Sony's just-announced flagship Blu-ray player, the BDP-S790, is the first of its kind to upscale video to 4K — the next generation of video quality beyond 1080p Full HD.
Native 4K video contains four times as many pixels as the current top standard of Full HD, which at 1920x1080p has around 2.1 megapixels of data per video frame. 4K eclipses that at 3840x2160p — a full 8.3 megapixels of data per frame. An even higher quality standard exists in 8K, with a massive 33.2 megapixels per frame from its 7680x4320p frame.
Although various formats of '4K' video exist, the International Telecommunication Union has proposed next-generation video standards and new video cameras are being developed to shoot 4K and 8K video for broadcast TV and movie use.
4K TVs will begin to hit the market at the end of this year. LG showed off a 84in 4K LED TV at CES 2012 this January, and Samsung has been displaying a prototype since 2011. Prices for early 4K TVs will likely be extremely high and out of reach for the average consumer.
The BDP-S790 has a dual-core processor to handle the computing-intensive task of 4K upscaling, and has dual HDMI outputs to connect two TVs or monitors simultaneously. The S790 can also play 3D Blu-ray movies, and can convert regular Blu-ray video into 3D on the fly. The BDP-S790's 4K upscaling is largely academic — it won't be able to get any extra detail from a 1080p Blu-ray movie, for example — but it will mean the Sony player will be able to output a native 4K signal where competitors cannot.
As befits a high-end Blu-ray player, the BDP-S790 has built-in Wi-Fi as well as wired Ethernet for connecting to a home network and the Internet. As well as networked media shares, the Sony BDP-S790 can access Sony's Entertainment Network including the subscription Video Unlimited and Music Unlimited services, and the complete range of Australian video-on-demand services like ABC iView.
Sony's pegged the price of the BDP-S790 at $429 — a $100 premium over other high-end Blu-ray players from Samsung, LG and Panasonic — but if you want to watch upscaled Blu-rays on your future 4K TV, this is the only choice at the moment.