Sony launches FMP-X1 4K Ultra HD media player, with 4K service to follow

Consumer Reports News: July 02, 2013 10:38 AM

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If you own a Sony Ultra HD TV and have been patiently waiting for more Ultra HD content to arrive, the wait is nearly over. Starting today you can pre-order the new 4K Ultra HD Media Player (model FMP-X1) at online retailers, including the Sony Store. Early this fall, Sony will launch a 4K Ultra HD content service, called Video Unlimited 4K, which will provide 4K downloads within the Sony Entertainment Network.

The player, which comes preloaded with 10 Ultra HD feature films, is priced at $699, though Sony is shaving $200 off that price for those who have purchased one of its X900A-series Ultra HD TVs. Sony says the players will arrive in homes—and brick-and-mortar stores—by July 15th.

With its 4K Ultra HD media player and distribution system, Sony is addressing one of the key shortcomings of new 4K Ultra HD TVs: the lack of native 4K content. Sony, of course, is in a unique position, as it owns a movie studio, Sony Pictures, and many feature films these days are shot—and sometimes shown theatrically—in 4K resolution.

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So far in Consumer Reports tests of these new Ultra HD TVs, which boast screens with four times the number of pixels (3840x2160) of 1080p (1920x1080) sets, the greater detail made possible by these higher-resolution sets has been most evident with native 4K content. When presented with standard 1080i and 1080p fare, the TV upscales that content to quasi-Ultra HD resolution, much like a 1080p TV does with standard DVDs. Consumer Reports is currently testing Sony's XBR-55X900A model, which will soon be included in our TV Ratings. We also recently reviewed Seiki's low-cost 50-inch Ultra HD set.

When it launches in the fall, the Video Unlimited 4K service—an adjunct to the Video Unlimited service found in the Sony Entertainment Network--will provide owners of Sony Ultra HD TVs with a source for native 4K content, including feature films, TV shows, and short-form videos. But unlike most current video services, which stream content to TVs, Video Unlimited 4K is a download service, since the bandwidth requirements are much higher for 4K content. Feature-film downloads—which will presumably be sent to the player overnight—will be available both as 24-hour rentals starting at about $8, and as purchases, which will cost $30 or more. Sony says its will continually refresh its content library with new films, programs, and videos.

To ensure that the 4K player is set up properly and will work with a customer's Ultra HD TV, Sony is providing free in-home service activation on qualifying X900A TVs. To see if your Sony Ultra HD TV qualifies, visit the company's 4K activation website.

James K. Willcox

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