Panasonic North America Communications VP Jim Reilly shows off the UB820 Ultra HD Blu-ray player at CES 2018.

The number of new Ultra HD Blu-ray players was sparse at CES 2018, but not altogether absent as Panasonic, Sony and Philips all showed new models slated for introduction in the United States later this year.

Both Sony and Panasonic showed models supporting Dolby Vision high dynamic range (HDR). Panasonic’s model also adds the newer HDR10+ HDR profile through both streaming apps and forthcoming Ultra HD Blu-ray discs that will be published soon adding the enhanced platform.

Funai, meanwhile, showed a value-oriented Ultra HD Blu-ray player that will add 4K streaming apps as well as support for baseline HDR10 HDR.

Read more about the new Ultra HD Blu-ray players at CES 2018 after the jump:

Panasonic presented at CES 2018 four new 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray players planned for selective distribution to regions around the world. Only one model (the high-end UBD820) is slated for the U.S. market.

The UBD820 is scheduled to hit retail shelves later in the year at a price to be announced. It is expected to be the first UHD Blu-ray player supporting both the Dolby Vision and HDR10+ premium HDR profiles, in addition to the mandatory HDR10 profile, with static HDR metadata.

Panasonic said it is adding Dolby Vision HDR support to the player due to consumer demand, even though the company doesn’t yet have any Dolby Vision supporting televisions and is a founding member of the HDR10+ alliance along with Samsung and 20th Century Fox.

HDR10+ is a dynamic metadata HDR profile that was developed to be both open and royalty free, unlike the proprietary Dolby Vision system, which also has dynamic metadata but requires royalties and some level of Dolby involvement in the product implementation. HDR10+ provides many of the benefits of Dolby Vision, including color and brightness grading on a scene-by-scene or even frame-by-frame basis, and requires only basic certification from the HDR10+ alliance.

HDR10+ was recently added to the Ultra HD Blu-ray specifications as a premium (and optional) HDR format. Fox and Warner Bros. have said they plan to make HDR10+ content available soon. It will also be delivered by streaming service Amazon, which is adding HDR10+ to its entire library of Prime movies and series.

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Among other new features in the UBD820 for 2018 is an HDR Optimizer that peforms tone mapping on the player to adjust the brightness values before outputting video to the TV. This will be useful to owners of some less-expensive 4K/HDR TVs that have limited brightness and HDR presentation capabilities.

Panasonic’s Ultra HD Blu-ray players also include the company’s Hollywood Cinema Experience (HCX) processor that was designed to present Ultra HD Blu-ray and internet-streamed 4K video images with precise colors and optimal brightness as content.

The UB820 will have an original 4K Direct Chroma up-scaling feature that effectivley up-converts Full HD to 4K resolution for displaying rich colors.

Once updated with a forthcoming firmware update, the player will add voice control capability for both Amazon Alexa and the Google Assistant. This will allow connection to a Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa device equipped with far-field array microphones to accept spoken commands to execute player functions including fast forwarding and pause, without the need to find the remote.

The UB820 supports compressed and high-resolution audio reproduction from a wide range of music files, including WAV, FLAC, MP3, AAC, WMA, DSD (11.2MHz/5.6 MHz/2.8 MHz) ALAC and AIFF. Users will only need to connect the player to a home audio system to enjoy the studio master sound quality. The player also produces digital tube sound with distinctive, warm sound characteristics of tube amplifiers. Six different kinds of sounds from vacuum tubes can be reproduced in 96-kHz/192-kHz up-sampling for very high quality music enjoyment.

Sony’s new UBP-X700 Ultra HD Blu-ray player

Sony introduced its next-generation UBP-X700 Ultra HD Blu-ray player that will support Dolby Vision high dynamic range (HDR) through a firmware update coming this summer as well as baseline HDR10 HDR metadata.

Both HDR formats boost brightness and color in supporting Ultra HD Blu-ray content, but Dolby Vision goes a step further by supporting HDR with dynamic metadata that carries information from color grading performed on a scene-by-scene or shot-by-shot basis, rather than one set level throughout a movie.

This will be Sony’s first Ultra HD Blu-ray player with Dolby Vision support. The company released select 4K Ultra HD televisions in 2017 and 2018 that support Dolby Vision (after an upcoming firmware update) to match up in brand with the new player.

The UBP-X700 also offers access to a variety of 4K streaming services, including Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and YouTube.

Sony said the player’s built-in HDR-SDR conversion intelligently scales HDR’s ultra-wide brightness range into an SDR image, maintaining picture quality on conventional SDR TVs.

 The player is designed to support a broad range of video and music formats, including MP4, DSD, FLAC, and other Hi-Res Audio formats. It is designed for easy setup with Advanced Digital Cinema Auto Calibration (D.C.A.C).

The Ultra HD Blu-ray player will support multiple disc formats, including legacy SACD discs, but this version omits support for the DVD-Audio disc format. Supported disc formats include: BD-RE, BD-RE Dual Layer, BD-ROM, CD (CD-DA), CD-R/-RW, DVD+R, DVD+R Double Layer, DVD+RW, DVD-R, DVD-R Dual Layer, DVD-RW, DVD-Video, SA-CD (SA-CD / CD) Playback, Stereoscopic 3D (profile 5), Ultra HD Blu-ray.

Supported video formats include: AVCHD Disc Format, HEVC, Motion JPEG (.mov, .avi), MPEG-1 Video/PS (.mpg, .MPEG, .mkv).VOB, .VRO, MPEG-2 Video/PS, TS (.mpg, .MPEG, .m2ts, .mts, .mkv).VOB, .VRO, MPEG-4/AVC (.mov, 3gp, .3g2, .3gpp, .3gpp2, .flv), MPEG-4 AVC (.mkv, .mp4, .m4v, .m2ts, .mts), VC1 (.m2ts, .mts, .mkv), VP6, VP8, VP9, WMV9 (.wmv, .asf, .mkv), and Xvid (.avi, .mkv).

I/O connections include: 1 set of coaxial audio outputs, Ethernet , 2 HDMI Outputs, and one front USB input.

The UBP-X700 Ultra HD Blu-ray player features a thinner and more compact body design, and will match the company’s new STR-DH790 AV receiver that was also introduced at the show. The STR-DH790 was similarly designed for easy connectivity using Advanced D.C.A.C. automatic speaker setup.

The Philips BDP7303 Ultra HD Blu-ray Player (on top) will ship later this year and will include 4K streaming apps from Netflix, Vudu and YouTube.

Philips, from P&F USA, a business unit of Funai, showed a new Philips-branded 4K UHD Blu-ray player that it plans to add to its video disc player lineup this summer. Pricing will be announced later.

The new connected Philips BDP7303 offers baseline HDR10 high dynamic range (HDR) support, 4K video up-scaling for non-4K sources, plus Netflix, YouTube and Vudu streaming in HD and 4K UHD with built-in HEVC and VP9 decoders, the company said.

The BDP7303 will be added to the company’s current 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray and Blu-ray Disc player lineup that includes two UHD players and a pair of HD players.

The new player will fit between the currrent Philips BDP7502 (available now for $299.99) that supports both generic HDR and Dolby Vision HDR, and the entry 4K UHD player model BDP5502 (available now for $249.99) with HDR10 HDR support from discs.

Current Philips HD Blu-ray players include the BDP2501 ($89.99) and BDP1502 ($79.99). Both provide full 1080p playback, DVD video upscaling to 1080p, and Dolby TrueHD and DTS 2.0+ digital outputs. The BDP2501 is a connected player that offers Netflix, YouTube and Vudu apps.

Both Samsung and LG, which have 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray player lines, said they might have additional models to introduce later in the year, but nothing was presented at CES 2018.


By Greg Tarr


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