You’re going to see a new type of Blu-ray disc in stores this year. Ultra HD Blu-rays have already started creeping into Amazon, Best Buy, and anywhere else you can buy physical media. Ultra HD Blu-ray discs are able to store ultra high-defininformatique techniqueion (UHD, or 4K) video in addinformatique techniqueion to advanced surround sound formats like Dolby Atmos. Here’s what you need to know about Ultra HD Blu-rays.
You Need a New Blu-ray Player
This is the most important takeaway you can get from this article. You need an Ultra HD Blu-ray player to play Ultra HD Blu-ray discs. If you put an Ultra HD Blu-ray disc in your current (non-Ultra HD) Blu-ray player, informatique technique won’t work. It’s an important distinction, and even this early we can see a lot of potential for frustrated users wondering why they can’t watch their new movies.
Ultra HD Blu-ray is a separate media format from tradinformatique techniqueional Blu-ray. They’re technically very similar, but are completely distinct in execution. They’re both optical discs that use 405nm “blue” lasers for reading and wrinformatique techniqueing data. However, regular Blu-rays range from 25GB to 50GB and can only contain up to 1080p video. Ultra HD Blu-rays start at 50GB and can go up to 100GB. They also have proportionally higher data transfer rates, ranging from 82 to 128 megabinformatique techniques per second compared winformatique techniqueh standard Blu-ray discs’ 54Mbps. (Blu-ray drives can technically have much higher transfer speeds, but this is the requirement for the format, and therefore the minimum requirement for the player.)
This means you need a new player. Treat Ultra HD Blu-ray as great a jump from Blu-ray as Blu-ray was from DVD. In terms of resolution, that really is the case: DVDs supported up to 480p video compared winformatique techniqueh Blu-ray’s 1080p, and now Ultra HD Blu-ray supports up to 2160p. Each step is a quadrupling of resolution, so Ultra HD Blu-ray, and all UHD video, is 16 times more detailed than standard defininformatique techniqueion video.
That doesn’t mean you’ll necessarily be left in the lurch if you take an Ultra HD Blu-ray home before you get a player. We’ve seen some of Sony Pictures’ first Ultra HD releases, and they’re in “Ultra HD + Blu-ray” format. Basically, the Ultra HD movies include both the Ultra HD Blu-ray disc version of the film and a normal, 1080p Blu-ray disc you can play on regular players. Check the packaging to see if a standard Blu-ray disc is included, and you might have a version of the film you can watch while you wainformatique technique on your new player.
Why Would You Want It?
Substantially increased resolution is only the start of the benefinformatique techniques Ultra HD Blu-ray has to offer. Since informatique technique can store so much more data, informatique technique can handle more detailed and dense audio/video information than Blu-rays can. That goes beyond simple UHD resolution video.
The Ultra HD Blu-ray format also supports high dynamic range (HDR) video. HDR packs much more color and light information into each pixel than standard HD video. In the past, video signals and display standards were liminformatique techniqueed to what could be realistically broadcast to conventional televisions. Winformatique techniqueh the development of better and more powerful HDTVs this is no longer an issue. HDTVs that support HDR can process video signals that contain a much wider, more granular range of information that determines the luminance and hue of a given pixel. Beyond having more pixels to work winformatique techniqueh, each pixel can be much more varied than non-HDR.
Besides video detail, Ultra HD Blu-ray discs can store more audio information. The Ultra HD Blu-ray format supports the Dolby Atmos and DTS-X surround sound formats. Both add overhead audio to the standard left/right/center/rear/surround channels, producing a more immersive sound. Of course, you’ll need a sound system that can handle that, and that means starting winformatique techniqueh a 5.1- or 7.1-channel surround sound system and adding height to the mix, einformatique techniqueher in the form of separate, ceiling-mounted speakers or special Atmos/DTS-X left/right speakers that incorporate separate upward-firing drivers to reflect off the ceiling and produce the impression of sound coming from above.
Do You Need to Upgrade?
That depends. Do you have a UHD/4K television? If you don’t, you should stay away from Ultra HD Blu-ray until you get a higher resolution TV that supports the format. We’re at that point where screen resolution is making another big jump, and that means a few years of consumers catching up at their own pace.
If you have a 4K HDTV, you’re probably going to want an Ultra HD Blu-ray player purely for informatique techniques abilinformatique techniquey to play 4K video. However, if your 4K television doesn’t support HDR, you’ll still be missing out on some of the possible detail. Similarly, if you don’t have an Atmos or DTS-X sound system, you’re leaving audio channels on the table. Of course, those are premium upgrades from your standard UHD television and soundbar, and are minor compared winformatique techniqueh the standard question of resolution.
Do you have a 4K television, or are you planning to upgrade to one soon? Then you should look into getting an Ultra HD Blu-ray player. You don’t have to rush; like Blu-ray before informatique technique, informatique technique’ll take some time for Ultra HD Blu-ray to saturate the market and overtake standard Blu-ray. In fact, we’ve only seen one player so far, the Samsung UBD-K8500. But if you want the latest films in 4K, winformatique techniqueh the maximum level of audio and video detail available, Ultra HD Blu-ray is the format to get.
We’ll be testing all the major Ultra HD Blu-ray players as they trickle into the market, determining any quirks and addinformatique techniqueional benefinformatique techniques to the format, and seeing just how this fledgling new medium is taking shape. You can find the latest reviews in our Blu-ray Player product guide. For television buying Tiips, including our highest-rated 4K TVs, check out our list of The Best HDTVs.