4k TVs have been around for some time now and in the last year, Blu-ray has released several titles in 4k resolution. There are more and more 4k cable channels popping up and recently we have seen the introduction of 4k streaming media, but up until now 4k Blu-ray Players have been non-existent. Sure, there are many manufacturers boasting players with “4k” but essentially they’re only upscaling the image; not truly utilizing 4k Ultra-HD technology.
However, Samsung finally set the standard last month by releasing the first true 4k UHD Blu-ray Player – The Samsung UBD-K8500. Using the real 4k Ultra-HD resolution of 3840 x 2160 pixels, the UBD-K8500 is the only UHD Blu-ray Player in the world – at the moment.
Naturally, we were very excited about this – finally a real 4k Player to pair with our 4k TVs. The moment we first got our hands on the UBD-K8500 was a special moment, indeed. After having some time to play around with it (hours upon hours spent in awe at the phenomenal picture quality) we knew it was time to write a review…. Here’s what we have to say.
Region-Free Samsung UBD-K8500 4k UHD Blu-ray Player
When we tore the box open, we were rather pleased with the sleek and contoured design of the UBD-K8500. However, it wasn’t until the next day that somebody mentioned that the curved aspects of the player perfectly match the design of the new Samsung Curved-Screen TV models. And it does.
The player sizes up at roughly 16 inches in width by just 9 inches of depth and is 1.75 inches thick. It’s compact, but compared to other Blu-ray models, we find it to be a perfect size. There’s a nice weight to it, giving it a strider feel than most models at a hefty 4.2 pounds. Aesthetically speaking, we really like it. It sports a nice brushed finish and features only the basic buttons on the face, along with a conveniently located frontal USB port which makes it a breeze to share media from a USB storage device or view images from a digital camera. The new Ultra HD Blu-ray logo is featured on the face of the disc tray, adding a nice touch.
The model we tested was Region-Free, so aside from worldwide voltage (yes, the region-free model will work with any voltage from 110 to 240 volts), it also plays discs from anywhere in the world. As of right now, 4k Blu-ray Players have no restrictions on regions, BUT, that’s only for 4k UHD discs. For standard Blu-ray discs and DVDs, the 4k Players are still region-locked which means you won’t be able to play foreign discs unless you purchase the Region-Free UBD-K8500. (The folks over at 220 Electronics did a great write-up that settles the rumors and explains why 4k Blu-ray Players are not truly region free – for anyone interested in learning more) Regardless, we weren’t traveling or playing foreign discs so there was no need for us to write much about the region-free capabilities. Instead, we decided to focus on the awesome features that come packed into the new 4k machine.
Audio and Video
Equipped to give you the most from your surround sound and in an effort to match the outstanding graphical clarity of the new 4k UHD technology, the UBD-K8500 is setup to work with Dolby Digital Sound, to the tune of 7.1 channels. It also supports Dolby True HD and DTS-HD audio, so you’ll have plenty of options to attain the best audio quality possible for your individual system.
For video, you’re getting the ultra-clear quality of real 4k resolution, but the UBD-k8500 will also upscale non-4k discs to near 4k quality if you wish. The player features 3D playback, so if you have a 3D TV you’ll be able to enjoy the enchanting, life-like depth of 3D in the comfort of your own home.
We are pleased to say that the Samsung will handle any popular file format you throw at it, including WMV, AVCHD 1.0, JPEG, MKV, MPO, MPEG-2, MPEG-4 and more. If you’re playing your own media, this is a priceless feature.
Streaming & Sharing
One of the most important features for many of us is the ability to share and stream content. With built in Wi-Fi, the UBD-K8500 has no problem at all in this area. The player is DLNA compatible, which means you can wirelessly share media on your home network. If you have movies, videos, photos or music on your smartphone, tablet or laptop, you can easily share them to play on your surround sound system or view on your TV. When you pair your device with the player, all of your chosen files will be visible on the player’s user interface, ready for you to select and play. You can also utilize the screen-mirroring app to share your smartphone screen directly on the TV – perfect for the simple sharing of short videos and pictures.
For those of you who enjoy streaming media and apps, there’s definitely no shortage here. From your favorites like Netflix, Hulu, and Pandora to an array of social media apps, news & informational apps and more, there’s a lifetimes worth of media and entertainment to keep you occupied.
Something else worth mentioning is that this player has a CD ripping feature. If you insert a USB memory stick, you can play a music CD and rip the files to the USB in MP3 format – a feature we found to be really cool as you can basically use the player to help create your own MP3 music library. This alone is a tremendous feature and we give a hearty applause to Samsung for incorporating it into the unit.
As we already mentioned, the Region Free UBD-K8500 is Wi-Fi equipped. It offers a solid and fast connection for everything we tested. However, some of you will prefer a wireless connection for faster speeds and more security, and it’s 100% possible thanks to the Ethernet port.
To get the most from your player and other home theater components, there are dual HDMI outputs – a main output and a sub output for those of you who want to experience killer audio quality by using a separate audio line directed to your surround sound system. There’s also an optical digital audio output if that’s your preference or need.
We’ve been pleased with every aspect of this unit, from its looks to its functionality. Not only does it offer superb video quality and clarity in 4k, it has plenty of useful features for sharing and streaming media. The user interface is neatly designed and very responsive, plus there’s an immense amount of bells and whistles when it comes to picture settings, adjustments and overall control.
As the first 4k Ultra HD Blu-ray Player to hit the market, we give a big thumbs up to the Region-Free UBD-K8500 4k Blu-ray Player. If you have a 4k TV and are interested in the highest quality cinema experience available, this is the model you need to pick up.
IMPORTANT: Please note that Blu-ray Players are NOT produced as Region Free from the manufacturer, and are NOT available in major retail stores. Region Free units require professional hardware & software modification and are only sold by specialty retailers. Be sure to check the player’s specifications before making a purchase to ensure the player is being advertised and sold as a unit with region free capability.