Sony FMP-X10 4K Ultra High Definition Media Player Review
The Sony FMPX10 4K Ultra HD Media Player looks to expand everyone’s Ultra HD 4K viewing options with a library of featured films, free content, and premium streaming options now that it’s compatible with most brands of 2014 4K Ultra High Definition Televisions.
Let’s see if this increasingly capable player is finally worth the price of admission.
Size and style
The X10’s square footprint measures almost 10 inches on a side and two inches high – a shape that will regulate it to the top of most AV hardware stacks. A dark gloss finish on the top half of the unit contrasts nicely with its matte base. Power and hard drive access indicators on the face of the unit are subtly illuminated.
A flip-down door on the front reveals a power button, a reset button, and a USB port for connecting flash drives. Another USB port on the rear of the unit supports up to 4TB of external hard drive storage.
The FMP-X10’s HDMI video output was recently updated for compatibility with any UHD display that features HDCP 2.2 such as the Samsung UN60HU8550 . Connecting the X10 to an HDMI port without proper HDCP 2.2 support will result in a message saying the mandatory form of 4K copy protection is required. The X10’s other HDMI output is audio-only, and nicely avoids copy protection issues when dealing with older HDMI receivers (though its use adds obviously another cable the mix).
Finalizing the setup is simple: connect the FMP-X10 to the Internet via a/b/g/n Wi-Fi (2.4GHz/5GHz) or Ethernet, login to using an existing Sony Entertainment Network account, or create one for Sony’s Video Unlimited 4K service, then enjoy.
The X10’s smallish remote control is a thin baton-style stick with flat unlit buttons. While functional, I expect regular users to ditch the remote in favor of a universal option.
Sony recently announced that the FMP-X10 will receive an update to add IP control for use with custom AV control systems.
The FMP-X10 receives its 4K video goodness in one of two formats: HEVC (H.265) and AVC (H.264). HEVC is used when streaming content. AVC (H.264) is for content downloaded and stored on the hard drive.
Available audio formats depend on the particular content, though the X10 can output Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital Plus, and PCM – the latter leaving the option open for lossless quality audio tracks.
A file size comparison of the 2012 futuristic action movie Looper revealed a 41GB 4K file downloaded from Sony’s Video Unlimited service. This equates to an average AV bitrate of 46.0 Mbps. Compare this to the 32GB Blu-ray file’s average bitrate of 38.6Mbps, which also features a DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack.
Look and listen
Side-by-side comparisons between the 4K and Blu-ray videos of Looper noted the 4K version had more film grain (or that the Blu-ray version had a noise reduction filter), but was visually pleasing. Scenes with minimal motion highlighted the 4K version’s excellent clarity and detail, particularly in cloth, hair, textures, and skin.
Scenes containing more motion were less obviously different between 1080p and 4K – occasionally, the Blu-ray appeared clearer. This was possibly related to film grain (or the lack thereof).
The downloaded 4K version’s multichannel PCM soundtrack was impressively dynamic, though the bitrate was unknown. Closed captioning was available for all videos sampled.
More recent 4K productions I examined including the 2013 film Elysium and X Games Barcelona. Both were visual treats. The former’s many finely detailed scenes of the orbiting space station and decaying Earthbound cities had me wanting a 4K projector to better appreciate the nearly 8.3 million pixels on a much larger screen.
Not quite unlimited video
The Video Unlimited 4K service includes dozens of free foreign, independent, and documentary style UHD videos that average about 5 minutes each – just long enough to admire the visuals and hopefully open your wallet for movies and TV shows.
But the current feature film count stood at 67 at the time of this review, and there were only four TV series available.
Individual TV episodes start at $4 each. Pricing for feature films starts at $8 for a 24 hour rental and climb as high as $35 to purchase more recent movies.
The FMP-X10’s selection could also use some newer titles: only six freebies, two “Wild Window,” and one feature film are from 2014. So it’s not exactly brimming with a selection of the latest and greatest.
The FMP-X10 will stream 4K titles from Netflix. A recent Netflix price increase will hopefully increase that service’s currently sparse selection of 4K content.
Tempting but pricy
The Sony FMP-X10 4K Ultra HD Media Player stands alone among external UHD video players that can access Sony’s library of UHD movies and stream Netflix 4K titles. With Amazon’s Instant Video receiving a 4K update any day now, the X10 is scheduled to receive an update to add this service early 2015.
The main weakness of the X10, and all other 4K video options right now, is the limited selection of movies – especially more recent releases. This somewhat stagnant stage of 4K video selection will likely improve over time, but early adopters will pay the price for this source-detailed video goodness.
So we award the $698 FMP-X10 4 out of 5 Hearts, wishing it was cheaper, and had more content, but acknowledging that it’s pretty much the only game in town for 4K content… for now.
Disclosure: Review sample was obtained as manufacturer’s loan.
Have a question for the HD Guru?
Copyright ©2014 HD Guru Inc. All rights reserved. HD GURU is a registered trademark