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This article follows the "Living with 4K" series of articles that I have been publishing during the past couple of years. Currently a 4K display is more expensive than an HDTV and many use the excuse of "there is no 4K content available" to postpone buying a UHDTV.

In 2006 the first Blu-ray player Sony released to market was priced at about $900. If I tell you how to get a 4K player and content now, how much would you say a 4K player is worth? How many 4K players are there? Most people do not know the answer to those questions.

At the moment there are two companies making 4K players for consumers: Sony has two 4K players (FMP-X1 and FMP-X10, both for $699) and Nanotech Entertainment has also two 4K consumer players (NP-1 $299 and NP-H1 $949). These players are Internet oriented devices, no disc players, the Blu-ray Association has been working on the specification for a 4K player/disc for the past couple of years and they expect it to be ready later in 2015. It has been announced that a disc/player may be available by Christmas 2015.

For a relatively low $299 price the Nuvola NP-1 player is a 4K content streamer that offers a large set of features with dozens of Android based apps such as UltraFlix for 4K content, Netflix streaming (although not yet in 4k for the NP-1 until Netflix releases an Android app), Skype, YouTube, Twitter, epix, Hulu Plus, M-Go, IMDb, TED, Google Chrome for Internet access to the Web and Email, Google Play Store, Pandora, Rhapsody, Facebook, Twitter, Games, etc. Nanotech says that the NP-1 can also download but I did not test the claim.

It also offers a variety of settings for the player and for the apps, including subtitles, embedded subtitles option, colors, font, border, audio, italic effects, output resolution, HW and SW decoders for local and networked content, folders and categories, networking capabilities, Internet browsing features of clear history, thumbnail cached, favorites, etc., scanning capabilities, playback preferences of resuming and seeking key frames, aspect ratios control, audio track selection with smoother secondary audio track playing, preferred audio language, games apps, Play Store, for music, games, movies and TV, etc.

Nuvola NP-1 4K Player with remote, AC adapter, and USB Wi-Fi dongle

The NP-1 decodes MPEG-4 and HEVC H.265 compressed video and sends the uncompressed 4K video via HDMI 1.4 to "any" display device (4K UltraFlix only streams in HEVC). What is innovative is that the display does not have to be a Samsung UHDTV or a Sony UHDTV, known to display their own proprietary 4K content not playable on other UHDTVs. However, Sony at CEDIA 2014 announced an upgrade to their FMP-X10 4K player to make it compatible with other HDCP 2.2/HDMI 2 compliant displays in the last quarter of 2014.

This Nuvola NP-1 player connects to an UHDTV via HDMI to show the 4K content available in UltraFlix, 4K YouTube, and hopefully soon, 4K Netflix. The NP-1 is not HDCP 2.2/HDMI 2.0 compliant, such feature will be included on a newer generation player and during its launch the company will offer a trade-in discount program.

The NP-1 for $299 is the lowest priced 4K player and relatively a bargain particularly because it is UHDTV brand independent. I introduced this NP-1 player on this article earlier this year and it is now available for purchase and the UltraFlix 4K content as well.

I started this review a few weeks ago when the company sent me a unit just before I was travelling to CEDIA in September. Nuvola said UltraFlix v. 1.2 was already installed in it and according to the company the UI was smoother, more content was added, and its streaming performance was increased. A few weeks ago UltraFlix was updated again in the player to v. 1.3, which I also tested on the review, with the following features:

  • Improved performance for application loading, menu navigation
  • Faster image loading time
  • Added details and user feedback
  • Updated soft input keyboard system
  • Updated User Interface color scheme
  • Redundant Data Server Connections optimizing geographical performance
  • Improved security screen layout
  • Diagnostics information added to the 'About' screen
  • 4K TV Demos Channel - featuring highlights of the latest 4K TV manufacturers
  • New Concerts including The Who - Quadrophenia and Muse Live in Rome
  • New Nature Documentaries including Myanmar, Serengeti, Hawaii, and Napa Valley Dreams

Coming in November

  • Iron Dragon TV - Martial Arts & Kung Fu Channel
  • Over 50 new Concerts & Music Documentaries including Pink Floyd, The Doors, Elton John and more

I put the NP-1 player and the 4K UltraFlix content thru the same tests I did with the Sony FMP-X1 4K player and Sony's 4K Unlimited Content Service. I viewed this player with the perspective of a) a hard to beat $299 for 4K playback capabilities for the general consumer when there are almost no 4K players and content in the market, and b) the relatively low economic risk of an early adopter that may want to experiment with Internet 4K content delivery while waiting for the 4K Blu-ray disc.

I support the convenience of Internet distribution if the content I want to view is not easily available in a better quality format at the given moment, but I personally prefer (and collect) pre-recorded discs because they offer a proven higher quality of audio and video.

Testing Environment

My cable company's ISP fiber line is 100 Mbps download/upload over Ethernet CAT-5 network connections, and my Home Theater's Wi-Fi router offers 30+ Mbps download/upload speed and is conveniently located a few feet away from the NP-1 player and the equipment rack.

Nuvola NP-1 4K Player – User Guide

I tested the player with both connections but I used the faster CAT-5 connection for the review, even when the Nuvola player claims to offer 4K image quality at a minimum of 6 Mbps, and claims to dynamically adapt image quality to slower speeds, as Netflix does.

I tested the performance the same way I tested the FMP-X1 Sony 4K player and the Sony server almost two years ago. I used my VPL-VW1100 Sony 4K projector and 10-feet-wide CinemaScope Stewart Firehawk 1.3 G3 screen (130.5-inches diagonal).

The audio was secondary to my primary objective of evaluating 4K image quality which I purposely do in silence, so I mostly ignored audio at this time, however, audio quality is very important to me when I choose a video format for my content collection.

Nuvola asked me to evaluate the NP-1 image quality on a UHDTV panel because they thought there were no 4K projectors that were truly 4K (thinking about the JVC perhaps); however, in order to appreciate and properly evaluate video quality I prefer a 4K projector and a larger screen. I used the same environment to compare the UltraFlix 4K image quality with Sony's 4K image quality, and 1080p Blu-ray and cable HD, both upscaled to 4K by the same projector.

The viewing distance was the recommended 1.5 PH for 4K, but I also moved around in front of the screen and as close to a few inches to see pixel structure and possible video aberrations, if any.

Technical Specifications

Processor: NVIDIA Tegra 4 Quad Core Mobile Processor with 2GB DDR3 RAM
Graphics Processor: 72 GPU
Internal Storage: 16GB Flash Memory
RJ-45 Ethernet: 10/100/1000
Wireless: Dual Band 802.11n 2x2 Mimo Wi-Fi
Bluetooth: 4.0
Output: HDMI 1.4 output w/Audio
I/O: 1x USB 2.0 / 1x USB 3.0
Size: 90mm (w) x 100mm (l) x30mm (h)
Streaming Video Support: 4K Ultra HD (3840x2160), HD (1920x1080 & 1280x720), SD (720x480)
Operating System: Android 4.4.2 KitKat OS
Power: DC 5.2V
Supported Video Formats: MP4, MKV, AVI, MOV, OGG (and recently HEVC H.265)
Supported Audio Formats: AAC, FLAC, MP3, WAV
Supported Image Formats: BMP, GIF, JPG, PNG
Bundled Movies: Access to 10 Streaming Movies free of charge on the NanoFlix Ultra HD Channel

Nuvola NP-1 4K Player - Bottom

Functionality

The NP-1 is very small, about the size of a Roku player. It sat on top of my Sony 4K player giving the appearance of an adaptor.

The user interface has a simple home screen with an icons-bar at the bottom of the image to launch the apps or to branch out to the rest of the player's functionality.

There is one icon for UltraFlix 4K content that takes you directly to the service, an icon for the settings to allow for many system adjustments, another icon for accessing the screen that has all the Android apps, and another with Google to access the web with its own drop down list of settings and features for privacy, accessibility, bandwidth management, cookies, etc. All icons are accessible using the pointer (air-mouse as the NP-1 calls it) in the remote control.

The 4K movie list in UltraFlix offers categories that can be selected by using the four arrow buttons on the remote control (and a non included Bluetooth keyboard) to vertically change categories, and horizontally scroll thru movies and clips within the same category.

The Startup and Registration procedures for Google and UltraFlix accounts were straight forward but slow because I used the remote pointer and the screen keyboard. More text intensive activities such as Web, Email, YouTube, Netflix data entry could be more efficient with a Bluetooth keyboard.

My suggestions

I suggested to NanoTech for the NP-1 to have a way to disable (or allow for a variable reduction of) the intensity of the very strong one-inch round front blue light that is constantly "on" when the unit receives energy, because it was distracting on a dark viewing environment, but the answer was that "it was built into the design of the PCB", which I assume it meant NO.

The on/off button on the remote is actually for sleep mode. The only way to turn off the unit was by unplugging it. Nuvola said that the unit was designed to be always "on" while plugged in, and also commented: "We are adding power on/off support for 2.10 firmware update."

I struggled with the pointer of the remote. It appeared that in order to play a movie its label has to be scrolled all the way to the left of the screen (the beginning of the displayed row of the category of movies), then activate and use the pointer to point to it, and click OK on the remote for the movie to start. Hopefully Nuvola could make the procedure more agile, but Nuvola indicated that "The functionality of the remote can be changed by changing the type of remote. Most USB remotes can be used in place of the one provided."

To help evaluate image quality of the 4K content and the distribution channel it would be ideal if eventually the NP-1 may have an on-screen display feature operated by a button on the remote that would show the properties of the content overlapping the displayed image.

Properties such as native resolution, player output resolution (currently always fixed at the maximum 2160p 30fps, more below), streaming/displayed speed in Mbps vs. recommended speed for optimum image quality for the given content, frame-rate, chroma sub-sampling (currently the minimum 4:2:0), bits of color depth (currently the minimum 8), color space used (currently Rec. 709 used for HDTV), camera used for the recording (such as Sony F65, if that information is available in the metadata of the content), codec used for the streaming, and number of audio channels, bits, and audio codec.

Remote and Controls

Accounts registration, web searching, and other text entering functionality can be done using one of the two methods of data entry: a) a screen keyboard and an included small handheld remote/mouse pointer, or b) a Bluetooth keyboard (not included, which can be mated to the NP-1 on the settings menu).

To use the (a) procedure the remote pointer should be pointed to a letter of the screen's keyboard and press OK, one-by-one while completing the text, which is inefficient but offers a way out if not having a physical keyboard. It can also be used to scroll thru other items on the screen.

I used both (a) and (b) methods, and the (b) method is more efficient for typing text for web searching and email for example, however, the Bluetooth keyboard requires the extra expense if the owner does not have one already.

The pointer on the remote is difficult to handle. Even after following the pointer initialization procedure, the pointer often came out of the 10 feet wide projection screen for my test and was cumbersome to bring it back over the icons/items to just press OK, but as I mentioned above Nuvola says that other USB remotes can be used.

Nuvola NP-1 4K Player – HDMI cable and adaptors

Nuvola commented on this subject: "The arrow keys work best on the remote in UltraFlix. The UI is going to be updated very soon for smoother user control. An external mouse and keyboard using a USB dongle can be used as an alternative. When selecting a video in UltraFlix click OK twice. In general use wrist movements as opposed to arm movements with the remote. Also, the Mouse Mode button can be depressed when the cursor is centered and pressed again to help center the cursor."

The remote has four cursor arrows and an OK entry button. Moving the cursor over the screen keyboard's row or column does not wrap around when reaching the end of the row/column if the path to the desired letter is shorter that way, a similar feature would be useful when glossing over the movie categories.

Resolution Settings

The settings menu has a screen to change the output resolution, but it always defaults to 2160p 30fps regardless if it was set to "auto" or any other. Nanotech said they are working to correct the flaw.

If by "Auto" Nuvola meant "native" it would allow the NP-1 to output the content as it was recorded and the display would have to perform any upscaling/conversion, if needed. The viewer should then decide if the NP-1 or the display performs better frame rate/upscaling conversions.

To change resolutions the NP-1 requires the viewer to interrupt the viewed program to go to the main settings menu, select the resolution submenu, scroll over the choices and change the resolution, and for the setting to apply the NP-1 has to be restarted. Changing the resolution with a pop up Window over the uninterrupted program would be more user's friendly.

Nuvola commented: "The unit auto picks the highest resolution / frame rate available. We are waiting for an Android update to switch frame rates on the fly. Our next OS release will support the ability to change frame rates without rebooting. It wasn't available in 4.4.2 when we received the code drop."

There is no 4K 60fps setting on the available resolutions because the unit has an HDMI 1.4 chip. However, although the HDMI 2.0 spec implemented 4K 60fps, there is no 4K content available at the 60fps frame rate (yet). The NP-1 will continue to be an HDMI 1.4 player, and no HDMI upgrades will be offered by the company, other than replacing the unit (more below).

In other words, the NP-1 will never play faster frame rates than 24/30fps for 4K because its HDMI chip will continue to be version 1.4, and will never need to handle HDCP 2.2, the stronger content protection of HDMI 2.0 supported by Sony for their 4K content, because UltraFlix/NP-1 does not implement it for their 4K content.

Player Connectivity

As I mentioned on my first Nuvola article, the NP-1 has only one HDMI output for all video and audio to flow on that connection. That is all is needed if the NP-1 would be connected directly to a UHDTV that will also handle the sound, typically with a couple of small L/R speakers in the cabinet, a simple setup.

However If the HDMI signal has to be routed thru an A/V Receiver/Pre-Pro for better sound reproduction and the AVR is NOT capable of video-switching 4K (for which the HDMI chip must be capable to handle at least 297MHz), the 4K video will not flow to the display for viewing.

Nuvola NP-1 Rear Panel

Regarding 4K projectors, if the consumer would not want to upgrade the A/V Receiver/Pre-Pro just for having 4K switching capabilities (which requires the HDMI inputs to be 4K compliant, not just the HDMI output), the alternative is using an HDMI splitter that receives the HDMI signal from the NP-1 and sends it to the two devices, the 4K video to the UHDTV/Projector and the audio to the AVR sound system. However, the splitter has to be 4K compliant (>297 MHz HDMI chips).

As I suggested to NanoTech on my first article, the player should have an extra audio out connection, preferably another HDMI output (such as the Sony player) to transport lossless or PCM multichannel audio to the AV Receiver, or a Toslink/Digital Coax connection to transport lossy multi-channel audio or 2-channel PCM to the AV Receiver. NanoTech acknowledged the idea, but such feature may only be available on the next generation model.

However, for UHDTV panels there is an alternative connection to the AVR thru the TV. Connect the NP-1 player's HDMI output to the UHDTV input, and the UHDTV TosLink audio output to the AVR. If the audio source from the player is 5.1 Dolby Digital for example the UHDTV may transfer out the Dolby Digital to the TosLink connection and if so the AVR will be able to play it back (the UHDTV should be set for external speakers), but if the player's audio source is PCM 5.1 sent thru HDMI the UHDTV will only be able to transfer out a stereo PCM signal of the soundtrack to the TosLink output connection of the TV to the AVR (TosLink cannot carry multi-channel PCM), the AVR may take the 2-ch and apply DSP to play it back as Dolby Pro-Logic matrixed, or use other DSP codecs for multi-channel audio.

The NP-1 comes with a USB adapter for Wi-Fi connectivity. Other connections are described on the specs.

4K Viewing

Some UltraFlix 4K clips showed acceptable video quality although not to the 4K WOW level. Other (perhaps too many) UltraFlix 4K clips showed unacceptable judder and video frame sync problems. Since the NP-1 does not playback the content at native resolution there was no way to debug if the problem was the content itself or a frame rate conversion forced by the player to 30fps, or both. Some content from YouTube did not show the same problem, likewise, my Sony 4K player and Sony's 4K content never showed that problem. If possible, I would like to retest another NP-1 unit at a later time when the "auto resolution" feature is fixed.

On a couple of occasions I experienced flicking on the bottom half of the image and the pointer loss the control moving all over the image without me touching the remote, the problem only went away when I reset the unit to manufacturer specs using the pinhole on its right (unplugging it did not help).

The NP-1 image required an increase of brightness (53 and above) of the 4K projector setting I use for the Sony 4K player (49), but that varies with the display device, calibration, and the 4K content.

The image quality of the 4K content streamed by the NP-1 showed less detail and it was softer compared with exactly the same 4K content (Sony content) downloaded by the Sony player, which is not a 4K WOW either, and is what I expected considering that the Mbps playback speed of downloaded content in the Sony player is faster than the NP-1 more-compressed stream version.

Sony issued a similar comment on the description of their FMP-X10 player when comparing the streamed and downloaded 4K content, meaning Netflix streamed image would not have the level of quality of the downloaded content, which typically takes many hours to download the less compressed data (average 38GB of data), even though Netflix uses the (50%) more efficient HEVC when streaming thru the Sony player while the Sony 4K downloads use MPEG-4 compression.

Some of the best 4K clips available on the NP-1 and on my Sony FMP-X1 player that I compared were "Kluge", "El Dorado", and "Feel the Beauty", and I also compared image quality with different content from both players.

Many movies are created to primarily show the director's artistic intent which may not need (or prefer not to show) all the detail the higher resolution 4K is capable of, and a UHDTV display cannot show detail that was intentionally not captured. Moreover, two movie directors on a panel I witnessed at a recent Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE) conference in Hollywood commented that sometimes the director has no choice than to comply with an actress's request of not showing extreme skin detail, and to that end the illumination of a scene and the camera shots are arranged.

Over the past two years of viewing and reviewing 4K content on a large screen my experience with most 4K content available "today" was that only 5% of the 4K content deserved the "WOW" qualification.

Regarding local content (not streamed), Nuvola commented:

"We do not ship the unit with any clips locally on the unit. It streams everything through UltraFlix. To play locally, the content is placed in the movies folder or it can be played on a USB 2.0 drive. Content is played locally by using MX player and selecting the folder which contain the videos. I do not see a performance difference between using the USB drive vs internally but you can review that yourself."

To be Specific with UltraFlix Viewing

I noticed some color banding on some clips, such as the Tokyo Timescapes (the part of dark sky at the evening shots), and some image shifts at the forest shots. The image quality was no better than a decent Blu-Ray disc upscaled by the 4K projector.

I noticed some image shifting at the end of the clip "El Dorado". Over the past two years I have seen and tested "El Dorado" probably over 50 times on my 4K Sony player and projector, it never did that. Although the content title shows as "El Dorado-HD" my 4K projector disclosed the input resolution as 3840x2160 30p. The Nuvola player was set as "auto" but, as I said before, the player forces everything to be output as 2160 30fps. The image was nice but not representative of what the 4K format can provide in terms of image quality. I compared the same clip with the Sony 4K player, and the NP-1 version was softer.

The "Liftinoff-HD" clip of air-balloons showed a soft image equivalent to an HD cable channel over-compressed at half of its bit rate. Its appearance did not even qualify as an HD image demo. A similar demo clip w/1080i resolution was shown in the late 90s when HDTV was introduced and it had more clarity than this 4K version. The grass was shown as a solid cartoonish large green object with no clarity or definition on the grass blades. The rendering and detail of the colorful balloons was soft and undefined as well.

The "Unspoken friend" clip showed better, especially on the close ups of the horse and the trainer, and also toward the end when wrapping the evening after the training.

The "Video channel" clip was a better representation of well lighted 4K imaging although it ironically was introduced with pictures of HD cameras at the beginning of the clip. The camera shots of the Chinese ladies, the shiny objects, the skin details, the sophisticated turntable for vinyl records, the exterior shots of colorful buildings, etc. were all well lighted and showed great detail. The close ups of the high-end watches were very detailed as well. In comparison, my HD cable channel program of "How is Made" shows similar high detail quality with just 1080i upscaled to 4K by the 4K projector, because it "has" to show the extreme detail of how things are put together and especial attention is paid to correct lighting and there is no tolerance for small out-of-focus incidents, which makes a difference in HD, but more in 4K.

The "Destinations" video short has several vertical and horizontal camera shots that are very jumpy; the pans appear to be too fast for the 4K 30fps. On the SMPTE conference I attended in Hollywood one technical track gave many hints to 4K camera operators, such as not panning faster that 1/10th the speed of a walking person because 4K is very sensitive to faster panning. Many camera shots are also out of focus, with the incorrect depth of field making the closer rocky scenery as blurred as the mile away trees. Other shots are sharp, such as the scenes of the black bird, but the bird is well focused throughout the shot perhaps because the bird and the camera are not moving. That is great but video is not about showing slides.

Both "Puerta del Sol" clips show many shots with motion blurriness and judder. The effects were more accentuated on the shots when people just moved a bit, making the edges of their bodies and faces overlap as they move, like viewing 3D parallax without 3D glasses. The shot of the slow moving bus showed its windows and the advertising letters on its side panel shaking as it moved. On the shot exploring the city buildings the camera moves slowly and the image shows judder. At 5:11 minutes the "Puerta del Sol" clip shows a statue of a horse in a plaza, there is judder as the camera pans the horse from down up. There was a still camera shot of the horse statue, the camera was shaken suddenly (obviously its tripod was tripped by the operator). "Puerta del Sol 2" shows many people with faces pushing to red. Both clips are not pleasant to watch regardless of resolution.

The "LA Heli" clip is blurry and showed similar pan issues, now because the scenery moves in front of the camera mounted on the helicopter, the judder effect also makes watching the clip uncomfortable.

There were other clips with similar image issues. How much of this was the content or the player or both is not clear but other content did not show the judder. If I would be UltraFlix I would not have used those clips for 4K demonstration. Other YouTube clips showed better.

4K Content Pricing

4K streaming of "mostly-unknown" UltraFlix movies for an average $4.99 is lower than Sony's pricing for 24hr-rent of Sony's (known, but not all new) movies. One inconvenience with downloads is that the Sony player has to completely download the movie to be able to play it (a task that takes many hours depending on the ISP speed and the apparent speed cap Sony applies from their side). On the other hand the NP-1 streams in real-time on demand like Netflix (although the content is visually more-compressed).

Choose your poison: "Soft 4K" streamed in real time? Or waiting for a "Not-as-WOW-4K" to be viewed the day after? May be neither, and view a stunning 4K upscaled Blu-ray?

Some people may not be interested in paying even $4.99 to stream an unknown 4K UltraFlix independent movie. Others may not even pay a cent unless the content and the distribution media prove that the 4K video quality is worth, but they would have to buy the player first.

Additionally, a Comcast/Charter subscriber would have to add up to $10 to the price of the 4K movie to cover for the cost of just download it ($10 for each 50GB over the monthly data cap). Streaming Netflix 4K at 20Mbps thru Comcast is not free either (details on my previous article on the section "Total Cost of Ownership").

Here is a recent case of a user of the Sony FMP-X10 for 4K downloads:

"The first thing I did after connecting the X10 was disable the automatic downloads. Recently I contacted Sony about getting Spiderman 2 free promo. [Sony] said I needed to enable automatic downloads for it to show up. I enabled automatic downloads and waited to check the next day..What did happen though is what I had feared. My ISP has a data cap of 300GB per month. Just checked online and I have used about 350GB this month which will result in overage charges. Turning on automatic downloads per Sony request last week resulted in over $30 in ISP overages."

Eventually the competition of content distribution models will settle prices where they should be and the introduction of 4K Blu-ray in 2015 has the potential to alter the currently favored Internet model if the price is right.

Final Thoughts

As I said on other 4K articles, the 4K content available to consumers "today" is not a WOW type of 4K by any means, it is on the early stages, and we hope it will improve in the future, as well as the technical quality of UHD televisions, the content distribution methods and compression algorithms, and the UHDTV standards for better color sub-sampling, more bits of color depth for High Dynamic Range, faster frame rates and larger color spaces more in tune with the human vision capabilities. In other words all pieces of the 4K puzzle are a moving target but today the WOW is bare bones.

Even with the above, unless the compression, close ups, lighting, chosen objects, camera shots, perfect focus and depth of field, panning speed of the camera operator or the movement of the recorded object, are all carefully crafted to their best, the resulting quality of the 4K content may not be the WOW it could be just because it has 4 times the pixel count.

This highlights how important is the capability of a 4K display to upscale well and make a good HD source appear to be close to the quality of a native 4K image to untrained eyes, making the "we need 4K content now" criticism less binding for the justification to invest on an UHDTV.

Nanotech just entered into a partnership with Sony to make available UltraFlix 4K content to the UltraFlix app into some Sony's TVs (not requiring an NP-1 player to have access to the same 4K UltraFlix content).

I would like for the NP-1 player to polish its remote/pointer operation, to implement correctly features such as output native resolution, and improve the quality of the 4K content, especially the free clips that ironically should be recorded with the best 4K quality to give good demonstrations and motivate the purchase of other 4K content.

In summary, if you crave for 4K content beyond the apps of some UHDTVs (such as M-Go, Amazon, and DirecTV on Samsung TVs), below are the stand-alone player possibilities:

- A Sony FMP-X10 player for $699 now, that will stream/download Sony's 4K content, stream 4K Netflix and more apps coming such as the partnership with UltraFlix for their 4K content; plays to compliant HDMI 2.0/HDCP 2.2 UHDTVs and is capable of playing 4K60fps when content is made available, at 8-bit color depth,

- Wait until 2016 for a 4K Blu-ray player and discs, perhaps late 2015, at an unknown price, possibly closer to $1000 than $500. It was announced that 4K Blu-ray players and discs will display up 60 fps and 10-bit color depth, and possibly Rec. 2020 color space. If top audio quality is required, consider that pre-recorded disc media such as Blu-ray offers lossless multichannel audio that no Internet based distribution system offers.

- A Nuvola NP-1 for $299 now, to play 4K UltraFlix content and possibly soon 4K Netflix, 24/30fps and 8-bit color depth with non upgradeable HDMI v. 1.4, but software upgrades are gradually making the NP-1 better (and the Sony player as well).

Consider also that the 4K content available today (and perhaps for a long time) is limited to 24fps (film/movies) and 30fps (video), 4:2:0 chroma sub-sampling (which throws away 75% of the color detail that humans "are said not to detect"), 8-bit color depth, and Rec. 709 HD color space rather than Rec. 2020 for UHD, and all those specs are what the NP-1 and the Sony players are designed to handle primarily, as many UHDTVs and 4K video equipment do out there.

UltraFlix and Sony 4K content quality and quantity are improving within those parameters, but if UltraFlix ever improves beyond the above specs think that Nuvola offers a trade-in program if a newer generation unit is desired, which is a virtue that is hard to find in the consumer electronics market.

Posted by Rodolfo La Maestra, December 1, 2014 7:45 PM

More in Category: 4K (Ultra HD)

About Rodolfo La Maestra

Rodolfo La Maestra is the Senior Technical Director of UHDTV Magazine and HDTV Magazine and participated in the HDTV vision since the late 1980's. In the late 1990's, he began tracking and reviewing HDTV consumer equipment, and authored the annual HDTV Technology Review report, tutorials, and educative articles for HDTV Magazine, DVDetc and HDTVetc  magazines, Veritas et Visus Newsletter, Display Search, and served as technical consultant/editor for the "Reference Guide" and the "HDTV Glossary of Terms" for HDTVetc and HDTV Magazines.  In 2004, he began recording a weekly HDTV technology program for MD Cable television, which by 2006 reached the rating of second most viewed.

Rodolfo's background encompasses Electronic Engineering, Computer Science, and Audio and Video Electronics, with over 4,700 hours of professional training, a BS in Computer and Information Systems, and thirty+ professional and post-graduate certifications, some from MIT, American, and George Washington Universities.  Rodolfo was also Computer Science professor in five institutions between 1966-1973 in Argentina, regarding IBM, Burroughs, and Honeywell mainframe computers.  After 38 years of computer systems career, Rodolfo retired in 2003 as Chief of Systems Development from the Inter-American Development Bank directing sixty+ software-development computer professionals, supporting member countries in north/central/south America.

In parallel, from 1998 he helped the public with his other career of audio/video electronics, which started with hi-end audio in the early 60’s and merged with Home Theater video, multichannel audio
, HD, 3D and UHDTV. When HDTV started airing in November 1998, and later followed by 3DTV and 4K UHDTV, he realized that the technology as implemented would overwhelm consumers due to its complexity, and it certainly does even today, and launched his mission of educating and helping consumers understand the complexity, the challenge, and the beauty of the technology pursuing better sound and image, so the public learn to appreciate it not just as another television.