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Samsung UBD-K8500 review

 Review: June 2016  
 

Rating: 4 stars

In a nutshell: The UBD-K8500 is Samsung's first Blu-Ray player to support the new UHD Blu-Ray disk format. With this player you can experience the very highest quality movies available, with 4 times the resolution of Full HD, 10 bit colour, and High Dynamic Range (HDR). But it's expensive, and you'll need a top-end TV to enjoy it to the full.

Best buy: Samsung UBD-K8500 from Best Gadgets 4 All (£192.90)



 

Design & looks

The Samsung UBD-K8500 is one of the first generation of Blu-Ray players to support UHD Blu-Rays. The only other choice right now is the Panasonic DMP-UB900, which is even more expensive. And if you have a Samsung TV, it's natural to want to pair it with a Samsung player.

The UBD-K8500 has a curved design, making it a perfect partner for curved TVs like the Samsung KS7500 or KS9000. But even if you have a conventional flat screen, this player won't look out of place.

Looking at the UBD-K8500, it's hard to convince yourself that it's worth the £400 plus that you shelled out for it. It's black plastic after all, albeit with smart styling and a groovy micro-pattern on its surface.

But that's all beside the point. It's what it does that matters.

UHD playback for ultimate quality

You bought the Samsung UBD-K8500 for one reason, and one reason alone - to get the best possible quality viewing available. And the player delivers.

The first thing we'd say is that there's no point buying this player unless you have a top-end TV. That means a minimum screen size of about 50 inches, 4K (obviously), and ideally HDR-compatible. We're talking about a Samsung 49KS7000 or better. If you don't have a TV of this kind of performance, you're wasting your money here.

But if you do have the right TV, then this is what you've been waiting for to unlock its true potential. UHD Blu-ray disks contain 4 times the resolution of a normal disk. We're talking 3840 x 2160 pixels. So forget about UHD upscaling - this is the real deal. In addition, the new format brings HDR (High Dynamic Range), which means brighter whites and colours, and a fuller, richer image. And don't forget 10-bit colour, for more natural, cinematic colours than the normal 8-bit spectrum.

The result is remarkable. It's the best you can get from a TV in 2016, and for the foreseeable future. For while UHD streaming is coming on tap, compression means that it will never match the quality of a UHD disk.

The player is backwards-compatible with your old collection too, so it will play standard Blu-Ray disks, DVDs (with 4K upscaling) and audio CDs. It even supports 3D Blu-Ray, which is ironic since Samsung dropped 3D support from its TVs for 2016.

Smart TV

A Smart hub is included with the player because ... why not? Yet it seems redundant, since you'll almost certainly pair this player with a TV that has built-in Smart functionality. But if you have a TV from another manufacturer, this player gives you access to Samsung's own Smart apps, including UHD streaming from Amazon and Netflix.

Connectivity

The UBD-K8500 seems to have all the connectivity we could want. That includes 2 HDMI outputs - one for connecting to your TV, the other to an audio system. There's also an optical audio output and a USB.

Wi-Fi and ethernet connections are included, and you can share content from a compatible phone, tablet or PC.

Conclusion - expensive but a must

The Samsung UBD-K8500 costs far more than a regular Blu-ray player, but it's worth it if you've invested in one of Samsung's HDR Series 7, 8 or 9 TVs or similar. For while UHD streaming and upscaling give you a taste of what your new TV is truly capable of, only UHD Blu-Ray can show you what true 4K HDR looks like.

As this is a brand new format, the device is priced at a premium. It will no doubt fall in price, especially as new players enter the market. But if you've already invested £1500 or more in a new television, then another few hundred doesn't feel like too much to pay.


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