CES 2013 was the point when 4K staked its claim in the future of home entertainment. Concepts became reality, prices were reasonable, and enough brands showed off 4K TVs that it was clear the new format was viable. Adoption was sluggish at first, but as prices dropped further, there was almost no reason not to opt for an Ultra High Definition TV if you were in the market for a new set, except for one. The one source of doubt for those on the fence was a four word complaint: “there’s no 4k content.” That was a valid concern, as choices for actually watching 4K content were far and few between in 2014. But last year, we saw Netflix, Amazon and Vudu add 4K content, and players like the Roku 4 gave the ability to stream 4K for not too much dough. Still, we heard “there’s not enough 4K content.” Because regardless of the streaming options, the truth is that many of us still prefer our content served up in physical format. We can own it, lend it to a friend, put the box on the shelf, and play it whenever and wherever we want with no worry about internet speed or video buffering or compression artifacts. Well, that complaint can be put to rest, because the mythical 4K Blu-ray player is finally here.
At this year’s CES, we scoped out a pair of devices that will play the new 4k disc format, which is officially called “Ultra-HD Blu-Ray.”
Panasonic, who had shown off a prototype UHD Blu-ray player at last year’s CES, officially debuted their new model this year. The Panasonic DMP-UB900 is built around a new 4K processing engine, dubbed the “4K High-Precision Chroma Processor,” which promises to provide stunning picture quality not just from a 4K source, but also when upscaling 2K content. Audio should be killer too; it’s THX-Certified with a 7.1-channel analog audio output and a twin-HDMI system that isolates audio and video info to preserve quality of each signal. It will be networked connected so users can stream all manner of multimedia, including UHD videos and high-resolution Audio. Pricing and availability are still pending.
4K fans who are ready to buy might be more interested in the Samsung UBD-K8500 Ultra HD Blu-Ray Player. With a ship date planned for March of this year, Samsung’s 4K player will cost just $399.99, and is already available to preorder. Like the Panasonic, the Samsung UBD-K8500 will play 4K HDR content and also upscale non-4k video. Smart functions will let viewers stream 4K from their favorite service. 7.1 channel Dolby True HD output means truly lossless sounds to accompany every blockbuster movie you watch.
There were other UHD Blu-Ray players at the show that we didn’t get to see, like the upcoming Philips BDP7501. And it’s likely we’ll hear announcements from the other major A/V brands within months. With the presence of multiple Ultra HD Blu-ray players available soon, plus the promise of over 100 major motion pictures released in the format by year’s end, it’s clear that 4K is here to stay.