The Future of 4K is For Enthusiasts Only

By Alex Cranz on at

The guy next to me huffed loudly—an explosive grunt of displeasure that had me halfway between amusement and horror. We were in a meeting room at the Hilton in Newark, seated in front of a giant TV with a giant sound system, and we’d just seen footage played back on Panasonic’s UB900 4K Ultra HD Blu-Ray player. Compared to the competitor, it had performed well and everyone in attendance was eager to get their hands on one for testing at home.

But Panasonic had just told us the price, and this journalist was pissed. “So this is clearly for enthusiasts” he said with a heated measure of disdain.

The Panasonic reps all nodded. Yes, Panasonic entrance in the 4K Ultra HD Blu-Ray market is for enthusiasts only. It’s expected to retail for $699 (£527) when it's released in September, and the only person willing to spend that much on a media playback device with less than a hundred blu-rays currently available is going to be a...fan.

But honestly, the same could be said for the competition. Toshiba’s reportedly “just okay” 4k Ultra HD player retails for $150 (£113), and Samsung’s current industry darling goes for $400 (£302). That’s a heckuva lot more than what I can spend on a Roku 4—which gives me access to nearly all the same 4K content as a 4K Ultra HD Blu-Ray player would.

An enthusiast would wisely point out that Blu-Ray players like Panasonic’s new UB900 and Samsung’s UBD-K8500 actually play back 4K Ultra HD footage at higher quality than a Roku 4 or any other streamer. The Blu-Ray can hold way more data than a stream from Netflix, but the only people who will appreciate that are the enthusiasts who already spent thousands on a 7.1 surround sound system and 60-inch display with 10-bit HDR playback, and the broke people who understood what I just wrote.

So yeah. Huff away fellow journalist. Get mad that an exceptional product comes with an exceptional price tag. Or maybe accept that the future of media is in streaming, and everything else is for fans only.