Sony starts a 4K Ultra HD video download service

Video Unlimited 4K service lets you rent or buy movies and shows

Published: September 09, 2013 10:15 AM
New Video Unlimited 4K service offers Ultra HD movies via a Sony media player.
Photo: Sony

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Do you have a Sony Ultra HD TV and have you been jonesing for native 4K content? Proving it's nice to own a movie studio, Sony just started a new Ultra HD video download service that lets you rent or purchase movies and TV shows from a library of Sony Pictures Entertainment content.

To use the system—the only 4K service currently available—you must own a Sony Ultra HD TV and Sony’s 4K Ultra HD Media Player (FMP-X1), which costs $700, or $500 if purchased together with a Sony Ultra HD TV.

Sony also announced a new lower-priced X850A series of Ultra HD TVs, available in 55- (XBR-55X850A, $3,500) and 65-inch (XBR-65X850A, $5,000) screen sizes. The TVs, which will be available next month, are similar to the company's current X900A models but without that series' integrated magnetic fluid speaker system. The X850A sets are about $500 less than their X900A counterparts, presumably for those who intend to use an external sound system. Consumer Reports recently tested the 55-inch X900A Ultra HD TV, which had excellent high-definition picture quality and very good sound.

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The Video Unlimited 4K service kicks off with a catalog of more than 70 Ultra HD feature films and TV shows, primarily from Sony Pictures Entertainment. Sony says it expects to have more than 100 Ultra HD titles available by the end of the year. Among the announced titles are the movies "Moneyball" and "The Amazing Spider-Man," and the TV show "Breaking Bad." Newer releases will include "This is the End," "After Earth," and "Elysium."

For 24-hour rentals, movies will cost $8, while TV shows are priced at $4; pricing for purchases wasn't disclosed, but where eligible a purchase will include an UlraViolet version for use on a portable player, such as a notebook computer, smart phone, or tablet. Once purchased or rented, TV shows and movies are downloaded into the FMP-X1's built-in 2-terabyte hard drive. The player, which has a USB port that can be used to connect an external hard drive for additional storage, comes preloaded with 10 Ultra HD feature films and video shorts.

Sony's new Ultra HD video service goes a long way toward addressing one critical obstacle to Ultra HD TV adoption—the lack of native 4K content. The caveat, though, is that the system only works with Sony TVs. If you've purchased an Ultra HD TV from another brand, you'll have to wait for a different solution.

—James K. Willcox

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