4K Blu-ray players are almost here

Samsung and Panasonic both tout the next generation of Blu-ray at CES.

Jared Newman

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If you want to watch 4K movies but would rather not stream them, Samsung will gladly sell you a capable Blu-ray player for $400.

During CES, the company started taking pre-orders for its first 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Player, with estimated shipping in March. After the pre-order period, the price will shoot up to $500.

Panasonic also announced a 4K Blu-ray player for the U.S. market during CES, but didn’t reveal pricing or a release date. (The company released a different model last year, but only in Japan.)

panasonic4kbluray Jared Newman

While 4K-compatible Blu-ray players have been available for some time now, they merely take an existing 1080p Blu-ray video and upscale it to the higher resolution. The new players will support native 4K playback, but only when using new Ultra HD Blu-ray discs. There should be about 30 Ultra HD Blu-ray films available in the first half of the year, and 100 discs available by year's end.

samsung4kbluraydiscs Jared Newman

Aside from just higher resolution, all 4K Blu-ray players and discs will support high dynamic range, which helps accentuate colors and highlights, and allows for deeper blacks. But for that, you’ll also need an HDR-enabled television, many of which were also announced at CES.

While streaming is clearly the future for movies and TV, Blu-ray can still offer the best possible picture quality without being subject to bandwidth restraints. But between the price of new players and the need for entirely new discs, it’s really just a proposition for videophiles at the moment.

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