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As we finally move into the world of 4K, UHD TV, we begin to long for the very best picture ever. To get a taste of that best-ever picture you will need to watch a 4K Blu-ray disc on a 4K Blu-ray player. The Samsung 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray UBD-K8500 is one of the first such players on the market. Being first, however, doesn’t not necessarily mean that it is lacking. In fact, this Blu-ray player has everything you need to enjoy 4K at its best with only one noticeable fault, which we will talk about later in this article.

The Device

At 15.98″ x 1.76″ x 9.06″ and 4.19 lb., the device itself is slightly thinner and lighter than many older Blu-ray players. In a nod to other Samsung products like their curved TVs, the front and back of the unit is slightly curved.

Samsung 4K Disc Player

There is no display screen. On the right side of the unit there are four small buttons: power, stop, open/close, and play/pause. There is also a very small LED indicator light. The disc tray pops out. There is also one USB 3.0 port on the front covered by a flimsy plastic cover.
The back of the unit sports a digital audio out, an Ethernet port and two HDMI out ports, one for audio and the other for video. The Samsung 8500 can play CDs, DVDs, Blu-rays, 4-K Blu-rays and 3-D discs.

While the unit is not chintzy, it is not as solid or sturdy-feeling as some older players.

Setup

This Samsung 4K player is easy to install. Just plug in and enter the Wi-Fi password. Most of the popular apps like Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu are available as well as a wide variety of more obscure apps. However, the choices did not include HBO Go or Showtime. This device does, however, have a screen mirroring option for apps that may be missing in its repertoire.

After installation I had a problem with a lag between the audio and video in streaming Netflix and Amazon. This was easy to eliminate by entering the settings of the device and changing timing of the Audio Sync.

Picture Quality

Picture quality is amazingly good. Of course playing 4K discs give you the best picture, but streaming is also excellent. This Samsung unit also works quite well to upgrade Blue-Ray discs.

This device is extremely quiet and loads Blu-ray movies faster than any other device that I’ve seen.  4K discs take slightly longer to load, which is not unexpected because they contain a lot more data than regular Blu-ray discs.

When playing a 4K disc, the increase in detail and the wonderful color range that is provided by Samsung’s HDR (High Dynamic Range) processor is immediately noticeable.

Interface

Main interface has three choices: Play disc, Multimedia and Samsung apps.

samsung 4k blu-ray player

Across the bottom of the screen is the quick access. These quick access choices include Recommended Apps, My Apps, Screen Mirroring, and Settings. Unfortunately you cannot delete the recommended apps and they take up a lot of screen space. I would rather be able to customize my own apps and have them across the entire bottom of the screen. As it is I can also see three of my favorite apps and I have to go to the Samsung apps to find the rest. This is more tedious than it needs be. For more details you can download the 8500 user manual.

HDCP 2.2

In order to play 4K discs, your television must be HDCP 2.2 compliant. HDCP 2.2 is a technology designed to prevent illegal copying of 4K Ultra HD content. Most newer TV are HDVP 2.2 compliant, but many old receivers are not. If you haven’t yet upgrade you receiver you may have this dilemma. I know because it was a problem for me. I got a message on the screen that since my device was not HDCP 2.2 compliant it was going to default back to regular HD. In some of these cases, the disc will simply not play at all.

Two HDMI Outs

Luckily, the Samsung 8500 has an answer for that. The 8500 has two HDMI outputs, one for audio and one for video. So you can send the video directly to TV using the video HDMI. You can then hook the audio HDMI port up to the non-compliant receiver for the audio to be decoded by the receiver. It works quite well.

Remote

Now for the bad thing about this 4K player…the remote is quite awful. First, at 5 ½” x 1 ½”, it is really small. Even though I have small hands, I found the buttons too tiny to press easily. I don’t understand the reasoning, but Samsung really tried to make this thing as small as possible. They even used a round watch battery instead of an AA or AAA battery. The problem with that is that most people keep AA and AAA batteries on hand, but replacing a watch battery often requires a trip to the store and some searching for the proper battery.

samsung 4k blu-ray player
Small Samsung remote (left) compared to the LG (right)

The remote doesn’t feel sturdy. In fact, it feels a little cheap. Also, it needs to be aimed directly at the 8500 in order for it too work. Although the remote has useful color coded A-B-C-D buttons, there are no separate buttons for fast forward or reverse. Instead there is a scene skip button that is difficult to control. The stop button is right above the scene skip button. Since the remote is not backlit, it is very easy to press that button by mistake. Before you know it you can become lost in the movie just because of a poor remote. I find this hard to imagine since Samsung did a much, much nicer job with their television remotes.

Luckily, my Logitech harmony remote works well with this device. So have been able to delegate the Samsung remote to the junk drawer and not have it spoil the enjoyment of a really great playback device.

The Market

There currently are only a handful of 4K Blu-ray players and one gaming device (the new Xbox One) that plays 4K discs on the market. The Samsung UBD-K8500 is the best of these. The price has dropped and it can now be purchased for a reasonable cost of about $350. One feature that I really like is that it will often remember where I left off with a disc. This works well with Blu-rays, but not with regular DVDs.

Summary

The Samsung 8500 offers excellent upscaling and great picture quality when playing 4K discs. It can handle a large variety of discs as well as streaming content. The high bit rate and HDR’s wide color range produce excellent picture quality when playing 4K discs and it upscales older DVDs and Blu-Ray discs quite well.

In the next several months I expect 4K discs to proliferate and more companies like Sony and LG to release 4K players. If you can live with the remote or replace it with a universal remote, you won’t go wrong if you decide to purchase this 4K player. However, if you are not in a hurry, you might want to wait to see what the competition offers.

 

Sandy Berger, respected computer authority, journalist, media guest, speaker, and author, has more than three decades of experience as a computer and technology expert. Her eight books include: How to Have a Meaningful Relationship with Your Computer, Your Official Grown-up’s Guide to AOL and the Internet, Cyber Savers –Tips & Tricks for Today’s Drowning Computer Users, Sandy Berger’s Great Age Guide to Better Living through Technology, Sandy Berger’s Great Age Guide to the Internet, Sandy Berger’s Great Age Guide to Gadgets & Gizmos, Sandy Berger’s Great Age Guide to Online Health & Wellness, and Sandy Berger’s Great Age Guide to Online Travel. Sandy’s newspaper column, magazine articles, feature stories, product reviews, and computer tips can be found at her website, Compu-KISS.