Ultra HD Blu-ray Player

I recently got a new Ultra HD TV. Even though I don’t have any sources in UHD (or 4K, but 4K is actually a little wider than UHD; a UHD picture has 4 times as many pixels as HD), I am enjoying having a modern TV and the picture is really great. Of course there is always the desire to supply that UHD content that the TV is capable of. I can stream UHD content from YouTube, and Netflix offers some UHD content (though I’m not a member right now). Even the HD Blu-rays I have look great on the TV and the extra pixels of UHD are barely visible and maybe not visible. One problem with my current Blu-ray player is often the sound doesn’t sync correctly with the video. The only way to fix it seems to be to turn the Blu-ray player off and then on again and hope that it gets close enough this time (this is fairly time consuming to shut down the player, boot it up again, and then start the disk to get to the main menu). Also, Blu-ray players now can all connect to the internet though mine does not. That isn’t a big deal because my TV can connect to the internet too, but some Blu-ray disks have features that require internet access. So I’ve been thinking about getting a new Blu-ray player and for about $180 I could get a UHD Blu-ray player. UHD is still pretty new and they have tweaked it since it came out with HDR 10 which gives better backlight depth. Then Frys had a sale . . .

I could get a pretty decent Samsung UHD Blu-ray player (model UBD-K8500) that would also play 3D Blu-ray disks (3D TV required, which I don’t have, and very few are being made) and of course works with Blu-ray disks and DVDs, for only $167 on sale, which seems pretty reasonable (these were going for over $300 when they came out), though maybe not compared to $50 for a regular Blu-ray player. The biggest problem is UHD disks are very expensive. While most movies are available on Blu-ray, not as many are on UHD. The movie Hidden Figures just came out on disk and it is $15 for DVD, $20 for Blu-ray, and $25 for UHD (La La Land also just came out at the same price points except UHD is $28). And while older Blu-rays can be had for as little as $4 (or less, while I was at Frys I bought the 2011 movie Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, which gets very good reviews, on Blu-ray for $2 and it includes a DVD and Digital HD version!), about the lowest price for a UHD disk is $15. While a lot of new movies are being released in UHD, not many older titles are available. Most movies released in the last 5 years or so were released to theaters digitally, usually at 4K resolution, so it shouldn’t be a problem converting them to UHD. Older movies recorded and released on film would have to be re-scanned from film and restored. Disney hasn’t adopted UHD yet, having just updated most of its old titles to Blu-ray. Also, I don’t think enough people have bought UHD players to encourage places like Redbox to stock the disks, even though they are able to charge twice as much for Blu-ray as DVD at their kiosks. 3D Blu-rays will still play on a regular Blu-ray player (in 2D) and Disney sells 3D disks. So maybe it wasn’t that great to buy a UHD player, but I felt like I kind of needed a new Blu-ray player because of the annoying problems with the old one and I didn’t want to spend money on a Blu-ray player when I might wind up getting a UHD player in a couple of years. Maybe this Christmas some good UHD titles will be available for less than $10. I found out after writing this that both Hidden Figures and La La Land UHD disks were made from 2K digital versions of the movie.

I got the player home and it was pretty easy to connect it, but not at all easy to set up. I was able to have it connect to my wifi network, but it couldn’t connect to Samsung’s Smart Hub or register the player. It wasn’t clear why this was. I put in my Blu-ray of Up which has some calibration tools for the picture and audio, but the player was stuck on a “processing” icon of Dug, the dog from the movie (like a spinning beachball or turning hourglass on a computer). I started looking up help on my computer and even registered a Samsung account in case I needed that, but was getting nowhere for a while. I had the old Blu-ray player under my audio receiver (which gets pretty hot, so I didn’t want the Blu-ray player on top of it) and I think maybe that was hurting the wifi signal. Fortunately the new player is so low profile that it is able to fit under my TV and it seems to get a clearer signal now, solving most of the problems. The Up disk said I should enable storage of BD Live content, so I attached a USB flash drive which should solve that (the first drive I attached did not seem to be recognized).

Once I got all of that working I was finally able to use the Up disk to test the audio with poor results. While my old Blu-ray player and receiver were accurately play 7.1 surround sound when it was available, the Blu-ray player would not, often with the surround sounds coming from the front speakers rather than behind or to the sides. The problem is there are new audio formats that the new player can probably deal with, but not with an old system. So I probably need a new receiver.

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