The "K" Zone, or Friends Don't Let Friends Buy New

I've finally joined the UHD generation, having acquired a Bluray player capable of handling Ultra-High Definition 4K discs. Did I spring for the latest, greatest Oppo UDP-205 ($1299)? Or did I choose one of the the more-than-serviceable but much less costly options, such as the Samsung UBD-M9500 (around $330, street)?

Of course not. Those who know me will be surprised not the least little bit to learn that I went on Ebay (aka The Devil's Playground) and found an as-new Philips BDP7501, which cost me all of $103.31, delivered. (As I write this, you can buy one from Amazon brand new in a box for $166.05, delivered [with Prime]. But I still saved $62.73 -- score!)

It's quirky, funky and small, with the form-factor of a 10-year-old MacMini with a very heavy tan. But when Tom Norton reviewed it he found that its video held up to just about anything anything else, which is all I cared about. Even better, with the addition of some thick stick-on feet bridging the curved surface it fits nicely atop one of my front speakers -- and its playback looks fantastic. I can finally view native 4K from UHD discs, giving a real alternative to the very limited streaming options, about whose full 4K legitimacy on any given day I have my doubts. So I'm happy, even though I don't yet have a high-dynamic-range screen, which means that the fact that the BFP7501 does not incorporate Dolby Vision output bothers me not at all. (I'm still hoping for a firmware update to add in the D-Viz special sauce, but since Philips has since released its DV-capable, full-width and thus far less cool BDP7502, that hope is becoming increasingly forlorn.)

Okay, cheapskate, so what does "real" 4K look like from your listening/viewing chair about 10 feet distant from your 55-inch screen's surface? Turns out, just about like 1080p, is what. I've spent many happy (frustrating, actually) hours switching between the Philips, at 4K/60 native, and my Oppo BDP-105D (set to output native, non-upscaled, un-Darbee-fied resolution) playing non-UHD Blurays, identical programs from the same boxed sets, and thus presumably mastered from identical sources.

The conclusion I've come to? From where I sit, on certain titles like 4:10 to Yuma and (especially) The Fifth Element, the 4K version renders film-grain with just perceptibly more texture, making for an arguably more cinema-esque presentation. From a purely subjective A-B eyeball's-view perspective, that's about it. Given the impossibility of perfectly matching brightness, black and color levels between any two players, I couldn't say with any confidence that from 10 or even 6 feet distance I could glean any other repeatable, defensible improvement. Sure, at three feet the pixel structure of 4K remains far less visible, but on moving images even this, in all honestly, becomes nearly moot.

I know this is old news to most of you, but felt it my solemn duty to add my data-point to the pyramid. Sure, the future is 4K -- hell, the present is 4K. But if like me you believe that trailing-edge technology is where the best value/performance quotient is found, chill; there's no hurry. And if, also like me, you believe that friends don't let friends buy new, good on ya.

Hey, anybody want to buy a barely-used UUHD player?

brenro's picture

This reads like something you'd see in the comments section. You can't tell the difference with 4K on your two or three year old TV sans HDR? Yes, two or three years ago we all would agree. We experienced it or we read the reviews TWO OR THREE YEARS AGO. This is 2017. My 65" OLED viewed from 8 feet seeing Planet Earth II in all of its HDR, WCG glory doesn't require an A-B comparison for me to see the stunning difference.

WildGuy's picture

i pretty much agree with you there. beside 4k resolution, there is hdr and wcg that make its shine compare to 2k (1080p).

WildGuy's picture

i would like to add that don't forget in most sources for 1080p which uses 4:2:0 y:cb:cr sampling, the chroma resolution is only 540p or 960 x 540p that are upsample to 1920 x 1080p.

for most current 4k sources, even 4k blu rays which use 4:2:0 y:cb:cr sampling, the chroma resolution is 1080p or 1920 x 1080p that upsample to 4k (3840 x 2160p).

so that means most 4k sources should have more resolution in color than 2k (1080p) sources. so you should be able to see more color detail for 4k sources that have 1080p color resolution on a 55" or a 65" tv view at a distance of 8 to 10 ft away.

javanp's picture

One time I started up a movie and it wasn't playing in Atmos for the Atmos trailer. I immediately noticed, swapped it over, and started it again. She said "I literally couldn't tell a difference."

... sounds like you should be my GF instead of wasting your life writing for an A/V publication.

mars2k's picture

Do this on a 77" LG OLED with an OPPO UDP-205 Marantz AV8802 some Bryston power and Triton Reference drivers then get back to me on the whole "4K Experience" thing. Maybe we could have a serious chat about "Hi Value"