Samsung unveiled its first Ultra HD Blu-ray player at IFA in Berlin. Panasonic had also brought an entirely new player, which was hidden in the backroom. We had a chance to check out both of them.
First-look at Samsung's UHD Blu-ray
We have waited for a new UHD Blu-ray format for what seems like ages. It was not ready in 2013 when the first Ultra HD TVs came to market, it did not arrive in 2014, and it will not launch in 2015 either. The first players are slated for release early next year.
However, UHD Blu-ray is still an exciting format. It promises to deliver breathtaking pictures and sound. Samsung and Panasonic gave us a taste of what to expect at IFA.
Samsung’s player carries the model name UBD-K8500 and will of course support all of the mandatory components of the Ultra HD Blu-ray standard, meaning 4K resolution, 10-bit colors, HDR, and support for large color gamuts. It will also support 3D (in HD), HD upscaling, and Multiroom Link (Samsung’s wireless audio system). Furthermore, you will have access to streaming services through the Smart Hub and a new disc-to-USB function that lets you copy movies onto an encrypted USB hard drive, as explained here.
Clips from Exodus: Gods and Kings and X-Men: Days of Future Past were shown on Samsung’s SUHD TVs. It certainly looked great but so does most other TVs at IFA. Still, there is no doubt that 4K resolution combined with HDR is a major step forward. It looks so much better than HD Blu-ray.
The player is “curved”, says Samsung, which just means that the design is slightly rounded. On the back we found power, optical out (which has no support for new audio formats), ethernet and of course HDMI 2.0a. There is a fan installed in the player but it was impossible to assess the noise level on the show floors. More specifications here.
The UBD-K8500 will be available in “early 2016”. No pricing details have been announced.
Panasonic has a new, updated UHD BD player
Panasonic showcased the world’s first UHD Blu-ray player in January at CES but they had brought a new player with a new design to IFA. Very few people got to see it because it was hidden in a backroom.
The player was connected to a 65-inch LCD TV and strangely not Panasonic's new 65" OLED TV. We are not sure what source signal Panasonic fed its OLED TVs with but picture quality was much better than the LCD TV, despite the fact that it was connected to the new player.
We were not allowed turn the player around but as you can see the disc tray is not visible from the front. You have to open the front cover to insert discs. Panasonic could not confirm whether this is the final design but we suspect it is.
The last time we talked to Panasonic, they were optimistic that they would have a player on the market before the Holiday season. When we talked with them again at IFA, they had yet to settle on a launch date. The fact that it was hidden in the backroom signals to us that it is not quite ready yet.
The first confirmed UHD Blu-ray titles are: Exodus: Gods and Kings, Kingsman: The Secret Service, Fantastic Four, X-Men: Days of Future Past, Life of Pi, The Maze Runner, and Wild.