Comcast Debuting 4K Cable Box This Year

What's the point of owning a future-proof 4K TV when you're stuck upconverting regular HD shows and movies? Comcast is answering the call for 4K content with the announcement of an ultra HD-capable set-top box to debut later this year for its Xfinity service. Customers will get 4K/UHD (3840 X 2160-pixel) video the only way it's currently practical — as online streams.

Comcast said in a statement that the company's upcoming Xi4 box will offer "hundreds" of on-demand 4K streams from a variety of sources. K2 Communications and Havoc TV, for example, will provide sports and documentary titles like The Ultimate Wave Tahiti, Antarctica, Rocky Mountain Express and Fighter Pilot. Regular cable-TV offerings in 4K will include Defiance from the Syfy channel, Outlander from Starz and Playing House, Satisfaction and Suits from USA Network.

MORE: Best 4K TVs Reviewed

In 2016, Xfinity customers will get access to the Xi5 cable box, which provides not only UHD resolution but also wide color gamut and high dynamic range (HDR) programs. (The box pictured above is today's X1 DVR.) Virtually none of this content currently exists, but TV makers and studios formed an alliance recently to push forward the technologies.

Xfinity in UHD is not brand-new. Comcast began offering the service in December 2014 as a limited app for 2014 Samsung 4K TVs. But the move to a set-top box and promise of much more content represents a big expansion and possibly the biggest 4K TV offering so far. Among broadcasters, satellite TV networks Dish and DirectTV offer some on-demand downloads. Most other offerings are from streaming services, notably Netflix.

A new Blu-ray disc standard supporting ultra HD — as well as wide color gamut and HDR — is expected to come out this summer. But it's not clear how soon you'll see movies and TV shows on the new discs — or if discs will get leapfrogged by streaming services such as Comcast's new offering.

Follow senior editor Sean Captain @seancaptain. Follow us @tomsguide and on Facebook.

Sean Captain is a freelance technology and science writer, editor and photographer. At Tom's Guide, he has reviewed cameras, including most of Sony's Alpha A6000-series mirrorless cameras, as well as other photography-related content. He has also written for Fast Company, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and Wired. 

  • knowom
    So another words if you can't beat em or force them out of business join them.
  • kawininjazx
    My comcast looks like a turd in 720/1080 and the boxes work like crap. I'm sure this will be just as bad.

    Watch hulu or netflix in 1080 looks amazing.
  • knowom
    What we really need is 4K streaming for sports NHL would look amazing in 4K I imagine. I remember how awful and difficult in particular hockey was to watch as a kid at 480p due to the fast pace nature of the game it was extremely difficult to watch in low resolution.

    It's drastically better now in 1080p and far easier to follow, but I think the next step forward is defiantly 4K it'll look way superior in fact I think in some hockey arena's they've all ready began to display it in 4k.
  • firefoxx04
    Screw you comcast. Ill bite at this as soon as you stop limiting internet speeds in areas with no competition.
  • ATL_Tech_Guy
    ... and they're already behind with a 4K solution, should also support 6K and 8K output (via a future plugin module or such).
  • 10tacle
    When I moved last month, I closed out my Comcast/Xfinity account of nearly 9 years. I was so happy to tell them I had moved into a new home and that I had signed on with ATT U-verse. They had a hard time letting go and switched me to an account manager to try and sell me. My decision was made, and I told them why: annual cost increases of $10 with nothing to show for it (same crappy 720p HD or compressed 1080p for 9 years), frequent signal scrambling rendering what I had DVR'd useless, and bed over fees for an additional DVR box, and frequent internet outages they blamed on upgrading and nearby construction. I am paying less to ATT with more equipment (wireless DVR boxes) and better quality (true 1080p programming). Finally, it took me over a freaking HOUR to turn in my equipment at the local Xfinity service center and get closed out. Good riddance Comcast/Xfinity.
  • richard694000
    I hate Comcast. I pay $225 a month with supposedly 100mb down load speed. Never seen a down load go past 10mbs. slow page loading and surfing. And know it is not my computer. Have over $2000 invested in my set up. There so called hd channels are not high def either. just bring up any free over the air hd channel and what a difference. But I'm stuck no other carrier here. Why are cable companies allowed to monopolize areas?