4K UHD goes from streaming to high quality physical media
March 1 is now less than 3 weeks away, and this is the day when the first batch of 4K UHD Blu-ray discs hit the streets, in what promises to be the best video presentation in the home to-date. Physical media, not being constrained by the bandwidth limitations of streaming services are best suited for the large file size and bit rate of 4K Ultra HD video. The UHD Blu-ray spec allows for three disc sizes: 50GB with 82 Mbps bitrate, 66GB with 108 Mbps, and 100GB with 128 Mbps. For comparison, Netflix streams 4K somewhere around 15 Mbps.
HDR – What is that all about?
You may have heard the term HDR being used a lot lately. HDR is “High Dynamic Range”, and many of the first UHD Blu-ray discs to be available will be mastered with HDR. This provides a greater level of contrast – whiter whites, and blacker blacks, for a more life like picture. While the discs will be HDR, and UHD players HDR compatible, current 4K TVs for the most part — are not. So, if you are in the market for purchasing a 4K TV, you may want to wait until later in the year, because HDR will be what you want. If you already made the jump to a 4K TV….well, things will still look good until you upgrade. If you do not care about HDR, you may also be able to save quite a bit on existing sets once the certified sets hit the market.
I want to buy a new 4K TV, how can I tell if it meets the HDR standard?
The easiest way to be certain, is to look for this logo. The “Ultra HD Premium” Logo will appear with TVs that meet the HDR standard set out by the UHD Alliance. Just to add some confusion, there is also Dolby Vision, which is Dolby’s version of HDR. Dolby Vision has support from LG, TCL, and Vizio on the manufacturing side, and Universal, Warner, MGM, and Sony on the studio side. Dolby Vision is a more advanced spec, and requires compatible Blu-ray players as well as Dolby Vision mastered content. The good news is that Dolby Vision equipment still meets the Ultra HD Premium standard – but not the other way around.
Dolby Vision will likely come with a higher price tag to Ultra HD Premium. So, if you are interested in getting the best possible picture and are not concerned with the cost – waiting for the Dolby Vision TVs, Blu-ray players, and Blu-ray discs may be your best option.
4K UHD Blu-ray discs available for pre-order
If you have a 4K TV and want to start watching content on March 1, there are several titles available for pre-order, including The Martian, Kingsman: The Secret Service, and Hitman: Agent 47. You can pre-order those (and more) here: 4K UHD Pre-Orders
4K UHD Blu-ray players available for pre-order
The first 4K Ultra HD Player from Samsung – the UBD-K8500 is also available for pre-order here: 4K UHD Blu-ray players
Watch out for 4K Upscaling players!
A warning on players! There are a lot of Blu-ray players out there that are listed as 4K Upscaling players. Those are not 4K UHD players. Those have software that convert a 1080p source to 4K. They are not native resolution, and will not playback any 4K UHD Blu-ray discs.
I hope that this information has been useful to you. It is always confusing when new standards and products hit the market, and I wanted this post to clarify some new concepts without being too detailed. If you think that I have made any errors in my assessment please let me know.