Discs Aren't Dead: 4K Content Coming to Blu-ray in 2015

Get ready to buy a new Blu-ray player.

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With all the 4K streaming deals being signed by UHD TV manufacturers, you’d be forgiven for thinking our ultra-high def future will be entirely in the cloud. But hold your horses: According to the Blu-ray Disc Association, 4K Blu-ray players and discs should arrive by late 2015.

Cnet reports that Chairman Victor Matsuda announced the association will begin licensing 4K Blu-ray tech in early-to-mid 2015, with the goal of having devices and content on shelves in time for the holiday shopping season.

Chairman Victor Matsuda announced the association will begin licensing 4K Blu-ray tech in early-to-mid 2015. Tweet It

While sales of media discs have been cannibalized by streaming services, there are good reasons for creating a new physical format. UHD video is incredibly bandwidth-intensive, so streamed content is usually heavily compressed; and of course, if your internet speed fluctuates, image quality can vary drastically.

(Is there anything more frustrating than a movie that’s constantly shifting between gorgeous HD and a sub-SD pixelated mess?)

Disc-based video is far less compressed, so you can get close to 4K’s raw, uncompressed beauty. For serious cinemaphiles, and indeed anyone who values an uncomplicated, uninterrupted viewing experience, that’s a big deal.

Current Blu-ray discs are limited to 50GB of storage, but 66GB and 100GB capacities are in the pipeline. Tweet It

Current Blu-ray discs are limited to 50GB of storage, but Cnet also reports that larger capacities are in the pipeline. According to Panasonic VP Ron Martin, UHD-ready Blu-ray discs will offer either 66 or 100GB of storage. They’ll also use H.265/HEVC high-efficiency encoding, which can cram more pixels into less disc space than the current H.264/AVC.

The new 4K-format discs and players will also use 10-bit color and the expanded Rec. 2020 color gamut. That’s exciting tech, but it’s also essentially just future-proofing; few current televisions can properly display the range of color they produce.

Since the new encoding format will require new decoding techniques, new hardware is also required. That means Blu-ray player owners will need to upgrade to a new box in order to gain access to glorious UHD. Bet you didn't see that one coming.

Hero image: Flickr user "pitzyper" (CC BY 2.0)

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Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.
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