Ultra HD Blu-ray Is Coming...but Do You Care?

As 4K TV sales prices continue dropping and sales steadily increase, the public’s demand for true 4K content continues to increase. At this past CEDIA, Kaleidescape announced its new Strato 4K Movie Player as well as the company’s third generation movie store that will offer more than 100 4K downloads at launch. DISH also discussed plans about its upcoming 4K Joey joining DirecTV in offering some 4K content. And with the International CES just a few weeks away, it seems likely one of the big stories from the show will be the launch of new Ultra HD Blu-ray players. But, will anyone care?

We’ve long been hearing about the death of physical media and how viewers continue turning to streaming services like Netflix, Amazon, and Vudu for their content needs, making the release of a new, premium-priced disc format seem like it could be a questionable proposition. Especially when you factor in some of the early pricing announcements of these players, with Panasonic’s DMR-UBZ1 player expected to sell for over $3,300.

Of course, the benefits offered by Ultra HD Blu-ray are certainly compelling to videophiles when compared to the highly compressed offerings of streaming services. For one, a disc isn’t limited by Internet bandwidth, won’t suffer any buffering or throttling, and can deliver data rates up to 128 Mbit/s, meaning the picture should be pristine. And unlike streaming where the quality can be dynamically altered based on download speeds/conditions, a 4K Blu-ray will always deliver a true 4K experience.

Further UHD Blu-ray will support high dynamic range (HDR), 10-bit color depth, frame rates up to 60 fps, and the expanded Rec. 2020 color space, meaning it will produce images closer to the studio master than ever before. And on the audio front object based audio such as Dolby Atmos and DTS:X will be included on each title, delivering a next-generation surround experience.

But…is it enough?

People are creatures of habit and once they get accustomed to doing something—ie: streaming instead of buying/renting discs—it can be difficult to win them back. And for many, the quality of streaming content is beyond “good enough.”

Also not helping Ultra HD Blu-ray’s case is the fact that the initial slate of launch titles seems lackluster at best. In fact, looking through the launch list announced by Sony elicited far more of an “Are you kidding?!” than an “Oh wow!” The Smurfs 2?!? Really, Sony? Really?

So, where do you stand on UHD Blu-ray? Will you be buying a 4K Blu-ray player? Waiting to see how it pans out? Or have you given up on discs? Leave me your thoughts in the comments section and please click here to take a quick poll.

jnemesh's picture

Anyone who has invested thousands of dollars in a new UHD display will be getting one of the players. ESPECIALLY once they see the picture quality, which will be FAR better than the streaming 4k services currently on offer.

That being said, I REALLY despise Sony Pictures offerings. They KNOW that people will be starved for UHD content...but instead of offering the GOOD movies...they are trying to make one more last ditch effort to bring in revenue on some of their shittiest movies...Fantastic Four (2015)??? Really? Smurfs 2??? This is garbage, and they KNOW it's garbage! I sincerely hope that people choose NOT to buy the crappy movies and wait for the good ones...there ARE a few. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington...excellent movie, and I am REALLY curious to see how good an HDR enhanced UHD black and white movie looks! Also, Lawrence of Arabia. This looked OUTSTANDING on Blu-Ray, and should look even better in UHD!

For the past couple years, the argument against UHD/4k has been a lack of content...this looks to be the gamechanger here. I think it will do very well, at least for those who invested in larger screens and 4k projectors.

javanp's picture

It blows my mind that they're pushing a higher-res format when there are barely any 4K projectors for the home available. How are the serious home theater enthusiasts (i.e. those with dedicated theaters and/or a projector) supposed to be excited for a new format that can't be experienced for any reasonable price on a screen larger than 70"? Even without a new format just on the horizon or already out there, I would be insanely interested in a new 4K capable projector, even if it mean upscaling pretty much everything. I've already maxed out the size and seating distance in my set-up because I'm just at the point of being able to see the pixels. I can't, or won't, go any bigger until I have a 4K projector. I can see UHD being kind of a toss-up for TV owners but I'd imagine projector owners would be all over it.

jnemesh's picture

JVC just released their DLARS400U projector for under $4000. What are you waiting for?

chrisheinonen's picture

The JVC projectors aren't 4K, they're using pixel shifting to try to simulate a higher resolution. Needless to say they can't fully resolve a 4K signal and any gains on it relative to a 1080p source will be minimal in terms of resolution. The cheapest 4K projectors right now are from Sony and in the $8,000-10,000 range.

jnemesh's picture

People who have seen the JVCs side by side with the Sony's can't tell the difference visually. Maybe you should go see one before rendering judgement.

chrisheinonen's picture

I have seen them, along with all the Sony 4K projectors. I think the JVC looks better, because it has better contrast ratios and a better dynamic iris, but it isn't 4K. Feeding the X700 4K sources last year (also eShift, so virtually identical results expected compared to this year) there was no noticeable difference with 4K vs. 1080p content. The JVCs look great, but they aren't 4K no matter how they describe eShift.

jnemesh's picture

I have seen the DLARS6710U (one model up from the 700x) being fed 4k content from a "RedRay" hard drive based player, and you could most certainly see the increased resolution over 1080p content.

Again, if you do a comparison between the JVC and the Sony you won't be able to see a difference between them...with 1080p content or UHD content. This has also been the opinion of many reviewers who put eyes on the new models at CEDIA.

chrisheinonen's picture

I did watch all the demos of the projectors at CEDIA, and it's impossible to compare them. JVC was using demo clips of Everest and some custom HDR content, while Sony was using entirely different content. Both looked good, but comparisons are impossible between the two. Different content, different screens, different everything.

eShift with 4K content in the past has always introduced artifacts that are noticeable: shimmering during pans and other issues. The X500R will be here soon for review and I'll see if those artifacts still exist or not. Aside from seeing artifacts, the difference visually between 1080p and 4K sources was virtually impossible to distinguish on the X700. Much more likely is that the difference between 1080p and 4K projectors is small, even with a true 4K projector, in comparison to things like contrast ratio, which is why the 4K Sony and JVC look similar. But I'll give the JVC the full in-depth review, but it still won't be true 4K which was the original comment.

JustinGN's picture

I'll be diving headfirst into UHD BD, just like I did with HD-DVD before it. As convenient as streaming is, for modern media, I absolutely prefer discs to streaming whenever available. Heck, the Christmas Wishlist this year is populated entirely with hand-picked MCU films so that I can catch up, despite their high price.

I suppose my concern is that UHD discs will cost more than BDs, which would kill the format's uptake. I'm also worried that early entries to the UHD film catalog will be upscaled digital-only films, which have a fixed resolution, compared to film transfers, whose resolution varies on equipment used and the quality of the film itself. Blu-Ray is an ideal format for a significant quantity of media, and UHD BD should be treated like the Criterion format - high quality transfers, no marketing gimmicks, with actual resolution and detail gains.

monty's picture

I too am afraid studios will be cutting corners buy upconverting (or upscaled) instead of actual film transfers. Studios have a hard enough time doing new scans for blu ray (Fox is bad about using older transfers like the Die Hard series)let alone for 4K blu ray. I want to highest possible resolution where you KNOW you are looking at something greater than most people witness on regular HD TV.

monty's picture

Cannot wait until the new 4K blu ray players hit the streets. I have a Samsung 4K 65" JU7500 that I love. Streaming 4K does not cut it. Too many issues with blacks being crushed, buffering, among other issues. I believe a 1080p blu ray upconverted to 4K looks much better than actual streamed 4K material from Vudu, Amazon and Netflix. I have been looking forward to the new 4K blu ray disc for some time. Hoping the new Samsung 4K blu ray player is under $1,000. If not, looks like I will be stuck with upconverting standard blu ray until the prices come down. I love being an early adopter and a big videophile. I want the best of the best for my high resolution TV and streaming 4K does not cut it for me.

Sal1950's picture

When my current 55" Sony dies and I buy a new 80" or larger 4K TV,
yep then I'll want the Disc player. Looking at 5-6 years I would guess.

Darryl52's picture

“good enough.” These two simple words have been the curse of video and audio for a long time now. Music degraded to the point of static (MP3, etc) LCD and LCD/LED killed plasma because it was thinner, never mind the picture sucked, action movies are a blurred mess, and now streaming, because it's convenient and easy, never mind all the down sides mentioned in the article. In reading the previous comments, thankfully I'm not alone in my opinion.

MatthewWeflen's picture

I'm a big devotee of Blu-Ray over streaming, but this is a tough sell. I've got a 2010 LCD set and a 2015 LED projector, both at 1080p. I just don't see myself getting a 4k display before one of these dies.

I imagine plenty of others are in a similar position, who care less about picture quality and physical ownership than I do.

Traveler's picture

I'm very surprised the industry is even trying a new physical format for distributing video; I thought BluRay would be the last, and still think it will be the last successful one.

CitationX's picture

I'll go UHD (4K) player and display in due course, but only with an effective upscaling of Blu-Ray material. ( will accept a not as pure as a true 4K from a shoot to print product, but reasonably close ) 'Cause I won't go there if not. I still have 150 laser discs, 15 - 20 of 'Special Editions' of LDs I already had. Then 100's of DVDs and same old "special edition' rebuy BS. Now approaching a 100 Blu-Rays, at least 1/2 my 4th purchase of the 'classics' ( Kubrick, Lean, etc. ).


PeterC's picture

To me a major part of the Home Theater experience is the sound.
What is the best that you can get from downloaded material?
Can you get Dolby Atmos or TrueHD or the DTS equivalents?
Until you can get this on downloads then BluRay or UltraHD Bluray will have to be the way to go.

dnoonie's picture

I'm eager to start purchasing UHD/HD BD combo packs. I want to replace as few titles in my collection as possible.

I'll hold off on a UHD player till OPPO comes out with theirs in another year or 18 months. I'm happy with my KURO now and will likely purchase a UHD TV at the same time as the OPPO in 18 months or so.

Of the HD BD disks I have I only plan to replace about 10% to 15% of them. My HD BD collection has 124 titles right now.


FrakU's picture

Recently I walked into a room where I witnessed a rather sad future. A 23 year old woman camped out on the couch watching something on her phone while a 55 inch HDTV was right in front of her turned off! What the frak?

Streaming (and/or downloading) has been nothing but substandard for me! Everything I read about it says it's essentially under cooked. And I collect movies so where would I store the many Petabytes I have built-up to this point? What will that fee look like every month? Nah. I'll stick with my superior a/v discs. You 20-somethings go ahead and enjoy your, little girly, 5 inch screens. My big-screen and Deftech 5.2 system will bring me home theater bliss for years to come...

Bosshog7_2000's picture

Are people stupid?? How short is their memory?? There is a reason Blockbuster went the way of the dinosaur. Unfortunately the masses don't care about video/audio quality. For the masses streaming a highly compressed 1080P signal with poorly compressed DD5.1 is 'good enough'.

It sucks, because even 1080P Blu-Ray is lightyears better than streaming but now that you can't rent discs anymore who wants to drop $30 for a disc?? Even die hard disc purchasers (such as myself) don't really buy much in the way of physical media anymore. As much as I love the quality of Blu-Ray I don't miss the clutter of piles of DVD's/CD's/Blu-Rays laying around my house....the one good side to server stored content and/or streaming is no clutter.