If you have a new (and probably quite expensive) 4K HDR TV, then 4K video is amazing — it looks incredible. But to watch a 4K Blu-ray, you need a 4K Blu-ray player, which can set you back quite a few hundred dollars more than regular Blu-ray. If you do want to make that investment, though, the cheapest 4K Blu-ray player actually does a lot more than just play movies. You can buy a 4K-toting Xbox One S for as little as $349, a full $200 cheaper than the least expensive Blu-ray player on sale in Australia today.
The cheapest Xbox One S in Australia — a 500GB model, albeit bundled with a copy of Halo 5: Guardians and a digital download of the Halo complete collection — is on sale for $349. Competition between retailers should even drive that price down slightly lower again. But even if it doesn't budge $1, it's still cheaper than the $596 Samsung UBD-K8500, and much less than the Panasonic DMP-UB900.
Now, let us be the first to say that there are differences in the video chipsets that output 4K video — but whether you want to spend that extra $200 or $600 is up to what you see with your own eyes, and considering the extra potential of a gaming console over a regular Blu-ray player, we think the Xbox One S really sells itself in this situation. If you want a 4K Blu-ray player, you'd be silly not to at least give the Xbox some serious consideration.
This situation actually has clear parallels to the early days of Blu-ray itself, when very expensive Blu-ray players — usually with that same cinephile tag attached and touting their amazing video quality credentials — were significantly undercut by the launch of the PlayStation 3, itself a gaming machine first and an entertainment machine second. The Xbox One S is both a gaming and entertainment machine — it'll play the most recent console games, but it also has apps for Netflix and Stan and Foxtel Play. And also 4K Blu-ray discs.
You can buy some amazing-looking 4K Blu-ray discs, and the difference in quality between 4K Ultra HD and 1080p Full HD is easily, clearly noticeable. The extra investment — $50 per disc versus about $35 at RRP — is relatively small. Trust us, it's worth it. And even if you don't buy many 4K Blu-rays, it'll still play your regular Blu-rays and streaming services, with support for HDR content where appropriate.
It's a little bit strange that Microsoft isn't shouting this from the rooftops, to be honest. We think you'd be silly not to buy a 4K TV if you're picking up a new model in 2016, and you'd be silly not to get one with HDR support — as an investment for the future — at the same time. With that in mind, it makes sense to do the whole thing right and get yourself a 4K-ready Blu-ray player or a 4K-ready gaming console too; the Xbox One S does both. [Microsoft]