Ultra HD is completely hot, but at the moment only two Ultra HD Blu-ray players are available. A few months ago we looked at the heavily priced Panasonic DMP-UB900 and today it’s the slightly cheaper Samsung UBD-K8500. This model is sold for a suggested retail price of 499 euros.
Ultra HD Blu-ray
Now that almost all middle class and high-end TVs have the high 4K Ultra HD resolution , you obviously want to enjoy that higher resolution. You have been able to view 4K content via streaming services for some time, but since last month we also see the new Ultra HD Blu-ray discs appear. To play these discs you need an Ultra HD Blu-ray player, for example the Samsung UBD-K8500.
But, Ultra HD Blu-ray is not just a higher resolution. The discs are also provided with 10-bit colors , a larger color range (rec.2020) and HDR ( high dynamic range ) display. If your TV supports these three standards, you will be ready for the future of TV with these discs.
Samsung UBD-K8500 – specifications
The Samsung UBD-K8500 is just like a number of models from last year with a curved design which, according to the Korean manufacturer, fits perfectly with the curved TVs. The Ultra HD Blu-ray player meets all standards of the Ultra HD Blu-ray specification. So you can also play normal Blu-ray and DVDs, Digital Bridge is present so you can easily watch movies on other devices, there is support for 10-bit material and High Dynamic Range (HDR) , and there is a stripped version of the Samsung Smart Hub with access to Netflix 4K available.
The player is equipped with two HDMI outputs, an optical output, 3D display, dual band WiFi, Multiroom Link and an option to copy material stored on a disc to usb. The Samsung UBD-K8500 will receive a price of 499 euros. For this amount you also get the Ultra HD Blu-ray version of The Martian (with Matt Damon) worth 40 euros free.
For this review use the LG OLED65E6V OLED TV and the Denon AVR-X7200WA receiver.
Samsung UBD-K8500 – design
We still know the design of the Samsung UBD-K8500 from the Blu-ray players of last year. The curved design fits exactly with the curved screens of the Korean manufacturer. The player is quite compact, with a black brushed finish and pressure-sensitive buttons on the top. In the sloping front, we see the disc tray and a USB port. The rear has an ethernet port, an optical output and two HDMI outputs. The second HDMI port can be used when you have a receiver or home theater set that lacks 4K Ultra HD support. The audio then runs to the receiver via a separate HDMI cable. The player has a sleek look and is neatly finished.
Samsung UBD-K8500 – ease of use
A media player has numerous options to influence the image and audio output, but we almost always prefer to have the processing done by the TV and the receiver. So we leave almost all of the settings untouched and put audio forwarding on bitstream as our receiver can perfectly convert the latest audio formats itself. Note that on your TV you indicate that the HDMI port must support Ultra HD Deep Color. With both Samsung and LG TVs, this setting is in the general settings menu. Enable Ultra HD Deep Color for the port to which the player is connected.
In terms of menus and interface, the Samsung UBD-K8500 is little different than another Samsung Blu-ray player. You have an overview with windows at startup; a window for the disc in the drawer, a window with multimedia options (usb, dlna, etc.), a window with Samsung Apps, a window with recommended content and a window with ‘My Apps’. You can also access the settings of the player via the home screen. The interface is well-organized, well-designed and quick to use. The app offer is reasonable and the most used apps like Netflix and YouTube are available. The player supports almost all files and discs that you can have in your home. Only SACDs and DVD-Audio are not supported. Also the media player, which is very good in use, supports a large number of file formats, including of course HEVC and VP9.
Samsung supplies the UBD-K8500 with a very small remote control. This accessory is completely plastic and is reasonably in the hand. Because of the small size, you will also find a small number of buttons on it. We miss, for example, buttons to fast forward or rewind a bit, for that you have to hold the skip-keys longer. The middle part, with d-pad and ok key, is rather small, so you can quickly press a wrong button. All in all, a larger remote control with more space and buttons is something that we prefer. It makes the use just a bit more comfortable.
Samsung UBD-K8500 – image quality
It is all about the image quality of the Samsung UBD-K8500, especially when we put a Blu-ray or even Ultra HD Blu-ray film in the player. For this review we have watched a number of demo videos in 4K and HDR, Gravity in HD plus the movies Mad Max and The 5th Wave in 4K Ultra HD.
But, before we start the best content, we look at standard resolution content and HD content from Netflix and DVD. In this area, the UBD-K8500 performs reasonably well. The player knows the low resolution still fine to watch content, although we see some more noise and artifacts back than for example with the Panasonic DMP-UB900. The color reproduction is very good and with the sharpness is also well. Motion handling, the capture of fast moving images and objects is reasonable. Here and there there is judder and blur.
However, it is all about good quality content. When we insert a standard Blu-ray disc into the player, he also shows his best side. With convincing colors, a sharp display and a lot of better movement processing. The UBD-K8500 is able to add that extra depth and dynamism to Gravity, making the film more alive. However, we must also make the comment here that we encounter quite a lot of noise in the large black areas.
Mad Max in 4K Ultra HD and HDR is the ultimate showcase for the UBD-K8500. The player makes a true spectacle of this, with very bright but accurately represented light objects such as the sun or glare on cars. It actually splashes off the screen. The large color range ensures a very lifelike and vibrant display, combined with subtle details that are perfectly reflected by the high resolution. Fireballs get a 3d-like effect because of the many color gradations and the convincing brightness, and subtle textures in faces add even more realism and dynamics. Yet again the same drawback can be noticed here; large surfaces (in this case the orange desert) contain a lot of noise. Movements are a lot better and tighter.
All in all, the Samsung UBD-K8500 does exactly what you can expect from an Ultra HD Blu-ray player. The device combines HDR, the 4K Ultra HD resolution and the larger color range into a view that includes more life, where there is more depth and what comes closer to the world as we see it with our own eyes. Points for improvement are certain, especially in the area of noise. And we must also say that the supply of 4K HDR content (on Blu-ray in particular) still leaves much to be desired.
Samsung UBD-K8500 – conclusion
All in all, we can give a clear conclusion; the Samsung UBD-K8500 is a more than fine media player when you want to go for the highest quality 4K Ultra HD content and benefit from the larger color range and high dynamic range. The combination of these elements provides an impressive picture that we can only be enthusiastic about. The Panasonic DMP-UB900 performs just better in terms of image quality but is also 300 euros more expensive. For 499 euros you have with the Samsung UBD-K8500 the, at the time of writing, cheapest 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray player in the market, with a sleek design and equipped with enough features to complete your video and audio collection with or without playing cable. Do not you really need an Ultra HD Blu-ray player? Then it pays a half a year to wait for cheaper (and more) models to appear.