A number of tech companies touted the release of the next home entertainment tool: the Ultra HD Blu-ray player, a device whose output will trump all previous audio/video experiences.
Even if everyone agrees that the future of TV lies in streaming, there is a drawback to using Vudu, Netflix or Amazon. The low bandwidth of Internet streaming means that your favorite shows get compressed, leading to a less than stellar bitrate.
The huge amount of data on disc technologies means that they can offer significantly better video and sound quality than today's streaming. Ultra HD Blu-ray discs output four times the resolution of 1080p HD, and that is not all. They can also deliver two recently default features of 4K UHD TVs: High Dynamic Range (HDR) and Wide Color Gamut (WCG).
The result of using an Ultra HD Blu-ray player is a cinema-grade experience, right in the comfort of your own living room.
We compiled a list of answers regarding compatibility, accessories and quality levels you can expect from the Ultra HD Blu-ray.
Is A New Blu-ray Player Required To Play Ultra HD Blu-ray Discs?
Yes. The good news is that the new players can handle all existing formats, meaning older DVDs and Blu-rays will feel right at home in the Ultra HD Blu-ray player. While Philips and Panasonic recently announced their players, Samsung already takes pre-orders for its UBD-K8500.
The price point for the future-proof players sits at about $400 in Philips' and Samsung's case. Panasonic's device could charge a little extra, while Oppo could deliver a hard to refuse offer by bringing an Ultra HD Blu-ray disc player at an affordable cost.
As with all premium technology, the first edition of gadgets will be spicy, but the prices will drop as more manufacturers get in the bandwagon.
Are All 4K UHD TVs Ultra HD Blu-ray Compatible?
Yes. Pretty much every 4K UHD TV plays well with Ultra HD Blu-ray, even previous devices that have HDMI 1.4 inputs. One advantage of owning an Ultra HD Blu-ray player is that once you link it to a TV via HDMI, the player analyzes your device and delivers the optimal quality.
Sadly for owners of last-gen (or older) 4K UHD TVs, they will only get noise-free UHD resolution. At the moment, few Smart TVs can deliver the HDR and WCG features that really put the ice on the cake when it comes to Ultra HD Blu-ray.
On the bright side, all future TVs that sport CTA's 4K Ultra HD Premium logo will let Ultra HD Blu-ray unleash its full potential.
Do Ultra HD Blu-ray Players Feature Backward Compatibility?
Regardless whether you throw in a DVD, SACD, DVD-Audio, Blu-ray disc or a Redbook CD, Ultra HD-Blu-ray players will play them without problems. The good news is that default DVDs as well as 1080p Blu-ray discs get up-scaled to UHD quality when you play them on a 4K UHD TV.
There is down-scaling, too. The high-end player will process the Ultra HD Blu-ray discs to match 1080p HD TVs.
Will I Need Any Other New Equipment?
On the bright side, no new HDMI cables are required. You might want to upgrade you're A/V receiver, though. Older variants that holster HDMI 1.4 only get the high resolution, but not the HDR and WCG that tilt the scales in favor of the new technology.
Shortly put, a HDMI 2.0 receiver is the best choice in the long run.
An important mention goes to audio processing. Ultra HD Blu-ray discs will incorporate new surround formats, such as Dolby Atmos and DTS:X. To take full advantage of these additions, a new receiver becomes a must.
Will There Be Many Discs Available When Ultra HD Blu-ray Launches?
The movie industry is quite hyped by the Ultra HD Blu-ray. This is particularly visible in the number of re-mastered movies that should be ready to launch alongside the new players. Famed titles such as "The Martian" and "Mad Max: Fury Road" will be part of the compatible media library.
However, one special mention is mandatory. Most movies that come in Ultra HD Blu-ray are not veritable 4K Blu-rays. The simple reason for this is that they were shot in 2K resolution and post-processed to scale them up to 4K. Even so, the leap in quality is observable due to the High Dynamic Range and Wide Color Gamut. Sony announced that it plans to launch quite a number of 4K Ultra discs by "early 2016."
Will I Be Able To Do Digital Transfers On Ultra HD Blu-ray?
Thanks to the Ultra HD Blu-ray discs' support of digital copies, users can pass around content to and from their in-home mobile devices. Files will be swapped using a copy and an export mode.
What Is Up With The Name?
The disc players that will support the new format are dubbed Ultra HD Blu-ray disc players. This means that no 4K appears in the official product's name.
However, the discs will sport a "4K Ultra HD" on the cover. It should be noted that some TV manufacturers simply eliminate the 4K name although they offer 4K Ultra HD quality.
Samsung is one example of this, with its high-end, "SUHD" TV.
What Are The Technical Specs Of The Ultra HD Blu-ray?
Ultra HD Blu-ray use double-layer 66 GB discs which enable them to output a whopping 108 Mbps of data. In comparison, to enjoy a two hour stream on Netflix's 4K Ultra HD, you get 14 GB of data at a speed of 16 Mbps.
Audio-video coding enthusiasts should know that Ultra HD Blu-ray discs use the recent HEVC codec, that some might know as the H.265 codec.
A number of HDR metadata comes packed in the Ultra HD Blu-ray. This includes Dolby Vision and HDR10, an open standard that gets support from the Society of Motion Picture & Television Engineers (SMPTE).
Content creators who aim to launch their productions in Ultra HD Blu-ray format must incorporate HDR 10 in their release.
For example, LG's new G6 OLED TV and Vizio's Reference Series TV feature Dolby' Vision HDR alongside the HDR 10 standard imposed by SMPTE.
Dolby wants to bring licensing kits for Dolby Vision-compatible Blu-ray players in July 2016, so older players will lack Dolby support. There are rumors that Panasonic has plans to manufacture a Dolby Vision-enabled player.