UltraHD Blu-ray players are now in store. But Ultra High Definition TVs have been around for three years now. You may already have one. So all you need do is duck down to the store and plonk over $599 for your Samsung UBD-K8500 or $1099 for your Panasonic DMP-UB900, bring it home and plug it into your TV? Well, maybe. It depends on your TV.
With the introduction of UltraHD Blu-ray comes the requirement for a higher level of copy protection. Thank you film studios. This involves the long standing High-Bandwidth Content Protection scheme – aka HDCP. UltraHD Blu-ray requires version 2.2.
Does your TV have this on one or more of its HDMI inputs? If you plug into a HDMI input lacking HDCP 2.2 then when you try to play back an UltraHD Blu-ray disc you’ll get a message telling you one of two things. Either it’ll say that because you don’t have HDCP 2.2 the disc will be played back at standard full HD resolution (ie. 1080p) rather than Ultra HD. Or it’ll say that you can’t watch the disc at all. I’ve seen both messages in tests.
So check the manual for your TV, or the Web specifications, to make sure it supports HDCP 2.2. If it does and its a model from a couple of years ago, it’ll likely only support it on one of its HDMI inputs so you’ll need to use the right one.
But how about home theatre receivers? Well, yes, they have the same issue. If you try to feed the output of your UltraHD Blu-ray player through a receiver without HDCP 2.2 support, the same message will pop up, applying the same restrictions.
Fortunately there’s a workaround for that with those players. Both of them feature two HDMI outputs. You can use the main one to send the picture with full UltraHD quality directly to a suitable TV, while using the other to feed the sound to the receiver. So a TV upgrade may be required, but you can keep your existing receiver.
There is more to UltraHD Blu-ray than just ultra high definition of course. There is also a wider colour gamut (that is, more colours) and high dynamic range (that is, darker blacks, brighter whites and more levels of brightness between them) and TVs vary in their ability to handle those. Not to mention the forthcoming Dolby Vision, which is like a supercharged version of HDR. But more on those another time.