I talk about projectors and (sometimes) TVs. However, I hardly speak on Blu-ray and the various players unless there’s something major to really talk about.
And after many delays it eventually happened at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show with the now-official introduction of UltraHD Blu-ray players. Samsung stole the most attention with its debut of the UBD-K8500, which revealed two things: It’s going to be $399, and you can preorder it right now. That’s right, Samsung wasted no time as it plans to have the first player out by this March, and should perfectly match your curved UHD TV with a similar design aesthetic.
Native playback of 4K videos and discs, 4K upscaling, HDR (High Dynamic Range), and at least double the standard color gamut come standard. Admittedly there wasn’t much to see simply because demos were fairly limited and the K8500 was behind glass on the show floor.
The main competition was from Panasonic with their flagship DMP-UB900, and features the same technical features, but is even more robust on delivering cinematic and audio perfection. The UB900 is the only UHD BD player equipped with THX certification , a boon to the rigid tastes of AV enthusiast adamant about replicating the exact feeling and immersive experience of the theater.
Hi-Res Audio is another draw and the UB900 utilizes the same components found in premium hi-fi devices, essentially turning it into a second music hub that has a DAC (digital/analog converter) 192KHz/32-bit audio, and support for music in FLAC, DSD, and ALAC format types. These are impressive highlights but Panasonic was equally mum on the pricing and release date.
But the elephant in the room is digital content which continues to make strides in convenience and improved quality, it will be a mounting battle of relevancy. And then there’s the selection; with about a dozen movies slated for launch (including The Martian, Kingsman: The Secret Service, Mad Max: Fury Road, and The Life of Pi) it going be even slower going with mostly niche appeal. Ultra HD Blu-ray will certainly look amazing but we’ll have to wait to see if average consumers will open their wallets.