the same issues with black levels and stability as the LG CX OLED. The Xbox Series X 4K Bluray drive still does. The difficult-to-show scene in Georgie’s cellar in ‘s first scene was not only challenging to show, but also the strange momentary brightness pulse above and below the shot as it cuts to the first shot of the cellar. However, the brightness and black levels remained just as strong and solid on the PS5 than they were on the Panasonic UB820.
PS5 vs budget Panasonic
One final 4K Blu-ray comparison: I’ll be writing a separate article comparing my PS5 4K BD drive to the Xbox Series X.
The PS5 was able to match its HDR10 rival in almost every way during this HDR10 “shoot out”. Despite the brief black bar flash that the PS5 experienced during the Georgie cellar sequence, It I didn’t notice any significant differences in the standalone deck’s picture quality. Black levels appear equally dark and consistent. Detail levels and sharpness are almost identical. Colors also look the same in terms of saturation and balance.
The LG CX TV’s peak brightness and clipping levels were identical from both sides. The PS5 actually performed better in dark scenes than the UB450, with video noise handling slightly better than the PS5.
The UB450 has a big advantage: It supports HDR10+ and DolbyVision active HDR systems, just like the UB820. This support was turned off to make the above head-to-head comparisons. However, as we have seen, both the HDR10+ (and Dolby Vision) formats can provide picture quality advantages where content and display devices support them.
Although I have focused on the PS5’s ability to play 4K Bluray discs, it is worth mentioning its performance with lower resolution discs. It upscales HD Blurays to 4K when the console is set to output 4K (which it will automatically do if you have 4K TV).
When it comes to evaluating a source’s scaling, the HD Blu-ray HD Blu-ray of Harry Potter has been a favorite of mine for many years. The 4K scaling challenge is made more difficult by the movie’s complex color palette, high contrast, awkward mix of detail, and often very heavy filmic grain. It’s a good thing that the PS5 handles it fairly well.
For starters, the image is enhanced with decent detail without making it look too harsh. The upscaling process does not exaggerate noise or natural grain from the HD source. Colors also retain the same tones and there is no significant color shift.
However, there are some limitations to the upscaling. Some skin tones can look a touch plasticky/detail-lite versus the results you can get with, say, the X1 upscaling chip provided in Sony’s 4K TVs. The discs from both Panasonic and Sony 4K Blu-ray players can be a bit cleaner when they are using their 4K upscaling, especially for very bright skin tones. The PS5 can also show mild ringing in high-contrast areas. This is something you won’t see with the best TVs or standalone 4K Bluray players.
Although the PS5 is not an excellent upscaler for HD Blu-rays however, it is good enough to save you from having to turn the 4K playback on when playing HD discs. The PS5 is able to deliver a seamless, polished user experience which will be crucial to the 4K Blu-ray drive being adopted by those who purchased the console primarily for gaming.
The PS5’s Bluray section has not crashed on me yet. The 40+ 4K Blu-ray discs that I have played in the PS5’s Blu-ray section booted and worked flawlessly. Moving between titles using fast forward/rewind, chapter skipping or chapter skipping does not cause audio glitches nor frame rate issues. There are no issues with system stability when switching between disc playback and main menu. It is possible to switch between a movie and a game without any apparent issues.
Although the PS5 is quieter than the other stand-along decks, it will eventually settle down once the Panasonic UB450 stops making the initial grating noises when inserting a disc. Except for the occasional, short-lived, oddly-sounding buzz that occasionally appears above the basic disc ‘whir, however, I don’t think anything about the PS5’s 4K Bluray playback noise being a major distraction while watching a silent movie.
It’s probably a good time to mention the PS5’s Blu-ray/4K Bluray audio performance. It’s really good. It sounds as clear, detailed, and powerful as movie soundtracks, especially DTS:X and Dolby Atmos. I also didn’t experience any glitches and distortions even when switching between parts of the OS.
The PS5 is not the perfect 4K Bluray player. The PS5’s unusual audio setup will appeal to novice users, but its inability to play 3D Blurays or audio CDs feels a little miserly. It also refuses to join Sony’s 4K Bluray decks in support of the DolbyVision HDR format. This instantly denies it an opportunity to provide better picture quality for those with Dolby Vision compatible TVs.
Its performance with HDR10 4K Bluray masters is comparable to decent entry-level 4K Bluray players and just slightly better than a respected mid-range deck. Once it’s set up properly, it runs very stable and smooth.
Although it may not be the 4K Bluray player star that Sony fans had hoped for, it is enough to open up the possibility of millions of new PS5 owners seeing the potential of 4K Bluray. This is likely to be as realistic as any 4K Blu-ray fan could have hoped.
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