Blu-ray moves up a gear with UHD Blu-ray players due out this year

With virtually no compatible content out there until now, owners of 4K TVs will soon be able to watch ultra-high-definition movies with an UHD Blu-ray player. Two models are on display at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas (USA), and both are expected in stores in spring 2016.

Thirteen years after Sony presented the first Blu-ray player prototypes at CES, the Las Vegas event is this year host to the first UHD (Ultra-High Definition) Blu-ray players. The two pioneering devices are Samsung’s UBD-K8500 — already previewed at the IFA tech show in Berlin in September 2015 — and Panasonic’s DMP-UB900.

Both players promise support for current Blu-ray discs and DVDs, and feature onboard upscaling functions, although movies on lower-res discs won’t be rendered with the same razor-sharp level of detail as films actually encoded in UHD. Both players are ‘smart’ too, with Wi-Fi connectivity and onboard web browsers.

The Samsung UBD-K8500 is expected to launch in the US as of March 2016, priced at $499 (approx. €465). The Panasonic DMP-UB900 should be heading to Europe in spring 2016.

The Blu-ray Association (BDA) set out its new standard for 4K discs in 2014, with support for 3840 x 2160-pixel resolution and frame rates up to 60 frames per second. The BDA has approved three disc sizes, with capacities up to 100GB. In comparison, current dual-layer Blu-ray discs can store up to 50GB. The new UHD Blu-ray standard also supports HDR (High Dynamic Range) technology, which increases the brightness range in images to heighten the contrast between light and dark.

Around 100 movies are slated for release on UHD Blu-ray in 2016, including “Mad Max: Fury Road” and “The Martian.”

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