While 4K television technology promises dazzling visuals — providing four times the resolution of current 1080p HD — for the near future it will remain a luxury item well beyond the reach of mainstream consumers.
Sony Electronics on Monday began taking preorders of its $699 4K Ultra HD Media Player, preloaded with 10 titles from Sony Pictures Entertainment with more titles skedded to become available in the fall. Consumers who have purchased Sony’s X900A 4K Ultra HD TVs, priced at $5,000 or $25,000 depending on screen size, will receive a $200 introductory discount — but no matter how you slice it, it’s a high entry point for getting the latest and greatest tech.
The company announced the 4K video service at CES 2013, as part of launching its first 4K Ultra HD television models.
The FMP-X1 media player is available to order at the Sony Store online and other participating online retailers. Company says the unit will arrive in customers’ homes by July 15, when it also will be available at retail.
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The 10 titles that will be bundled with the 4K player — which Sony says has an estimated value of $300 — are: “The Amazing Spider-Man,” “Bad Teacher,” “The Karate Kid” featuring Jackie Chan and Jaden Smith, “The Other Guys,” “Battle: Los Angeles,” “That’s My Boy,” “Salt,” “Total Recall 2012,” “Taxi Driver” and “The Bridge on the River Kwai.”
In early fall, Sony plans to launch Video Unlimited 4K, which will provide more feature films, TV episodes and a variety of short-form video in native 4K format. Company did not disclose outside studio partners for Video Unlimited 4K. Downloads of feature film titles as 24-hour rentals or for purchase will start from $7.99 and $29.99, respectively.
Sony, in an effort to make Ultra HD more affordable, introduced 55- and 65-inch 4K models priced at $5,000. But 4K’s benefits are negligible on smaller screens, and the top-of-the-line 84-inch unit costs a cool 25 grand.
“Due to the shape of the human eye, viewers who are unable to purchase larger (4K Ultra HD) TVs might have to sit so close to their screens that it may be difficult to actually seen ‘enough’ of the picture, which seems to defeat the purpose of upgrading,” Bernstein Research analysts wrote in a report last week.
The FMP-X1 has a hard drive capacity of 2 terabytes; video is output in 2160p (3840 by 2160 pixels). The 4.8-pound disc-shaped device measures 9.8 x 2.1 x 9.8 inches.
For the content on the service, Sony is using 4K encoders from EyeIO but isn’t divulging details of the compression rate for its 4K video. However, according to Sony, the 10 movies will take up about 400 gigabytes total on the FMP-X1, or an average of 40 GB per pic.
Sony said it will provide in-home premium service activation on qualifying X900A TVs free of charge, which will ensure compatibility of the TV with the 4K Ultra HD Media Player. Consumers can visit 4kactivation.com to check if their Sony 4K Ultra HD TV qualifies for this free service.