Here’s a subject I never thought I’d be talking about anytime so soon, but you know you have to roll with the punches and tribulations life throws your way. Only by overcoming your fears and doubts and rising above them do we as people become something more, something awe-inspiring to others. Ladies and gentlemen, it has been a bumpy and long, painful ride, but thanks to my friend Erric for the hookup, many months of exhausting research and Kori’s never-ending persistence we are finally living and breathing in the eye-popping world of 4K UHD in the White household here within the laid-back, farm country of Leander, TX. I present to you down below my lessons learned as I recount my first 24 hours with the 4K, UHD Premium certified Sony Bravia XBR65X930D and its necessary counterpart, the Samsung UBD-K8500 Ultra HD Blu-ray player. Ready to get this 4K party started? Man, was I ever. Let’s get going!
Before we begin I don’t want to forget where I started. No, I’m not talking about the streets of Cleveland, OH, but rather the first thing you’re going to need if you care about a quality 5.1 or higher surround setup, the 4K compliant receiver. Last year I was forced to replace my old 2005 Sony 5.1 surround receiver when I purchased the latest generation of Apple TV, which no longer offered a optical digital output as an option for extracting audio out separately. My 2005 Sony audio receiver came out a year premature before the HDMI switching ones of 2006. So like I said I was forced to upgrade to a new model, but not just any model. Oh no! I know I wanted to step up into the advanced audio codecs like Dolby Atmos and DTS:X (the Holy Grail of audio codecs in our world), but more importantly I wanted something that would be future-proof, and by that I mean 4K compliant for the inevitable day when I would upgrade my HDTV, Blu-ray player, etc. However, there’s nothing like seeing Dolby Atmos on your receiver’s screen to give you a giant nerd boner (see screenshot below for what I mean), but of course you also need those Dolby Atmos firing speakers too (as also pictured below).
In my personal arsenal last year, I chose to go with the economical Denon AVR-S710W 7.2 Channel Full 4K Ultra HD A/V Receiver with Bluetooth and WIFI. I honestly can’t say enough good things about it. Initial setup was lightning quick, but fine tuning admittedly took some patience. I will only issue one word of caution when it comes to this receiver and utilizing a Sony Playstation 4 for Blu-ray playback. Make sure you buy a quality 4K Ultra HD HDMI cable like this $5 one I purchased here. You can thank me now as that suggestion will save you a lot of frustration. The equipped HDMI cable that came with the PS4 was causing frustrating HDMI handshake problems and was frequently dropping A/V frames during Blu-ray playback. After fooling with every setting imaginable on the receiver (making me second guess myself) and the Ps4 I decided to try the HDMI cable per the suggestion of Gerard Iribe. Bingo! Problem solved! Now let’s move on.
You maybe wondering how did I settle upon the 4K Sony XBR65X930D. Well, I wish there was a real easy answer to that, but let’s start with the basics first. I have been a Sony fanboy my entire life from their Walkman lineup to their Trinitron color TVs (the big guys) of yesterday. When we as a society ventured into the world of HDTV back in the early 2000’s, I did not stray. I still to this day own 3 Sony HDTVs. I would have two more still, but I lost one in a divorce and another I gave to my parents for safekeeping when I moved down to Texas some 3 years ago. I would also love to give props to Bob Balash up their in Cleveland, OH who feverishly pumping my blood full of Sony products from all my purchases off him at my favorite Northeast OH appliance store, B&B Appliance. So I guess it only makes sense that I decided upon Sony as the provider of my first 4K experience in the home, but I’d be lying to you if I didn’t admit to also seriously looking between Samsung and LG too. However, my loyalty to Sony outweighed logic, and I’m glad it did because I love this 4K set.
So I knew I wanted Sony and I knew I wanted a 65″ model, but did I want a 2015 because of the cheaper price or did I want to pony up and spend the extra bones for a 2016 one? I suppose I could have waited another year to let the prices drop, but three things sealed the deal for me. First, it was Kori’s 35th birthday this past March and this is what she wanted. I asked her to be patient with me as not only to wait for the prices to fall just a bit more, but also allow me to thoroughly research what the best model was and I promised to pull the trigger once an educated decision was made. Second, due to my many visits to Best Buy to study these television sets firsthand it was painfully obvious, the Triluminous display on the 2016 models were night and day over the 2015 ones. Finally, I literally got depressed turning down the marketers of the movie studios the past three months. Since we are primarily a Blu-ray review site among other things of course, it makes sense for the PR folks to pitch us 4K Blu-rays to review. However, how could I accept their offers when I had no such equipment to grade the product with? It’s simple. I couldn’t. However, it came to a breaking point last month when The Martian: Extended Edition was announced for 4K Blu-ray that I could not say no anymore, I had to do something about my situation. I did!
Let’s be honest with ourselves. Not everyone has three thousand bones to lay down for this particular 4K set, but when I found myself able to spend the dough at the right price point (thanks again E-man), I jumped on the opportunity and patiently waited an excruciating three weeks to take delivery because of the flooding issues we were having down here in Texas the past the several weeks. However, the day finally arrived this past Friday when it was delivered and I felt like a kid in a candy store. I could not wait to rip it open and feast/bask in all its 4K glory. The other necessary component for my 4K setup was the 4K Blu-ray player, the Samsung Ultra HD UBD-K8500, was a no-brainer. Why? It’s also quite simple. Until Philips releases their 4K Blu-ray player this month supposedly, Samsung has owned the market these past three months. As soon as I pulled the trigger on this TV three weeks ago I went to Best Buy the very next day and picked up this 4K Blu-ray player. I’m not kidding when I say it has been sitting in its box for the past three weeks on my dining room table. I promised myself I would not open it until the TV arrived and I made good on that. We’ll talk some more about the player, but for now let’s focus primarily on the TV itself.
As you can see in the screenshots here the TV arrived in a big white Sony box. Lesson learned, if you should chose not to cut the top of the box open and instead lift the shipping container up from the bottom like we did, make sure you look for the directions taped at the top of the box inside. You’ll thank me for that because we put the television stand together blindly swearing the whole time at Sony for providing no directions when they were really there the whole time taped to the underside of the top of the box. Ugh! After about an hour of studying how the stand needed to be assembled and how it fit on the TV Kori and I lifted the beast and got things situated before moving it to its final resting destination. One thing to note, DO NOT lay the TV down flat. Keep it up straight when you attach it to the stand. If you lay it down, you risk messing up the LED panel. Also, I would like to note, I may be in the minority here but the frame of my Sony XBR65X930D arrived perfect, not bent or warped like all the other reports online and the ones I personally seen in Best Buy before. Be careful when moving this guy too, he is razor thin, one of Sony’s thinnest displays, and you always risk the chance of bending the more you handle it. You’ve been warned.
Before powering the television set on I already knew how I wanted to cable this thing up in my environment (from all the endless hours of research I did on other peoples’ lessons learned) so I had the HDMI cables all laid out and I meticulously plugged the out of my AV receiver (I’ll refer to this s an AVR from here on out) to the HDMI 4 ARC port (for return audio from the TV to the receiver). The only negative about this set is because of the thin frame there is a pretty big power brick that makes the XBOX One’s look small. I’m serious about that! No joke! However, that’s a small price to pay for the beautiful display you have here. So just tuck that power brick away somewhere you won’t see it and forget about it. Upon powering up I was very surprised to see that the first image you see is the words ANDROID, not Sony. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, this TV is powered by an Android OS. This Apple guy had to suck it up. LOL.
I let Kori enter her gmail credentials, one of the first setup questions this TV asks for. Next, it asked us to set up the IR sensor to control our cable DVR. That was very complicated for some reason, but once I figured out where to put the included IR sensor, it all made sense and makes things a breeze if you want to control your DVR through the Sony TV’s remote. One thing to note here though, sadly the sensor for the TV remote is at the bottom middle of the TV’s frame. That means if you’re like me and your center channel goes there, then you got to hit this from the side with the remote. At the time of this writing, I did not see any Sony Bravia iOS app to control this television with because after all it is living on my wireless network so you would think there should be one. Maybe there is and I did not search the app store hard enough, but for now I digress. If you’re using your AVR for the volume of all your connected equipment, remember to go into the television’s audio settings, accessible using the Home button on the remote control, and change the audio out from the TV’s speakers to audio receiver.
So when you press the Home button on the remote you’ll also notice you’re in the App section of the TV’s Android OS. It is here where you can access additional 4K content through apps such as Netflix (extra subscription is required for 4K content), YouTube and even Sony’s own Ultra HD 4K movie store (see the screenshot below) to name just a few. After all, it’s not like your cable provider is going to hook you up with premium 4K content. I have no idea when that’s coming, but I can only assume and hope it’s one day soon. Sony’s Ultra HD 4K movie store, for example, allows you to stream Sony movies in 4K, but at a $30 cost though. Yes, that’s quite a hefty cost if you ask me, especially when you can get many of the same flicks on 4K Blu-ray for a much cheaper price. Sony’s store also allows you to link your UltraViolet account too and that enables you to upgrade some of your previously owned UV titles at a discounted price. The offer that came with my television allowed me to chose 4 4K movies from 8 selections, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Salt, Men in Black III, Elysium, Fury, Pineapple Express, Hancock and After Earth. I chose the first four of those titles I mentioned and watched Spider-Man 2 in its entirety. Not bad! My wi-fi did not choke once (I have researched this beforehand and learned you should have a 30 mbps connection or greater for success).
Next up, it was time to finally unbox (see the screenshots below) the Samsung 4K Blu-ray player. I could not wait and much to my surprise the $399 player was intricately packaged. I liked that very much! Now here’s where it gets tricky so make sure you pay extra close attention here. Through all my research on 4K and 4K Blu-ray I read about all my peers in the review business and their difficulties with the new format, basically the pains of being an early adopter. The Samsung 4K Blu-ray player (as pictured below) has two HDMI outs. Use both of these! Before hooking this up to the television pick one of your unused HDMI ports on the TV and through the settings menu make that an Enhanced HDMI port (it will require that your TV restarts) for use with a pure 4K product attached on the other side, i.e. this Samsung player. This tells your TV that the incoming signal on that port will be full UHD 4K capable. THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT so don’t miss this step. Got it? Take the HDMI 1 port on the Samsung player and using an HDMI 2.0 or greater cable connect that to the previously chosen Enhanced HDMI port on your TV. Take another HDMI 2.0 cable and run the Samsung’s HDMI 2 out port to your AVR. Make sure you select uncompressed bitstream on the Samsung player and tell it to output audio from the HDMI 2 port only so your AVR can decode the advanced 4K Blu-ray audio codecs. Make sense? I just avoided you days worth of HDMI and HDCP 2.2 monitor handshake issues and headaches with that knowledge I just bestowed upon you. You’re welcome!
I guess you can see via the screenshot below that I already have quite the Ultra HD 4K Blu-ray collection. The Star Trek ones will see reviews on the site this week (thank you Paramount), but the other ones I bought in anticipation of this 4K TV set coming. Yes, I was premature. So what? It was worth it! However, I do want to jump backwards real quick and admit something. The Ultra HD 4K Blu-ray specs were not finalized until sometime late last year. That means, chances are if you have a 4K television set that is a year or older it may not meet the Ultra HD Alliance certifications (and 4K 3D Blu-ray does not exist). The Sony XBR65X930D meets the requirements, but some of their 2015 models did not. To meet the qualifications, your 4K TV must be classified as an Ultra HD Premium model plus capable of HDR (High Dynamic Range) and WCG (Wide Color Gamut). One of the greatest tools I found when researching the many different 2015 and 2016 Sony, LG and Samsung 4K TV models was a website called rtings.com. They can school you as to what all this HDR and WCG mumbo jumbo is better than I can.
At the time of this writing, I have 3 4K Blu-ray viewings under my belt, Deadpool, Mad Max Fury Road and The Martian: Extended Edition. I started with Deadpool since it was already opened and let me be the first to admit, I was not too impressed. The colors are lifeless in that presentation and made me question my TV’s calibration and/or Samsung player’s settings. I did some web research to make sure I had all the Samsung settings correct as they are suggested here. I did! I told ya I did my homework prior to all of this didn’t I? So I decided to pop in Mad Max Fury Road on 4K Blu-ray after previously test driving the regular Blu-ray version of this film out on the Playstation 4 when I first hooked this TV up. Wow! My eyes almost popped out of their sockets. It was like I was experiencing my favorite 2015 film for the first time again. The colors absolutely popped. The flames, while appearing a lot more fake because of the increased resolution, nearly dried my eyes out with their blinding, fiery brightness. And the night scenes, it was like watching a completely different movie in 4K. It was a breathtaking and I hate to say it, but almost a religious experience while watching this film in 4K for the first time. It’s an amazing stunner! I digress.
Next up, I popped in The Martian: Extended Edition on 4K Blu-ray. That’s right! I waited two weeks to watch this cut so my first time could be in 4K. Am I dedicated or what? I should also tell you by this time it was near midnight. Kori looked over at me and asked me how I was still awake. I simply said it feels like I am seeing this for the first time. The gloss…the shine…the colors…the pristine detail (actual 4K Blu-ray playback screenshot below). My worst fear was realized. I can never go back and if there is a way to watch a film on Blu-ray in 4K over regular Blu-ray, you better believe I’m going to opt for the 4K version and spend the extra bucks. I did not think it would be so after my first initial go around with Deadpool, but 4K lives up to all its promised hype. To put any doubts to bed I compared Mad Max Fury Road on regular Blu-ray to its 4K counterpart and the results are night and day. I won’t bore you with the details, but hands down the 4K presentation, despite the shoddy special effects, is where it’s at.
The sole fear I had with 4K Bu-ray was with the Samsung Blu-ray player since I am a Sony fanboy and use the Playstation 4 for all my Blu-ray playback previously (I have no idea when the PS4.5 Neo or a dedicated Sony 4K Blu-ray player is coming out). I read so many recounts of early adopters saying the player takes forever to load 4K Blu-ray discs (it also plays regular Blu-ray, Blu-ray 3D, DVD and CD formats) and the horror stories of handshake issues, dropouts, etc. I’m pleased to report I have had zero issues. 4K Blu-rays boot right up and I have not had a single dropped frame. I should note, that upon firing the player up, it did require a firmware update. It took all but five minutes so make sure you do that. I have not played around with any of the apps on the player, but there’s the usual ones just like there is on the Sony TV so I guess it’s up to you to decide where to play what from your device of choosing. I believe at the time of this writing the only way to play 4K VUDU movies, even though the app is included on both the TV and 4K Blu-ray player here, is through the Roku 4. I think they have an agreement or something like that in place. Oh well, I’ll pick one of those up some day soon.
One last thing to note, the 4K Sony XBR65X930D is 3D capable (probably one of the last 4K sets from Sony to be). The Samsung 4K UBD-K8500 is too for Blu-ray 3D playback. The sucky thing is the television does not include any 3D glasses despite its hefty price tag. The television employs Active 3D and requires the Sony TDG-BT500A Active 3D glasses found here. They are hard to come by now that 3D is on its way out in the living room and not supported with the 4K format (at least not now). They’re also going to cost you 50 beans a piece. Ouch! Make sure you look for directions on how to sync them with your TV on the web as instructions for doing so are sadly not included with the glasses, at least in our boxes they weren’t. 3D playback also makes the screen darker so you may want to brighten the picture when watching material in 3D. Finally, make sure you sit dead center with your TV when watching 3D content because if you watch from an angle, you will get horrible crosstalk. Your results may very as depending upon the source 3D does produce judder in the picture and what not, but for 3D Blu-ray discs like Gravity or Sin City: A Dame To Kill For, it can also be a thing of beauty. I’m just saying.
So all in all, you can see I’m very happy with my first 24 hours hands-on experience with 4K in our living room. After many months of research and deliberation I’m very pleased with the performance, build and quality of the very expensive Sony XBR65X930D (it does exhibit strong glare though near windows) and my reluctant purchase of a Samsung product, the only 4K Blu-ray player on the market, the UBD-K8500. Together, they’re a marriage of beauty and a new staple or pillar of excellence in the White household as I bring Why So Blu into the next evolution of excellence with the first ever 4K Blu-ray reviews and coverage this week. Look for it here and many more to come. Thanks for reading and if you have any questions, comments or concerns that I did not address up above, please feel free to comment down below. Enjoy this bright new world of 4K!
*** UPDATE 7/7/16 *** Life is still glorious living with 4K and UHD Blu-ray in the home front. I’m quickly becoming that man I feared the most, the snob who prefers to watch 4K UHD Blu-ray over a regular 1080p Blu-ray presentation (to me the visual difference is very noticeable). Boo! However, it was inevitable. I knew that going in and you know that once this glorious day happens for you too. However, keep in mind, with early adoption comes frustrating problems and obviously high prices for certified UHD gear, 4K Blu-ray discs and misc. equipment. I have had my share of handshake issues at times with the Samsung player when it switches to a 4K Blu-ray disc’s main menu and momentarily drops video (also loses audio too with my receiver until I switch the input back), the Sony 4K TV set locking up (I once had to unplug power) and even rebooting on its own and probably the most frustrating one of all, going through a total of 3 Sicario 4K UHD Blu-ray sets until I finally got it working. The third time was the charm with the latter issue. It seems there were bad batches of this UHD title and it took going to a different Best Buy 15 miles away to exchange it out for a copy that finally worked.
All in all though I have zero regrets. I love being on the forefront of new technology whenever possible and being the envy of my peers. Sorry, that’s just my ego talking. Haha. Let me put it in check. I guess what I am saying is even though it’s exciting to be 4K UHD compliant across the board, it does come with a lot of headaches, frustrating moments and dollars spent. If you have patience and the cash, what are you waiting for? However, if you’re just getting by in life or easily frustrate over new technology and their associated troubles at times, then you should probably wait a year or so. With the new XBox One S and PS4 Neo announcements recently that promise to support 4K UHD Blu-ray playback with HDR, prices are only going to continue to drop across the board for players, TV sets and 4K Blu-ray discs alike. You and I both know that. Whatever your decision, make it a good one and enjoy! My purpose here was just to be completely honest and forthcoming with everyone that reads this review.