My Two Cents
Wednesday, 06 January 2016 04:00

CES 2016 – UHD BD has no region coding, plus news from the Samsung & Sony press events

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All right, I’m wrapping up our coverage of Press Day at CES 2016 with a quick report of key UHD-related highlights from the big afternoon press events in the day, which featured tech industry giants Samsung and Sony.  [Read on here…]

First though, I have key bit of UHD Blu-ray news for you: I’ve confirmed with both studio sources and the UHD Alliance that Ultra HD Blu-ray will not employ region coding or region locking. This means that, no matter where you live on the planet, you should be able to import UHD discs from overseas with ease (the only catch being the available language and subtitle options on the title). That’s great news for consumers and it represents a big shift from current DVD and Blu-ray. More on that in the weeks ahead. Meanwhile, let’s get back to those press events…

Samsung press conference

  • Samsung is launching its new “S” Series of 4K UHD displays with HDR in sizes ranging from 49” to 88”, each featuring 10-bit Quantum Dot technology capable of displaying up to 1 billion colors. There are 26 models in the series, all of which will be Ultra HD Premium certified.
  • All of Samsung’s UHD displays will come with a free SmartThings Extend USB Adapter that allows you to control some 200 SmartThings-compatible devices around the home from your TV’s menu screen.
  • Samsung is also working to improve its SmartHub interface, so switching inputs or between TV viewing, streaming content, and apps is a much more seamless process. In addition, when you plug in a game console, set-top box or media player, the display will recognize the device and configure it automatically so that you can operate it via the TV’s remote control.
  • Samsung also unveiled its new 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray player – the UBD-K8500 – which will be available in March (pre-orders are on now on their website). Here’s what it looks like…

Samsung UBD-K8500 Ultra HD Blu-ray player

Samsung at CES

Samsung at CES

Sony press conference

Sony’s press event on Tuesday evening was fascinating… and a bit surprising in that they did not unveil a 4K UHD Blu-ray player. Sony reps told me they’re definitely working on players, but they’re not ready to reveal the details yet.

Meanwhile, here’s some other highlights from their event…

  • Sony is launching a new 4K Handicam with an advanced image sensor and 5.1 audio recording capability.
  • The company is making a major push in lossless audio by rolling out more new digital players and also new wireless in-ear and over-ear headphones designed for use with lossless audio sources. They’re branded h.ear in and h.ear on.

Sony lossless audio headphones

  • Sony is debuting a new turntable for use with vinyl records – the PS-HX500 – that will connect directly to your computer to allow you to rip albums into lossless digital files. It will also connect with your stereo system per usual for normal listening use.

Sony PS-HX500 turntable

  • Sony is launching a new Life Space UX series of devices designed to let you watch HD and 4K content, and listen to high quality audio, in “unusual” spaces. For example, they’re introducing new Ultra-Short Throw Projectors that come in a form factor comparable to a bookshelf speaker. These will project an up to 80” diagonal 4K or HD video image on the wall of your room. They’re also introducing LED Bulb Speakers that screw into normal room lamps and light fixtures. Powered by the fixture, they deliver the light you’d expect but also high quality audio via Bluetooth. They even have a Glass Sound Speaker that looks like a lamp, but delivers sound through vibrations of the glass.
  • On the display front, Sony is introducing a new series of 4K UHD TVs featuring HDR. The flagship display is the X93D, which uses a new Sony feature called Backlight Master Drive that offers extraordinary HDR with a brightness of up to 4000 nits. You read that right, it’s not an error: 4000 nits. Here’s a couple images…

Sony's X93D flagship 4K UHD display

Sony's Backlight Master Drive

  • Sony is also introducing its own app for these displays called ULTRA, which allows you to buy, rent, and stream 4K titles with HDR from the Sony library. It’s also compatible with your existing UltraViolet title library.

Sony's ULTRA 4K movie app


Okay, a couple of quick pieces of non-CES site business for today…

We posted a pair of disc reviews on Monday that, in my travels to CES, I neglected to mention here in my daily column. Tim took a look at Shout! Factory’s Mystery Science Theater 3000: Volume XXXIV on DVD, and Jim offered his thoughts on Ken Loach’s Fatherland on Blu-ray from Twilight Time. Do check them out.

Criterion posted a great New Year’s teaser image with clues as to upcoming titles in the works for release in 2016. You can see the image itself here. Among the titles possibly indicated are: Dr. Strangelove, The Squid and the Whale, Lone Wolf and Cub, The New World, Fantastic Planet, Easy Rider, Bicycle Thieves, A Taste of Honey, The Naked Island, and many more.

We also want to take a moment to acknowledge the passing of the acclaimed cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond on 1/1. Zsigmond is known for his work on such films as Close Encounters, The Deer Hunter, McCabe & Mrs. Miller, Deliverance, Heaven’s Gate, Blow Out, The Rose, and many others. He was 85. You can read more here at The New York Times.

All right, posts to the site here may be light tomorrow depending on a variety of factors. I’ll be walking the show floor during the day to get a better look at many of the devices I’ve mentioned in the last couple days, plus I have meetings with the DEG and the UHD Alliance in the afternoon. The evening brings the DEG’s yearly press event at CES. After that, I was hoping to hit the road and head back home to SoCal, though that plan may get delayed due to bad weather. If it does, I’ll post an update here from my hotel room late Wednesday night or early Thursday morning, as I wait out the rain and snow. If it doesn’t, my final CES wrap-up post likely won’t happen until Thursday afternoon or evening, after a harrowing drive and some badly needed sleep. Either way, though, I’ll be taking pictures on the show floor and will share them as I’m able to on The Bits’ Facebook page here. So be sure to head over there, give us a like, and check out the images as they come in.

That’s all for now. Stay tuned!

Bill Hunt


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