Australian Review: Samsung 4K Ultra HD Blu-Ray Player (UBD-K8500) - First in

Samsung 4K Ultra HD Blu-Ray Player (UBD-K8500)
Australian Review: Samsung 4K Ultra HD Blu-Ray Player (UBD-K8500) - First in

Being an early adopter is expensive. If you want the latest and greatest as soon it's available, you typically have to pay a pretty penny. 4K UHD Blu-Ray dics and 4K UHD Blu-Ray players are no exception. Movies can set you back as much as AUD$50 a pop, and Samsung's player (which was also the first 4K Blu-Ray player to be made available in Australia) - the K8500 - currently retails for AUD$599.

Fortunately, 4K Blu-Ray is kind of a big deal. The new disc-based standard is the first widely available option for watching 4K content at home without the need for a stupidly fast (by Australian standards) internet connection. In addition to supporting higher resolution video, 4K Blu-Ray also facilitates 10-bit colour and high dynamic range (HDR) content (which in my opinion, is the real reason you'd buy a 4K Blu-Ray Player).

The K8500 looks great. Well, to be specific, content played through it looks great. 4K isn't a feature that everyone is going to care about (I know far too many people still happy watching standard definition video on their massive TV), but if you've got a sizable display, it's noticeably better than 1080p. I flicked back and forth between the 1080p and 4K versions of Deadpool while testing the player, and 4K version just looked so much crisper. From experience, you do however really want a reasonably big TV - at least 55-inches - to make the most out of 4K content, and even then, you want to be sitting reasonably close. At 55-inches, you probably don't want your couch too much more than two metres away.

4K content is great if you have a 4K TV (and it's close enough to your face), but you'll want a HDR capable TV to justify plonking to down dollars for the K8500. A HDR display has a higher contrast ratio than a typical 4K TV display; essentially, the difference between how bright it can go and how dark it can go. HDR promises deeper blacks, and brighter whites. This also results in a wider colour space, which means images displayed by the TVs aren't just capable of going brighter, they're also more vivid. In short, a HDR TV is all about providing a more detailed, true to life image. For a more in depth explanation of HDR and the various competing standards, have a read of my primer "WTF is HDR".

I tested out the K8500 with Samsung's 65-inch KS9500 SUHD 4K HDR TV, and if I were to hazard a guess, more people would be able to tell the difference between HDR content and non-HDR content then 4K and high definition. I flicked back and forth between 4K HDR versions of a couple of movies and non-HDR high definition copies throughout my tests, and in some cases, it was like day and night.

HDR performance will vary from movie to movie. When it came to Mad Max: Fury Road, the difference between the HDR version and the standard Blu-Ray was incredible. The HDR version offered far more graduation in colours, with more life-like contrast a balance. In comparison, the Blu-Ray version felt flat and lacked detail.

In the case of Batman V Superman, the difference wasn't quite as pronounced. The HDR version noticeably offered a more vivid, more detailed image, but not to the same degree as Fury Road.

All in all, the K8500 is a solid buy if you’re a stickler for video quality and you have a fancy enough TV to justify it. It's worth noting that it also runs Netflix (just in case you need another device that runs Netflix), that it will also play your regular Blu-Rays and DVDs, that there's no HDMI cable in the box, and that the included remote is a little bit clunky. Otherwise, the only real issue is price. AUD$599 is a fairly hefty asking price, especially when you can get an Xbox One S (that also works as a 4K Blu-Ray player) for as little as AUD$399. That being said, Samsung's player does have support next-generation audio formats like Dolby Atmos, which the Xbox One S doesn't.

Unless you really want to live the brand, it's hard to recommend Samsung's player over the Xbox One S from a value perspective. That being said, the K8500 is much easier to vouch for if you can get it on sale. For example, JB Hi-Fi will currently sell you the player for about half price if you pick it up when buying a new Samsung 4K TV (although the deal expires at the end of the week). Hopefully we'll see a few more good deals as competition in the space heats up.

It's very hard to fault Samsung's 4K Blu-Ray player on quality or ease of use, the only real issue is price.  

Cybershack Score - rating backgroundrating 3.5

Great picture qualityExpensive
HDR makes a genuine differenceClunky remote
Easy to useNo HDMI cable in box

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