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4K Ultra HD Blu-ray: Complete guide to 4K Blu-ray movies, players and discs

John Archer



The Ultimate Guide to 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray: What is Ultra HD Blu-ray technology, what do you need to watch it, and what are the best 4K Ultra HD discs you can buy right now? We go through everything you need to know about UHD Blu-ray – and why you might consider upgrading.

So you've just bought a shiny new 4K TV. Now you need something to watch on it, to really show it off. But where is the content?

Netflix and Amazon offer some 4K content, but they're not ideal. They require a fast and stable internet connection (good luck getting that in the UK) and the selection isn't particularly varied. You're limited to TV shows, mostly – Netflix mostly has 4K TV shows and Amazon charges you extra for 4K films.

To get the best-looking films on your TV, you should consider Ultra HD Blu-ray – also known as 4K Blu-ray. That's got the best possible picture in home media right now, and it's not reliant on the internet gods.

Read on for our complete guide to Ultra HD Blu-ray players – or scroll down for our list of the best 4K Blu-ray films you can buy right now.

WATCH: Best TVs at CES 2017

What is Ultra HD Blu-ray?

You've heard of Blu-rays, right? That's a huge step over the old DVD in terms of picture quality. Ultra HD Blu-ray is the next step up. As the name suggests, it supports 4K Ultra HD, which offers about 8.3 million pixels – that's four times what you get in Full HD/1080p. When you cram more pixels into the same sized TV screens, you get a sharper, clearer picture.

It's not just about sharpness, either. UHD Blu-ray also adds all sorts of useful things like High Dynamic Range (HDR) and new-gen audio standards like Dolby Atmos. HDR is a new standard designed to deliver a wider range of colour, brightness and contrast, in theory taking the picture a lot closer to what our eyes are capable of perceiving. Dolby Atmos, meanwhile, is an audio upgrade, essentially offering more subtlety and location precision to sound effects.

Sadly, all this requires higher capacity discs, which is why a new format is required. That means Ultra HD discs won't play on a normal Blu-ray player, though you can play older Blu-ray discs on an Ultra HD player.

Related: How to find 4K HDR content on Netflix and Amazon Prime Video

Why should I care?

There's no denying Ultra HD Blu-ray and 4K TVs are luxuries, but they're luxuries worth having. And if you want the absolute best possible picture from your 4K TV, Ultra HD Blu-ray is where you'll find it.

High Dynamic Range, or HDR for short, is especially important because it adds support for a greater range of colours and picture information than old Blu-ray discs, vastly improving the picture you see. In fact, HDR support is arguably more important than the increase in picture detail, though we like both all the same.

Watch: TV buying guide

What do I need to watch Ultra HD Blu-ray discs?

You need three things: an Ultra HD Blu-ray player, an Ultra HD TV and some discs, obviously. There are a few important caveats, though.

First, you'll need to make sure your TV supports at least the HDMI 2.0 standard. Most TVs from the last year or so will, but very cheap models and some models from 2014 or earlier might not. Check your manual or Google the model number to find out – the even newer HDMI 2.1 standard should also be fine.

Related: HDMI 2.0 vs HDMI 1.4

Also, only the very latest TVs sold in 2016 onwards will support HDR pictures. That's because HDR requires TVs that can display more colours and have a higher peak brightness.

You can still enjoy Ultra HD Blu-ray without an HDR-ready TV, but it's loads better if you do have one.

Finally, there are a few players to choose from right now – the still impressive Panasonic DMP-UB900, the newer, equally excellent Panasonic DMP-UB700, and the slightly cheaper, but still very good, Samsung UBD-K8500.

There is a third, unconventional option: the Xbox One S is the first games console to also play 4K Ultra HD Blu-rays, and it's actually pretty good at it.

Watch: Xbox One S review

We expect a number of more affordable players to launch over the coming months. Sony, for example, recently revealed a dummy prototype UHD Blu-ray player.

That will be one to watch out for, as the company has traditionally been very strong in the disc-spinning department. That should make up for the disappointing news that the 4K PS4 will not support UHD blu-ray playback.

LG also recently revealed its first 4K Blu-ray player, so your options are increasing and prices are starting to go down.

Best 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray player deals

In fact, you can grab the UB700 for under £300 on Amazon UK right now, and that's just one of a handful of tempting price cuts on offer.

Here's a selection of the best 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray player deals right now – all prices were correct as of our last update.

You'll also want some content to play on your snazzy new hardware, which brings us to...

10 of the best 4K Blu-ray movies right now

The industry suggests there will be up to 100 Ultra HD Blu-ray discs by the end of 2016, but there's plenty to choose from already. Many are already available in the UK and several US releases can be imported safely.

TrustedReviews TV expert, John Archer, has picked out the best Ultra HD Blu-ray movies so far, based on both the quality of the films and their picture quality.

The Revenant – An absolute must-have disc

  • Certificate 15
  • £19.99, $24.99

  • Region-free
  • IMDB: 8.1
  • Rotten Tomatoes: 82%

Blu-ray 21

Critics Consensus: This Oscar winning film has been widely praised by critics for its stunning beauty, a convincing central performance by Leonardo DiCaprio, and its brutally simple but absorbing tale of survival and revenge in the unforgiving 19th century American wilderness.

Picture & Sound Quality: The Revenant is the best all-round demonstration yet of just what Ultra HD Blu-ray is capable of.

The UHD BD version looks far more detailed and crisp than the standard Blu-ray version, and even better, the addition of HDR takes the film’s stunning cinematography to a whole new level.

Shots are almost luminously beautiful, and crucially for the film’s visceral impact, the world looks far more real and direct.

Some of this is, of course, down to the care that appears to have gone into the disc’s mastering. But based on my experience of all the first UHD BD discs to market, I’d also say it has something to do with the fact that much of the film was shot digitally using natural lighting in near native 4K.

Being able to draw on a predominantly native 4K master usually seems to yield better UHD BD results than movies that have been largely or completely upscaled from native 2K digital masters.

The movie’s soundtrack is extremely effective too, subtly creating a terrific sense of the sense of outdoor space and the different environments the film takes place in.

The only disappointment is that while you get a DTS-HD 7.1 mix, Fox hasn’t included the Dolby Atmos soundtrack the film enjoyed for its cinematic release, even though this is exactly the sort of film that could have benefited from adding a height element to the mix.

Extras: There are no extras on the UHD BD disc. The (region-free) Blu-ray that ships with it contains a good 45-minute making of documentary, but that’s it.

Verdict: As both a movie experience, and a demo disc for what Ultra HD Blu-ray is capable of The Revenant, is an essential – and oddly addictive – purchase.

Buy Now: The Revenant 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray at Amazon.co.uk from £19.99

Buy Now: The Revenant 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray at Amazon.com from $24.99

Exodus: Gods And Kings – Great HDR, crap film

  • Certificate: 12
  • £20, $29.99

  • Region-free
  • IMDB: 6.1
  • Rotten Tomatoes: 27%

Blu-ray 7

Critics Consensus: Although it’s frequently a visual feast – as you’d expect of a Ridley Scott film – some clunky dialogue and awkward performances mean it falls short of its biblically lofty ambitions.

Picture & Sound Quality: As you can probably guess from the IMDB and especially Rotten Tomatoes scores for this film, the Exodus UHD BD hasn't made our top 10 on its artistic merit but for the way it shows off Ultra HD Blu-ray’s potential. Or at least the HDR part of Ultra HD Blu-ray’s potential.

As it appears to be from a native 2K digital master, the detailing in the UHD BD transfer is a little inconsistent, with some background material in particular sometimes looking a little soft and unnatural. But its use of HDR’s expanded brightness range and wider colour performance is the most extreme I’ve seen to date, as scorchingly bright desert sequences give way to pitch black nights over a contrast range normal Blu-ray can only dream about.

Colours, too, look stunningly vibrant in UHD BD’s HDR form, injecting new life into the jewellery, costumes and architecture of the luxurious Pharoah’s world.

Be warned, though: Exodus’ brightness extremes ruthlessly expose any backlight weaknesses your TV might suffer from.

A potent and intricate DTS-HD 7.1 soundtrack, meanwhile, joins the lush visuals in trying to distract you from the fact that film is utterly pants. Though again, it’s a pity there’s no sign of the Dolby Atmos track available with the film’s cinema release.

Extras: The Ultra HD Blu-ray boasts a solid, thoughtful commentary track featuring Ridley Scott and co-screenwriter Jeffrey Caine, as well as a historical guide to the ‘events’ the film chronicles. The accompanying Blu-ray adds some deleted and extended scenes.

Verdict: Exodus is definitely not a great film. What its Ultra HD Blu-ray does give you, though, is a stunning demonstration of the formats extra colour and brightness extremes. It’s a great disc for highlighting the shortcomings of HDR TVs, too.

Buy Now: Exodus: Gods and Kings 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray at Rakuten.co.uk from £20

Buy Now: Exodus: Gods and Kinds 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray at Amazon.com from $29.99

The Lego Movie – Even better in 4K and HDR

  • Certificate U
  • £24.99, $29.99
  • Region-free
  • IMDB: 7.8
  • Rotten Tomatoes: 96%
Blu-ray 17

Critics Consensus: The Lego Movie combines glorious animation, brilliant voice acting, and a fast-paced and hilarious script with a surprisingly sophisticated and heart-warming story to deliver a film that offers something for all ages.

Picture & Sound Quality: Anyone who doubts if HDR and 4K can really add much to the relatively pristine world of animation needs to check out this Ultra HD Blu-ray as soon as possible. For starters, there’s a clear boost in detail, letting you see lots of subtle extra wear and tear on the characters and ‘sets’ that makes the plastic world feel more ‘real’ and lived in.

Again, though, it’s the HDR that really stands out. The extra luminance range visible in the way the light reflects on the virtual plastic greatly enhances the feel of the Lego worlds and characters, as well as making everything look more three dimensional even though – as with all Ultra HD Blu-ray releases – this is only a 2K transfer upscaled to 4K.

Even better is the extra dynamism and vibrancy of the HDR colour palette, which is a perfect fit for Lego’s artificially colourful worlds. Interestingly, the HDR effect seems to open up the scale of the environments quite effectively too. Basically, the UHD BD release makes this brilliantly realised world an even more riotously fun place to visit.

The main sound mix is a DTS-HD 7.1 affair rather than the Dolby Atmos track that was available to cinemas, but it’s still rich enough in detail and range to reinforce the gorgeous visuals. This is plastic world you won't want to leave.

Extras: Nothing on the UHD BD as per usual, but the accompanying Blu-ray has an audio commentary featuring directors Chris Miller and Phil Lord, plus cameos from a number of the actors. There are featurettes on bringing Lego to life and developing the story, as well as a series of mini-featurettes showing children how to build models from the film, some deleted scene storyboards, an early animation test and, inevitably, a couple of sing-a-long music videos.

Verdict: The Ultra HD Blu-ray release of The Lego Movie makes an already great film even more fun to be around. Just the job for a film that stands up superbly to repeat viewings.

Buy Now: The Lego Movie 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray at Amazon.co.uk from £24.99

Buy Now: The Lego Movie 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray at Amazon.com from $29.99

Kingsman: The Secret Service – Top-notch sound

  • Certificate 15
  • £19.99, $25

  • Region-free
  • IMDB: 7.8
  • Rotten Tomatoes: 74%
Blu-ray 11

Critics Consensus: This action packed comic take on the James Bond genre proves an unexpected hit thanks to its spectacular action scenes, sparky characters and subversive laugh-out-loud humour.

Picture and Sound Quality: Kingsman proves more than any other Ultra HD Blu-ray to date that it is possible to turn a 2K digital master into a detailed Ultra HD Blu-ray disc.

The picture looks both stunningly clean and, more surprisingly, exceptionally detailed. It delivers a clear resolution improvement over the standard Blu-ray picture and imbues all of the film’s settings with a more lived in look that really adds to the sense of atmosphere.

The addition of HDR gives Kingsman’s already vibrant look even more dynamism (the film’s nuts ‘head fireworks’ climax, especially, looks even more insane than it does on the Blu-ray), as well as adding some, at times, quite beautiful extra contrast range to dark interior sequences.

One or two of the effects shots look a little soft relative to the mostly pristine images elsewhere, and the general clarity makes you sometimes notice a slight loss of focus at the top and bottom edge of the film due to the way it was shot. But for the most part this is a really outstanding transfer.

Its lead DTS 7.1 soundtrack rounds out the ‘demo disc’ status, missing no opportunity to back up the kinetic action scenes with potent left to right and back to front transitions, while also piling on subtle details and doing a great job of creating a sense of the film’s many different types of environment. As with Fox’s other launch Ultra HD Blu-ray titles, though, there’s no sign of the Dolby Atmos track available for this film on its theatrical release.

Extras: A pretty entertaining 6-part behind the scenes documentary is found on the accompanying Blu-ray, along with a trio of image galleries. There are no extras on the main UHD BD.

Verdict: Great movie, great Ultra HD Blu-ray transfer – especially if you want an explosive soundtrack to keep those lovely 4K visuals company.

Buy Now: Kingsman 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray at Amazon.co.uk from £19.99

Buy Now: Kingsman 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray at Amazon.com from $25

Mad Max: Fury Road – Great spectacle, but could be better

  • Certificate 15
  • £24.99, $29.99

  • Region-free
  • IMDB: 8.1
  • Rotten Tomatoes: 97%
Blu-ray 15

Critics Consensus: Almost universally praised by critics for its endlessly stylish, relentlessly brutal action and ruthlessly efficient story-telling, Mad Max bagged Best Picture and Best Director Oscar nominations.

Picture & Sound Quality: While at times the Mad Max: Fury Road Ultra HD Blu-ray shines, overall it’s a strangely inconsistent effort.

Sometimes its pictures look quite noisy and some special effects shots – especially backdrops – look noticeably soft. In fact, I’d even say there are times where they look softer than they do on the normal Blu-ray – perhaps because the generally enhanced clarity of the Ultra HD Blu-ray throws the backdrop softness into shaper relief.

Another issue is that the addition of HDR can make some of the film’s special effect highlights – especially CGI bursts of flame – look a little unnatural.

On the upside, some shots, but especially close ups, look noticeably more detailed on the Ultra HD Blu-ray transfer, and while the HDR impact isn’t always helpful, there are plenty of shots where HDR injects more richness into the film’s desert exteriors and more life into the extravagant costumes of the film’s out-there characters. There’s a lovely boost to contrast during the film’s interiors, too.

Joining the slightly mixed visuals is a masterfully designed Dolby Atmos audio track (the same one you get on the normal Blu-ray) packed with explosive transitions, thoughtful details and a huge dynamic range, but which also includes lots of subtle detailing rather than always relying on bombast alone.

Extras: Nothing on the UHD BD, but there are plenty of goodies on the accompanying Blu-ray, including a half hour ‘making of’ documentary and a series of mini documentaries taking in everything from the creation of the characters and vehicles to the travails of filming a relentless action movie in a tough desert environment.

Verdict: Although its picture quality is a bit patchy, the Fury Road Ultra HD Blu-ray still does enough as an all-round package to justify adding it to your new UHD BD collection.

Buy Now: Mad Max: Fury Road Ultra HD Blu-ray at Amazon.co.uk from £24.99

Buy Now: Mad Max: Fury Road Ultra HD Blu-ray at Amazon.com from $29.99

The Martian – Not the best demo, but still a great film

  • Certificate 12
  • £37, $25
  • Region-free
  • IMDB: 8.1
  • Rotten Tomatoes: 92%
The Martian

Critics Consensus: Director Ridley Scott and Matt Damon team up to deliver an engaging, witty and dramatic movie version of Andy Weir’s best-selling sci-fi novel.

Picture & Sound Quality: Considering this is arguably the most high profile film on the Ultra HD Blu-ray launch slate, its 4K transfer is a slight disappointment.

Detail levels only sporadically feel like a significant detail step up from the HD Blu-ray. There’s more texture in Watney's space suit, more detail on faces and other close up content, but the film’s exterior shots of the Red Planet and the skies above it look hardly any sharper than the standard Blu-ray.

There’s also some trace evidence of colour striping in some sky shots, and while I can’t say definitively that the richer colour tone of the planet’s surface on the Ultra HD Blu-ray isn’t closer to the director’s intention, I can say that it somehow doesn’t look as natural as the more muted tones found on the normal Blu-ray.

The transfer’s HDR component is more effective, with the film’s interior sequences opening up a more expansive contrast range that enhances the sense of the confined spaces and artificial lighting Watney is living within.

Sound comes courtesy of a strong DTS-HD 7.1 Master Audio mix. The film isn’t stuffed with action, but key moments like the storms and the climactic rocket take off are delivered with extensive effects steering and a real sense of scale. Quieter sequences also impress, though, thanks to their clarity and the subtle use of background effects that again root Watney in his alternately confined and expansively open spaces.

Extras: None on the Ultra HD, while on the normal Blu-ray you get a Gag Reel; two featurettes on the film’s writing/direction and casting/costumes; a gallery of production art stills; and a series of featurettes looking at various elements of the movie using a pseudo-documentary approach.

Verdict: The Martian is strong enough as a film to justify adding it to your collection, and the UHD BD version does add a little extra quality beyond the straight HD Blu-ray. But it’s not the most emphatic demonstration of what UHD BD can do.

Buy Now: The Martian Ultra HD Blu-ray at Amazon.co.uk from £37

Buy Now: The Martian Ultra HD Blu-ray at Amazon.com from $25

Sicario – An absolutely essential purchase

  • Certificate 12
  • Not yet available in the UK, $28

  • Region locked
  • IMDB: 7.7
  • Rotten Tomatoes: 93%

Critics Consensus: Gritty, cerebral but also visually striking and atmospheric thriller elevated by a believable mix of characters and excellent performances from all the lead actors.

Picture & Sound Quality: Sicario was shot entirely digitally at a near-UHD resolution of 3.4K, and this turns out to be a pretty great match for Ultra HD Blu-ray.

Pictures look sensationally detailed throughout, making the film’s grimy locations feel all the more intimidating and leaving the standard Blu-ray version looking soft by comparison. The image is also stunningly devoid of noise or softness, making it easier to become absorbed in the tense action, while HDR opens up the luminance palette in a way that really brings out the naturalised lighting and deliberately bleached colour palette the film-makers have chosen to employ.

Sicario joins The Revenant in suggesting that above-HD resolution digital photography and lots of natural lighting are a particularly great combination for Ultra HD Blu-ray’s strengths.

The beautiful video transfer is joined by a wonderfully atmospheric Dolby Atmos audio mix that does an outstanding job of throwing you right into every tense situation as well as making sterling use of Johann Johannsson’s effective electronic score.

Extras: There’s nothing on the Ultra HD Blu-ray, but the accompanying Blu-ray (this one’s a Region 1 disc only if you import the US version) contains featurettes on the film’s visual design; the cast; the film’s origins; and the film’s score.

Verdict: Sicario should be considered an essential Ultra HD Blu-ray purchase, as it’s both an excellent film and a superior quality UHD BD transfer. Sadly, the US version is region locked, so UK readers must wait for the eventual UK release. It will be worth it.

Buy Now: Sicario on Ultra HD Blu-ray at Amazon.com from $28

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 – An authentic 35mm master

  • Certificate 12
  • £19.99, $19.49

  • Region-free
  • IMDB: 6.8
  • Rotten Tomatoes: 53%
Blu-ray 3

Critics Consensus: Impressive performances and some occasionally sharp and touching dialogue can’t stop this super-hero action film from falling prey to a meandering story and apparent lack of confidence that sees it trying to cram in too many characters.

Picture & Sound Quality: The Amazing Spider-Man 2 shows off a different dimension to Ultra HD Blu-ray’s capabilities: its potential to capture the experience of watching 35mm film.

Sony Home Entertainment has a policy for its first batch of UHD Blu-ray releases of scanning 35mm master prints at 4K resolution, and using those digital scans to create the Ultra HD Blu-ray video. The idea is to recreate the same visual ‘feel’ people got when they originally saw the films at the cinema.

This approach yields a very different picture than you get with the generally more digital source assets other studios have used for their first UHD BD titles. There’s a warmer tone to colours, as well as a markedly ‘rougher’ finish as the film scanning process captures 35mm film’s inherent grain. Some may not like this relatively grainy look I guess, but for me it’s a welcome sign of how the finest nuances of a 35mm print can be brought out by a careful 4K digital scan.

There’s also a beautifully natural sense of sharpness to The Amazing Spider-Man 2’s images, as well as noticeably more detail in dark areas than you get with the Blu-ray, and a big uplift in the film’s colour range that enhances both naturally lit interiors and explosively vibrant sequences like the Times Square fight.

Keeping Amazing Spider-Man 2’s celluloid-like images company is a barn-storming Dolby Atmos track that rocks the house during action scenes but also keeps you wrapped up in Spidey’s world during quieter moments with subtle detailing and atmospheric/spatial effects.

Extras: The UHD BD disc carries a commentary track by writers Alex Kurtzman and Jeff Pinkner, plus producers Matt Tomach and Avi Arad. The accompanying HD Blu-ray adds a series of deleted and alternate scenes, a six-part making of documentary, a featurette on Hans Zimmer’s music, and an Alicia Keys music video.

Verdict: While Amazing Spider-Man 2 is hit and miss as a film, Sony’s decision to scan from 35mm for this Ultra HD Blu-ray release yields a picture most movie fans will adore for both its cinematic naturalism and its lovely detail and colour richness.

Buy Now: The Amazing Spider-Man 2 at Amazon.co.uk from £19.99

Buy Now: The Amazing Spider-Man 2 at Amazon.com from $29.99

X-Men: Days Of Future Past – Decent film, average disc

  • Certificate 12
  • £19.99, $25
  • Region-free
  • IMDB: 8
  • Rotten Tomatoes: 91%
Blu-ray 23

Critics Consensus: One of the ‘hits’ of the rather hit and miss X-Men series thanks to a fast-paced but character-driven plot and some beautifully realised action set pieces.

Picture & Sound Quality: Another film to find its way onto Ultra HD Blu-ray via an upscale from a 2K master, X-Men: Days Of Future Past doesn’t make as convincing a case for the upscaling process as Kingsman: The Secret Service.

There is slightly more detail in the image overall than you get on the Blu-ray, and every now and then a particular shot or two really ‘pings’ with the extra clarity that’s quality 4K’s trademark. The image as a whole, though, lacks that purity, detail and feeling of directness you get with the very best Ultra HD transfers.

The addition of HDR is welcome, though. It clearly opens up the image’s brightness and colour ranges, making the film’s settings look more real without making the special effects look excessively artificial. The HDR brings out slightly more detail in dark scenes too, and Mystique has never looked so… blue.

Audio comes courtesy of a pretty huge DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 mix that pushes your speakers to the limits of their dynamic range while also serving up lots of accurately positioned details and transitional effects. The only pity is that again Fox hasn’t stuck the Dolby Atmos track on there that accompanied the film’s cinematic release.

Extras: The UHD BD contains a commentary track by director Bryan Singer and writer/producer Simon Kinberg, while the Blu-ray that accompanies the UHD BD carries a gag reel, deleted scenes, cast and crew interviews, a gallery, and a featurette on the Sentinels.

Verdict: While the X-Men is one of the UHD BD’s highest profile movies so far and does have some good 4K HDR moments, it probably isn't worth it if you already have the normal Blu-ray.

Buy Now: X-Men: Days of Future Past at Amazon.co.uk from £19.99

Buy Now: X-Men: Days of Future Past at Amazon.com from $25

Life Of Pi – Incredible use of HDR

  • Certificate PG
  • £19.99, $25

  • Region-free
  • IMDB: 8
  • Rotten Tomatoes: 87%
Blu-ray 13

Critics Consensus: Director Ang Lee manages to make a visually stunning, emotional and thought-provoking film out of a much-loved book many people had thought impossible to film. It won four Oscars including best director and best cinematography.

Picture & Sound Quality: Life Of Pi on Ultra HD Blu-ray was created from a 2K digital intermediate upscaled to 4K. This predictably means the picture doesn’t look as consistently detailed and, in particular, crisp as some UHD BDs. Particularly noticeable is some slight blurring over motion at times, such as on the fur of the film’s many real and CGI animals.

Relatively static shots enjoy a clear step up in apparent detail and crispness, though. And in any case the Life Of Pi Ultra HD Blu-ray has another ‘killer app’: High Dynamic Range.

Having so much more brightness and colour to work with delivers images which are at times the most beautiful I’ve seen on a television. This is particularly true during the daylight sequences of Pi and his stripey friend bobbing around in the endless ocean, as the extra brightness gives the images an almost otherworldly quality.

But the extra contrast range and colour also means that dark sequences like the candle-lit river ceremony and the luminous jellyfish/jumping whale look so spectacular that going back to the relative flatness of the ordinary Blu-ray feels painful.

The UHD BD’s DTS-HD 7.1 Master Audio soundtrack is gorgeous too, packing in subtle effects and details that combine with the irresistible score to enhance the film’s unique atmosphere. The only pity is that Fox hasn’t provided the Dolby Atmos soundtrack developed for the film’s cinematic release.

Extras: There’s nothing on the Ultra HD disc aside from the film, but the accompanying Blu-ray provides a good hour long documentary that charts the film’s development, as well as a featurette on the special effects; a featurette on working with both real and CGI tigers; a gallery of the film’s artwork; and presentations of the storyboards used to develop some of the film’s key scenes.

Verdict: Despite not always being the crispest Ultra HD Blu-ray around, Life Of Pi’s at times incredible use of HDR means it’s still a stunning showcase proving why all serious movie fans need the new disc format in their life.

Buy Now: Life of Pi on Ultra HD Blu-ray at Amazon.co.uk from £19.99

Buy Now: Life of Pi on Ultra HD Blu-ray at Amazon.com from $25

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Still got a question about Ultra HD Blu-ray? Leave a comment and we'll do our best to help.

Geoff D

August 26, 2015, 12:48 am

John, the 2013 Sony X9005A sets can display 60fps 4K video over HDMI, albeit with an 8-bit 4:2:0 restriction. They have been able to do this since a HDMI 2.0 firmware update in December 2013, and all the 2014 Sony 4K models had this functionality out of the box.

The hardware upgrade that the earliest 2013 Sony builds required (which was incorporated into later production runs of the X9A) was for HDCP 2.2 copy protection support, *not* HDMI 2.0.


August 27, 2015, 7:46 am

Unfortunately, I'm with Robert Meyer Burnett - mass adoption of 4K is going to take a long time, if it happens, and that's going to keep choice of 4K Blu-Ray discs limited, and prices high, for those of us who would relish the increase in quality. Most people simply don't care that much - Full HD is already more than good enough for most people in a world where the convenience of streaming is driving it to wild success in spite of the quality compromises of compressing content to meet bandwidth constraints.

The advent of HD benefited from coinciding with the arrival of affordable LCD/plasma TVs, and for most people the upgrade to a flat panel was more to do with the aesthetics of eliminating the bulky CRT from their lives than the fact that it had HDMI and a 1080p resolution. Plenty of people have 1080p capable TVs and no HD sources beyond Freeview/Sky HD to drive them, since DVD offers them a "good enough" experience and a massive choice of affordable content.

The uptake of DVD, in turn, was less about audiovisual superiority over VHS and more about the convenience of not having to rewind tapes, reducing the amount of storage space required for media, and a sort of nebulous cool-factor.

4K doesn't have the advantages 1080p had in coinciding with a mass upgrade of TVs driven by the advent of flat panel tech, and 4K Blu-Ray has little to offer over DVD or Blu-Ray besides a picture quality bump which most will see as unnecessary. Much as I'd love to believe otherwise, I'm predicting it's going to be more Laserdisc than DVD.

William Fenton

September 16, 2015, 11:27 am

I already have a 4k Asus monitor, so I'm also 60fps ready.

It will be interesting to see when the first UHD-BD PC drives come out.

Max Jacobi

September 19, 2015, 2:09 pm

I kind of hoped that disk-era have sunk into oblivion. I thrown away all my disks long time ago and not going to buy them again. They better make the alliance for creating internet store where I can choose whatever I want and buy it as a downloadable item.


September 23, 2015, 10:48 am

Your ASUS monitor does not have HDCP 2.2 and likely does not have HDMI 2.0 therefore copyright protection will stop any disc playing on it.

William Fenton

September 23, 2015, 12:38 pm

That's clever of them isn't it-- to expect every TV and monitor owner to buy a completely new screen which transmits the same capability at least in terms of 60fps 4k. DisplayPort 1.2 can run it, but because of the arseholes need to have a new copyright system. What was wrong with the blu-ray one?

It's lucky I bought the screen mostly for games. Now it's looking like physical media can get stuffed-- it's just too much complication.


September 23, 2015, 1:00 pm

I agree but they are paranoid about copyright protection and blu ray was cracked so now they have this one, it will also be cracked, it's also about hardware manufacturers wanting to sell new equipment all over again, many of them are into 4K just for this purpose.


October 5, 2015, 4:59 pm

Sadly, all online stores including iTunes, Google Movies, Amazon etc, offer way worse quality compared to standard 1080p Blu-ray. They compress movies significantly, so they would be streamed instantly and load their servers less.

Blu-ray will always have much better quality compared to streaming. Always.
The only way to defeat Blu-ray is to sell movies as files, digitally. But corporations fear this and for some reason never tried to create such online store.

David Weston

October 5, 2015, 6:45 pm

I am not sure why we need 4K blu-ray players if we can already buy 4K films via retailers like Amazon that come on USB 3 sticks. Since the latest UHD Tv's come with a USB 3 input, why do we need a separate player?

I can understand buying the latest players that can upscale to 4K our collection of Blu-ray Discs, but buying a dedicated 4K disc player? Or am I missing the point?


October 10, 2015, 2:48 am

Re: "The uptake of DVD, in turn, was less about audiovisual superiority over
VHS and more about the convenience of not having to rewind tapes"
Completely disagree - the difference was incredible & people noticed.

Re: "I'm predicting it's going to be more Laserdisc than DVD"
You mean a high-quality delivery medium that lasts for decades?(that would be laserdisc)

Seriously...these uneducated/ignorant comments are so frustrating, as they continue to promote myths/fallacies. Please stop the FUD.

Weston Konik

October 10, 2015, 7:55 am

Well, what would they put it on? NAND flash? Like a USB stick? What is to keep it from not failing. Also, 4K movie files are big. I mean, they could be around 100MB. Although prices have gone down, a BLANK 128GB USB 3.0 stick is like $40-$80+. Too much money. I am sure there are other reasons, but at the moment, they just wouldn't sell at the prices needed to make a profit on just the hardware alone, not to mention the films. discs are cheap, and they don't fail if you take care of them.


October 11, 2015, 5:54 am

First, you're welcome to disagree with me, but kindly do so in a respectful manner. Just because our opinions differ, that doesn't render mine invalid. And I am certainly neither uneducated nor ignorant. If you'd care to read my comment, you'll note that I backed up every assertion with logical thought, which is more than can be said for you.

To address your points, yes, I predict UHD Blu-Ray will be a high-quality delivery medium. I can't say whether it will last for decades, though with the ever-increasing pace of technological advancement I would be surprised. My point was that, like Laserdisc (which I acknowledge was high quality and lasted a long time), it is unlikely to achieve the near-ubiquity of VHS and DVD.

I never said that people didn't notice the uptick in quality of DVD over VHS. It's starkly obvious to even the most casual of observers, but if VHS had had the packaging advantages of DVD, would it have been so quickly supplanted? The increase in quality from DVD to Blu-Ray, at least on a moderately large screen, is also enormous, but Blu-Ray sales still lag a long way behind DVD, where at an equivalent point in its life-cycle, DVD had killed VHS stone dead.

UHD Blu-Ray will doubtless deliver even further improved picture quality, but given most people haven't seen any reason to upgrade from DVD to Blu-Ray, it's blatantly apparent that they just don't care enough. DVD is "good enough" - it delivers enough resolution to enjoy the content, in a resilient, convenient package that almost everyone has the hardware to play. An upgrade to 4K would mean buying a new player and (for most) a new TV, and investing more in discs that will inevitably carry a substantial premium over their DVD and Blu-Ray counterparts. My prediction (which I countenance may prove to be wrong, but which is demonstrably neither uneducated nor ignorant) is that 4K will struggle to gain sufficient traction to achieve critical mass and tip over to the mainstream.

Look, I'd love to be wrong. I'd love for the average consumer to care enough about AV quality for Dolby Atmos and 4K (heck - 8K) HDR screens and sources to become the new mainstream standards. Unfortunately, however, that desire puts me in the minority.


November 20, 2015, 8:08 am

jMac is pretty spot on. The transition from DVD to Blu ray has taken over a decade and still pretty ambivalent. The fact that you need a 60+ inch TV set and sit 6 feet away or less to even see the difference between 1080p and 4k, combined with the fact that the 1080p TVs we have are "good enough" in most ways that matter like size and resolution (killing the impetus to upgrade to a 4K) and most of all the fact that most classic older movies recorded on grainy film will not look appreciably better in UHD Blu ray than normal Blu ray and most new content is pretty much just consumed on a flavor of the week basis via on demand downloads... these UHD Blu ray players and discs will be niche indeed.


November 29, 2015, 6:22 am

"the fact that you need a 60+ inch TV set and sit 6 feet away or less to even see the difference between 1080p and 4k"

Please learn what the word 'fact' means.

Angelo Cefaloni

January 6, 2016, 6:03 pm

I find that 4k TV's are not able to even properly play high bit rate files via USB, at least my 2015 samsung has issues with it, it will always fail a few minutes into the video. Though a lot of 4k tvs have ethernet ports, which is what I use to stream high bitrate 1080P movies and shows from my PC, I don't see why this wouldn't work with 4k content.

Angelo Cefaloni

January 6, 2016, 6:06 pm

Then just get a 4k tv with an ethernet port, you will be able to stream the files from your computer with no loss in quality.


January 7, 2016, 9:42 am

Recently went through the dilemma of 4k or oled tv pulled the trigger on the lg 55 oled subscribing to a bluray rental service loving it. The streaming services could reduce compression before 4k. Streaming content is crap quality. I would recommend the lg oled 4k tv but pricey. The 1080p oled was pricey but the top end lcd 4k tvs were the same price. Oled for the win no question. Lenovo releasing an oled yoga soon.

Luke Daniel Murray

January 7, 2016, 10:27 pm

I don't think it will happen blu ray drives already cost a lot and besides you need the software to run it which also isn't cheap sorry:(

William Fenton

January 7, 2016, 11:52 pm

Very, very bad timing though. With the massive growth of streaming I can really see this being the downfall of physical media.


January 8, 2016, 2:16 am

As someone who owns a Samsung TV with UHD and HDR, and an Vidity setup with the special WD passport HDD I can say that something like "The Martian" on lossless UHD HDR and a large TV is unlike anything I have ever experienced. WAY better than a movie theater. My only frustration is there are only about 10 movies availible with UHD AND HDR. Honestly, more than the UHD, it is the HDR that seems to really make a huge difference. Older movies remastered to UHD have been very hit and miss in my experience, usually only providing very fine detail remastering of overblown grainy film... Filming a movie with the intent of 4k and HDR is a new art that needs to be implemented at the production level to really reap a reward.

If anyone wants to stream lossless 4k UHD HDR they are going to need a fiber line because they are 100+ Gigs. Frankly, I'd much rather run to the store and buy a disk and watch my movie immediately, rather than buying a new movie, starting the download and hoping its ready by the next evening. Also, unless you have insane internet speeds to stream it, you will need a LOT of Storage drives or, juggle you collection and only have 10ish ready at any given time.

4k blue ray solves most of these issues and will further encourage movie production to really make the most of this technology. I know its not ideal, but it is going to be awhile until we have internet speed and storage capacity to make this practical or affordable otherwise.


January 8, 2016, 2:23 am

Don't worry, it will only be a matter of time till they crack the encryption and UHD files end up on torrent sites. IMO HDR is really where its at though. But that will require a new generation of video cards, monitors, and an OS update most likely

Gordon Thorn

January 8, 2016, 3:16 am

I want to buy into this, and i will likely go with a flat OLED. But there is something that i didnt think would bother me but it is now. My mother the other day begged me to watch a movie in 3D on her LG3D TV. It was Ant Man and i had not seen any previews for it and i finally said ok, ill watch the movie. I was surprised at the novelty of the 3D feature. You just put on the glasses, you could even use the ones from the theaters and it gives you a reason to watch it with people. I actually enjoyed both the movie and the 3D experience. Especially since it wasn't the active glasses. Now that they are increasing the resolution, i havent heard anything about 3D on these new TV's. This seems like a big disappointment to me. To add such a significant feature and then when it can look amazing, they just seem to ignore it? A major complaint of 3d was that the screen seemed significantly darker than when watching in 2D, Hello high dynamic range!? I really would have liked to see an improved version of 3D tvs because to be honest, i was quite impressed with LG's high end 3Dtv's.. My brother has a samsung with active glasses, not nearly as good. I hope 3D didnt die because people just didnt get to experience the novelty as it was intended. Anyway.... I hope these sets have it and i just missed it.


January 8, 2016, 11:06 pm

Honestly, i'm really excited for the Ultra HD Blu-ray players and UHD Blu-ray physical media. I was so sad when I started seeing everything going the 'streaming' way. You will never get the same quality from streaming services. I can tell the difference from watching and comparing my Blu-ray disc movies to streaming. I can't wait to get my Ultra HD Blu-ray movie collection going!


January 9, 2016, 6:52 am

I have seen the 4k displays in Sam's Club and they look pretty amazing. Just like the article says, like looking out a window. But damn, you have to buy a new TV, a new player, and new DVDs. That could easily be $1,500 or more. Perhaps as the prices continue to drop you will see more people making the switch. Now that everyone has converted to high-def screens, it seems they want you to abandon that and upgrade to 4k. I predict the manufacturers will win in the end.


January 12, 2016, 10:27 pm

Sony is not interested in marketing a "4K Blu-Ray DVD" player. They are going the "streaming" route, and developing faster smaller 4K Ultra HD Media players like the FMP-X10. DVDs, Blu-Ray, CD is old technology. And rightly so. Disks are going the way of VHS and Laser Discs.

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