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4k Blu-ray Discs and Players to Arrive 2015 - An Analysis

by September 22, 2014
4k Blu-rays - Xmas 2015

4k Blu-rays - Xmas 2015

The Blu-ray Disc Association announced at IFA that the Blu-ray 4k spec will be ready by summer 2015 with products hitting the stores in time for the holiday buying season the same year (basically not this Christmas but next). Some of the things you can look forward to with 4k Blu-ray discs and players:

  • Four-times the number of pixels
  • Native 60 frames per second playback
  • Improved color gamut (REC 2020 - includes 70-80% of visual color spectrum)
  • Higher dynamic range (increased to 10 bit depth from 8 bit)
  • Higher capacity Blu-ray discs (up to 100gb from the 50gb we have now)
  • Move from H.264/AVC (Advanced Video Coding) compression technology to H.265/HEVC (High Efficiency Video Coding)
  • Updated DRM

The technical improvements over Blu-ray (much less DVD) are not debatable. The new 4k spec is superior to existing technology in almost every way. The problem will be adoption. Here are the barriers as we see them:


It isn't just that you'll need a new 4k Blu-ray player. In order to take advantage of all the features of 4k Blu-ray, you'll need a new display in order to see the improved color and dynamic range. If you have all your sources routed through a receiver, you may need to upgrade that as well as HDMI 2.0 and HDCP 2.2 may be required to pass the full bandwidth needed. Currently, there are very few receivers with HDMI 2.0 connections and even fewer with HDCP 2.2 (and some that support one but not the other). Even many current Ultra HD displays are lacking one or the other. Early adopters may find that their first generation display may not have access to all the 4k Blu-ray features because of a lack of full HDMI 2.0 or HDCP 2.2 implementation.

Wow Factor

As we've discussed on the AV Rant podcast a number of times, even when seeing 1080p displays side-by-side with 4k in the store, it is nearly impossible to see the difference. Is there a difference? No doubt. But when you are standing a few feet away from two 50" displays that look nearly identical and the price tag of one is 2-4x the other, it is hard for consumers to understand why.


More and more people have begun streaming their content. This gives them a large library of movies and TV shows that can be accessed from a variety of locations. While the 4k streaming solutions offered by the likes of Netflix are still compressed compared to the new Blu-ray solution, the convenience can't be denied. Plus, with a pay service, they never have to worry about needing to re-buy their favorite movies. Instead, they can wait until their streaming service of choice does the upgrading for them.

There is No Stopping 4k

Regardless of what consumers want, movies will be coming in 4k. All newer movies have been recorded in the format for theaters so it makes it easy for studios to master 4k Blu-ray discs. If you are hoping your favorite movie gets re-released in 4k however, you may be out of luck. Aside from the dubious benefits of upconverting older movies, consumer interest will dictate how much work they put into 4k. If 4k excites consumers like DVD did with its obvious improvements over VHS, then we could see a lot of re-releases. We doubt that will be the case.

Instead we expect 4k Blu-rays to make a splash at first and quickly recede into the background as the studios realize that most 4k aficionados are a small but vocal minority. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, nor is it a statement on the obvious technical advancement that 4k represents. The problem will be more about what technology people have at home and how far they sit from it. If they are sitting 10-12 feet from a 50" screen, they simply aren't going to see the difference between a 1080p picture and a 4k one. If they did a side-by-side comparison in a controlled environment, they might be able to tell the difference. But would they pay extra for that difference? That is debatable.

In the end, it won't really matter as we expect manufacturers to transition from 1080p technology to 4k. Soon, you'll have a hard time finding a 1080p display or a Blu-ray player that doesn't support 4k. Yes, we'll all eventually have 4k but we expect that few outside of the hardcore enthusiast will upgrade because of 4k.


About the author:
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As Associate Editor at Audioholics, Tom promises to the best of his ability to give each review the same amount of attention, consideration, and thoughtfulness as possible and keep his writings free from undue bias and preconceptions. Any indication, either internally or from another, that bias has entered into his review will be immediately investigated. Substantiation of mistakes or bias will be immediately corrected regardless of personal stake, feelings, or ego.

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