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New Ultra HD Blu-rays Offer 4K Without Streaming

If you have a 4K TV, you've probably noticed that there's not a whole lot you can watch at full ultra HD resolution. The options, so far, have been limited to a few shows on select streaming services and costly proprietary boxes with long, unwieldy downloads. If you yearn for the simplicity of popping in a disc and watching a movie, the Blu-ray Disc Association (BDA) has you covered: UHD Blu-rays are on the way.

The BDA unveiled the Ultra HD Blu-ray designation yesterday (May 12), and detailed what kind of specs the new discs will sport. The biggest difference between Ultra HD and traditional Blu-ray is that the former supports resolutions up to 3840 x 2160 (colloquially known as 4K), while the latter caps out at 1920 x 1080 (1080p).

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Another important distinction is that Ultra HD Blu-ray discs can hold between 66 and 100 GB of data, whereas old-school Blu-rays can hold only 25 to 50 GB. This may not sound very exciting, but 4K video takes up a lot more space than its 1080p counterpart. Without improved storage options, you'd have to watch 4K movies on multiple discs.

Ultra HD Blu-rays will also take advantage of a few features unavailable to traditional Blu-ray discs. The new discs will allow for the display of many more colors, which will let Ultra HD Blu-rays deliver high dynamic range (HDR) and high frame rate content, up to 60 fps. (Whether this would be a good thing is a matter of opinion, since video content in 60 fps tends to resemble video games.)

Although Ultra HD Blu-ray players and discs will start shipping this summer, the BDA did not give any indication of what such products might cost, or which companies will be offering the technology. Still, expect big companies like Sony, Samsung and Fox to get in on the action sooner rather than later.

Although videophiles have been predicting the eventual death of physical media like video discs for years, it hasn't come to pass just yet. As long as broadband technology is too slow to stream 4K in many locations, a disc is still a simpler choice.

Marshall Honorof is a senior writer for Tom's Guide. Contact him at mhonorof@tomsguide.com. Follow him @marshallhonorof. Follow us @tomsguide, on Facebook and on Google+.

  • writersblock73
    So long as digital copies such as UV come with end-user agreements, I don't see the demand for discs going away. If you'll read the fine print on a digital copy, you'll see that you don't actually own anything: Your title can be pulled the moment the studio decides it doesn't want to keep making it available. No one's bound to knock on your door demanding a disc. And sharing a disc is as easy as saying, "Here ya go."
    Reply
  • MediaWolf
    I will give up my Physical Media when the morons of the world have embraced digital to the point where I can no longer purchase physical media. Physical Media does not require the use of 100+MB/s broadband & is not compressed to the point of looking like cruddy to a videophile such as myself. I guess I can thank the greedy American ISP's & their failure to give fats broadband everywhere for the survival of physical media.
    Reply
  • MediaWolf
    "their failure to give fast"
    This place needs an edit button.
    Reply
  • repete66219
    "Although videophiles have been predicting the eventual death of physical media..."

    No, videophiles recognize that physical media provides the best picture quality, so have been the ones supporting physical media like Blu-ray. The anti-disc soothsayers are people who don't know doodie about video, like investment advisers..
    Reply
  • repete66219
    UHD has 4 times the data than 1080p--more when you start adding a wider color gamut and higher frame rate--yet they only doubled disc capacity. I know the newer codecs do a better job of compression, but I can't help but think this new format may come up short.
    Reply
  • styx rogan
    4k streamin aint real 4k
    Reply