Cheapest Places to Buy :
In 2018 LG released two new 4K UHD players, the UBK90 and the UBK80. Last week we reviewed the UBK90 which essentially was an upgraded version of 2017’s UP970 with many similarities between the two. The player although didn’t have a lot of features some other premium players offer, it was good at what is most important. Excellent video and audio reproduction and the addition of Dolby Vision right out of the box. You can read our detailed review of the UBK90 HERE.
So today we will be looking at it’s smaller brother released for 2018, the UBK80 and although at first sight it looks like the same player the lower price reveals that there are some glaring omissions under the hood compared to the UBK90. So without further delay let start our LG UBK80 review.
The UBK80 has exactly the same design as it’s bigger brother so what we will say here is exactly the same as we said last week in our review for the UBK90. When you look at the UBK80 is gives you the impression that it was made with price in mind. Both the UBK90 and UBK80 look very similar to last year’s UP970 and LG seems that didn’t want to bother making any major changes for this year.
The only visible difference from last year is that the UBK80 has an exposed front USB port and the different positioning of the LG logo at the top. LG seems that was not kin in making any other changes so you basically buy the same chassis this year.
The UBK80 is similar to a plain black rectangular box with a brushed metal finish plastic cover on top. No front display here but this would be a given as we are talking about a budget player so this should be expected. Even the UBK90 didn’t have a front display so it didn’t surprise us not to see one here also. In the right side you will find four icon shaped buttons for eject, play/pause, stop and power. The buttons are exactly the same as the ones in the UBK90 so our opinion about them is exactly the same, we didn’t like them then and our opinion hasn’t changed this week either. Why LG cannot use so more simple shaped buttons when the rest of the design could not be more plain than this is a mystery to us.
Next to the control buttons there is a small power LED indicator that may well be the only visible confirmation if the player is working or not. Since there is no display at least this light is something to help you identify the status of the player. In the far right we find the USB port that LG decided this year to leave exposed and we think that they decided to do so for practical reasons. We tend to disagree with this decision and a covered port would be much better and less dust gathering.
Naturally all other ports are placed at the back and we will talk about them in our dedicated section. As with the UBK90, the UBK80 follows the same uninspiring design as it seems LG didn’t want to spend any budget on creating a new chassis. And although we agree that looks is not that important to a 4K UHD player we hope that next year LG will put a bit more effort in offering us a more interesting and different design.
Video / Audio Quality
Performance wise the UBK80 impressed us as it offered exactly the same performance as it’s bigger brother, the UBK90 but with one big omission. There is no Dolby Vision support as the UBK80 will have to make do with just the basic HDR10. So when we compared the two players with just HDR10 the picture we got was exactly the same. Of course when Dolby Vision content is utilized then the UBK90 is able to offer better image even by a margin. But if you take that out of the picture then it will be hard to find any differences between the two.
The image we got out of the UBK80 was very good for such a cheap player especially when we are talking about 4K playback with HDR. For our testing we used the 4K UHD disc of Pacific Rim: Uprising and the results we got was excellent image reproduction and very good HDR that is not missing anything that more premium models offer.
The image had an extraordinary amount of clarity to it with an amount of sharpness enough to reveal even the tinniest of details. Colors were vivid and alive and with the help of Wide Color Gamut more accurate than ever. HDR offered dazzling highlights that make the image even more pronounced and with bigger depth. There may be no Dolby Vision but even HDR10 is enough to create a visual spectacle and the UBK80 delivered on that front. Naturally there is no HDR10+ and probably there will never be even with the omission of Dolby Vision.
The UBK80 is also a very good upscaler of Full HD and SD content to 4K and we got the same performance we saw from the UBK90 we tested last week. 1080p content upscaled very good providing an extra layer of details even if the improvement is minor. SD content was also upscaled to 4K without problems but the end result is not as good as we saw with Full HD content. If you still use DVDs then the player will do the job more that adequately just don’t expect any miracles.
Audio performance was also very good and on par with the UBK90. The UBK80 can reproduce all types of official formats like Dolby Digital and DTS tracks even the most recent Dolby Atmos and DTS:X ones. As with all our testing we tried the UHD disc of Pacific Rim: Uprising and the results we got were exactly the same as with it’s bigger brother. The player fed the receiver with all the necessary information in order to get a powerful and encompassing sound field with surround effects that were flying all around and above us. High-res audio is supported by this player also through it’s USB port for those that utilize it.
The disc was loading fast and silently so we assume it has the same hardware as the UBK90. There were no bothering noises or sounds from the tray or when the disc was spinning. In total if we exclude the omission of Dolby Vision then the results we got are very good for such a low priced player. Sharp 4K image, vivid colors, great HDR and sound reproduction that throws you right in the middle of the action is the characteristics of this player and in the end this is what matters the most.
Inputs / Ports
Another difference between the UBK80 and the top tier UBK90 is the connection ports as the UBK80 is missing some that it’s bigger brother has.
At the front we have already mentioned the USB port for connecting external storage so what we get in the back is an HDMI 2.0a with HDCP 2.2 support which means it supports 4K/60p, HDR and Wide Color Gamut (WCG). As we mentioned above there is no Dolby Vision support so the HDR supported is only HDR10.
The UBK80 drops the second HDMI port so you are left with only one HDMI out to make all necessary connections. In all honesty the second HDMI port was very welcome in the UBK90 but it’s natural to cut a few corners in order to offer the UBK80 in a lower price. As for the rest we get an optical audio out port as well as an Ethernet port but since there is no online functionality this port is used only for firmware updates.
In all we have three ports in the back and for a budget player we think we cannot expect anything more. What you pay is what you get and unless you want to make some fancy connections setup the HDMI port will be all that you will ever need for the most basic of setups. The optical out port is welcome but very few will utilize this but nevertheless the more you can get the better.
OS, Apps and Features
The UBK80 continues the trend of offering easy to setup menus. The amount of time needed when you first start the player is almost none as there are not a lot of options you have to handle. Almost everything in the UBK80 menus and settings are similar to it’s bigger brother, the UBK90 but with a few notable exceptions.
LG uses the same simple design that is easy to navigate and find any feature and setting you want. The main menu of the UBK80 consists of four options with them being Movie, Photo, Music and Settings. Basically it’s the same as the one we saw in the UBK90 but without the premium section.
When you insert a disc it shows you what kind of disc it is. You can also connect external storage devices and navigate through their folders in each corresponding section depending if you are looking for a movie, music track or photo. The variety of video and audio formats that are being supported are the same as the UBK90 and it’s good to see that there is such a wide support for files. If the format you try to play is not of some weird kind the UBK80 will most probably run it without a problem. It may not replace a dedicated media player but it will do the job just fine for the most part.
The biggest omission we see in the settings and one that differentiate the UBK80 from the UBK90 is that there is no Premium section. What this means is that the UBK80 has no streaming services to offer whatsoever. This as a result made the need for a WiFi useless so LG has removed that also. They just kept the Ethernet port at the back if you want to use it for firmware updates. From the above you understand that the UBK80 has no online capabilities. No WiFi, no internet, no online services, no online store. It can be said that the UBK80 is a 100% offline player for better or for worse.
The settings in the UBK80 offer some basic functions without offering very deep calibrating features like Chroma subsampling or bit depth. There are settings for Aspect Ratio, Resolution, Display Mode, HDMI color setting and 3D mode. As with the UBK90 the Display mode in the UBK80 does not provide an auto option meaning you will have to manually change the option if needed.
The audio settings we get in the UBK80 are also the same with a Digital output option that you can choose between PCM Multi channel, DTS Re-encode or leave it on auto to make the player decide the best. There is also a Sampling Freq. with 48, 96 and 192KHz options and a DRC setting with on, off and auto options. Since the UBK80 does not have a second HDMI port there is no HDMI Audio setting here.
As for the remote the one on offer is the same we saw with the UBK90 player. Simple, with basic design and controls and no backlight function it does it’s job without offering anything fancy. The buttons configuration is pretty standard with numerical buttons on the top, playback buttons under them, menu navigation buttons in the middle and various control buttons on the bottom.
One thing we should note is that although the UBK80 is being sold in various markets across the globe, it seems to be targeted mostly for the US market as it supports only 120V – 60Hz meaning that if you live in a country that supports different voltage then you will either have to go for the UBK90 that supports all voltages or use a power converter in order for it to function properly. It’s a minor problem that a lot of people may miss but a very important one in order not to spend your money on a player that you cannot use.
The LG UBK80 is probably the cheapest and most affordable 4K UHD player that we have seen. On appearance it seems almost the same as it’s bigger brother, the UBK90, but the differences in some key specs is what keeps these two players apart.
The LG UBK80 offers great 4K image quality with HDR, good upscaling capabilities and USB content streaming at an amazing price. On the other hand there is no Dolby Vision, less connection ports on offer, no WiFi and no online streaming services. Also it supports specific voltage in order to function so you should be careful with that in case you want to buy it.
The big question many of you will have is if it is worth it to go for the UBK80 or go for the UBK90 instead. With the UBK80 you get the most basic of features which is good 4K playback with HDR and great sound reproduction. The UBK90 is offered at double the price and the extra features you get is Dolby Vision, WiFi, a HDMI Audio port and a couple of online streaming services. Does it worth to pay double the price for these extra functions?
We suspect that if you are looking for such a cheap player then probably you will not have the equipment to support Dolby Vision. In that case it’s not worthy for the rest of the features to pay the price of the UBK90. But if you definitely want a Dolby Vision player then the UBK90 is one of the most affordable players on the market right now. So it mostly depends on if you want a Dolby Vision player or not. The choice as always is yours.
Cheapest Places to Buy :
- Highlights : Ultra HD Premium, 4K Blu-Ray Disc Playback, 3D Blu-Ray/ DVD Playback
- Playable Disk Types : BD-ROM, BD-R, BD-RE, DVD-ROM, DVD-R, DVD+R, DVD+RW, DVD-RW, Audio CD, CD-R, CD-RW, DTS-CD, UBD-ROM/UBD-R/UBD-RE
- Video Format : MPEG-1, MPEG2 PS/TS, MPEG4 AVC (H.264), SMPTE VC1 (VC-9), H.265, Xvid, MKV, AVC Rec, AVCHD, M4V, WMV, 3GP, MP4, MOV, FLV, VOB, TS, DAT
- Audio Format : LPCM, Dolby TrueHD, Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby Digital, Dolby Atmos®, DTS, DTS-HD Master Audio, FLAC, AAC, WMA, MPEG 1/2 L2, MP3
- Features : 3D, SIMPLINK, USB Playback, External HDD Playback, 4k Upscaling, Noise Reduction, NTSC⇔PAL Conversion, FCC TTS, FCC Closed Caption
- Connectivity : Ethernet (Firmware Update Only), Optical Audio Output, HDMI OUT 2.0a x 1, USB Playback
- Power : 120V – 60Hz
- Dimensions : 16.9″ x 1.8″ x 8.1″
- Weight : 4.2 lbs