My Two Cents

CES 2016 – Pictures & details on the UHD Blu-ray experience from the show floor

January 7, 2016 - 6:04 pm   |   by
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All right, I’m finally back from CES 2016, after three long and exhausting days of running around the show and a harrowing late-night drive back to Southern California amid rain and snow. And I’ve gotten a good long rest to recover from all of the above.

So let’s talk about what I saw related to UHD BD on the show floor Wednesday...  [Read on here…]

The LG Booth

Strangely, LG did not announce, nor was it showing, Ultra HD Blu-ray players at CES 2016. They were, however, showcasing all of the 4K streaming content available for viewing on their new 4K displays via Amazon, Netflix, various studios, and NASA UHD. Most of these included some form of High Dynamic Range, and YouTube (which has already begun offering 4K and even 8K streaming video online) says it plans to add HDR soon as well. Samsung was also demonstrating “the worlds 1st 4K HDR ATSC 3.0 live broadcast” via a transmitter atop Black Mountain overlooking the Las Vegas Valley. The even had an 8K Super UHD display on hand, plus a 4K UHD immersion room. Here’s a look at a few shots from the booth...

NASA 4K UHD on display in the LG booth

LG 8K display

4K UHD immersive display room in the LG booth

The Panasonic Booth

Panasonic did announce its first UHD Blu-ray player, DMP-UB900, at CES this week and they had it on display on the show floor. The player will be THX certified. It features: Dual HDMI outputs with 4:4:4 compatible output, 7.1 channel analog audio out, high-res audio playback compatibility (including DSD 2.8MHz & 5.6MHz, ALAC, FLAC & WAV), 5 x 192kHz/32-bit DAC, DLNA support, and built-in WiFi (802.11n/ac). It will also stream 4K UHD content from Netflix and other services in addition to its UHD BD playback capabilities. It will not include Blu-ray 3D support, but will play other existing Blu-ray, DVD, and CD titles. No official SRP and street date was announced at the show. But while Panasonic reps who could talk knowledgably about the player were in very short supply in the booth on the five different occasions I visited yesterday in search of information, the fifth time was the charm: I learned that the player is officially due to street in Europe in April and will likely arrive here in the States then as well. I also learned that the price point should be (and I caution that this is still to be made official) around $499. Here’s what it looks like...

Panasonic's DMP-UB900 UHD Blu-ray player

Panasonic's DMP-UB900 UHD Blu-ray player

Panasonic's DMP-UB900 UHD Blu-ray player

The Panasonic booth at CES 2016

The Samsung Booth

Samsung was much more forthcoming about their newly announced UHD Blu-ray player, the UBD-K8500. It’s set for release in March, with a pre-order price of just $399 (which is shockingly low for a new format device like this, especially compared to early DVD and Blu-ray player pricing, though the regular retail price will increase to $499 after the official street date). However, I learned from senior Samsung reps that you’ll be able to get it as soon as 2/22, which will certainly make this the first UHD Blu-ray player available in the States. (UHD Alliance reps told me that the first UHD software, likely from Fox and WHV, will street in sync with this unit.) This player features UHD upscaling, SmartTV 4K streaming, 7.1 channel analog audio out, built-in WiFi, and it will play CD, DVD, Blu-ray, Blu-ray 3D titles, as well as a host of digital video file formats. It will also apparently rip CDs to a USB drive in WAV lossless and MP3 (320 kbps and 192 kbps). Pre-orders are now open here on Amazon.com (click on the image links below) and remember: If you do pre-order through our links, you’re helping to support The Bits which we greatly appreciate). Here’s what it looks like...

Samsung's UDB-K8500 Ultra HD Blu-ray player

Samsung's UDB-K8500 Ultra HD Blu-ray player

Samsung's UDB-K8500 Ultra HD Blu-ray player

Samsung's UDB-K8500 Ultra HD Blu-ray player

For those of you who might be interested, you can actually download the PDF users manual for the UBD-K8500 right now via this link on the Samsung website.

By the way, Samsung also had a display of mock-up Fox UHD BD title packaging in their booth. Here’s a look at a few of those…

Mock-up UHD BD packaging for Fox's The Martian & Life of Pi

The Sony Booth

Sony also did not announce, nor was it showing, any UHD Blu-ray players in its booth, although Sony reps assured me they were working on models to announce and release later in 2016. Instead, Sony was touting the fact that some 35.9 million PlayStation 4 game systems have now sold worldwide to date. There’s been some speculation that the PS4 could be firmware updated to allow Ultra HD Blu-ray compatibility, though Sony reps told us this was not possible, as the unit’s built-in BD drive can’t read the 3-layer media called for in the UHD BD spec. In addition, the unit’s HDMI out is only 1.4 (UHD prefers 2.0a for broader HDR support, though you can still enjoy 4K UHD content with just 1.4). However, the company is considering a future “enhanced” PS4 model that would include an Ultra HD Blu-ray ready drive.

Meanwhile, Sony was busy showing off its new line-up of UHD displays, all of which were breathtaking. But frankly, the most interesting products on display in Sony’s booth were the new Life Space UX devices I mentioned in yesterday’s post, which included 1080p and 4K Ultra Short Throw Projectors, the Symphonic Light glass lamp speaker, and LED Speaker bulbs, all of which allow you to experience 4K and lossless surround sound with devices that are so integrated into your living space that they’re almost invisible. Retail pricing is yet to be announced and most of these products are likely to be premium priced, but Sony says that it’s committed to the concept and will pursue mass market pricing with future models. I can tell you, the demonstrations were impressive – truly “the future is here” type stuff. Here’s a few pictures...

Sony Ultra Short Throw 4K projector

Sony Ultra Short Throw HD projector

Sony Ultra Short Throw HD projector

Sony's Symphonic Light glass lamp speaker

That’s it from the show floor in terms of UHD Blu-ray. There were many, many 4K TVs on display on the convention floor, along with a plethora of drones, Oculus Rift & VR-related devices, self-driving cars, and the like, but you can read plenty about those elsewhere online this week. What was conspicuously missing this year were 3D displays – it seems as if the CE industry has really put home 3D on hold until autostereoscopic displays are ready for primetime (and my investigations at the show suggest that progress on that front has been steady but slow – still on the order of 5-to-10 years away from being consumer ready, as it requires tremendous processing power and probably 8K display resolution). It should also be noted that there really is no true 4K 3D content yet – everything you see theatrically in 3D is 2K, which is not really enough of an improvement over existing BD3D to make it worth doing at this time.

I’ll be back tomorrow to offer some deeper insights about the UHD Blu-ray format that I learned in private meetings (yesterday afternoon) with the Blu-ray Disc Association (BDA) and the UHD Alliance (UHDA). I’ll also give you some 2015 “year in review” data on the home entertainment industry from the Digital Entertainment Group (DEG). And I’ll wrap up our CES 2016 coverage here at The Bits with some personal thoughts and observations on UHD in general, HDR, and Ultra HD Blu-ray, as well as a bit more on the future of home 3D. So be sure to check back tomorrow for that. Stay tuned...

Bill Hunt

 

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