Sony's rounded FMP-X1 ultra HD media player.
Sony has announced the details of a new home media device that brings ultra HD movies to your living room — if you're already on board with Sony's devices and services, and if you're willing to pay a premium for a rather slim selection of movies.
Ultra HD, or 4K, refers to video that is twice as wide and tall, resolution-wise, as 1080p content: 3840-by-2160 pixels, to be precise ("4K" refers to the nearly 4,000 horizontal pixels). And there are woefully few devices that support it right now — only a couple mega-high-end TV sets, two of which are from Sony.
And you'll have to have one of those two Sony TVs if you want to use their $700 FMP-X1 media player, first announced back in January; it's incompatible with everything else. You'll also be locked into Sony's pricey Video Unlimited service, at $7.99 each for 24-hour rentals of 4K content or $29.99 to buy as an online download.
The upside, of course, is that with a top-of-the-line 4K Sony TV and one of these players, you'll be enjoying movies in higher definition than anyone's ever seen them at home. That is, if there are any worth watching, and that's the next problem.
The 4K media player comes with 10 movies included, and they're not exactly all winners. From the latest Adam Sandler flick to the "Karate Kid" remake with Jackie Chan and Jaden Smith, it's a mixed bag, to put it kindly. Others are forthcoming, they say, but until then these are all you get.
But there's hope: "Taxi Driver" and "The Bridge on the River Kwai" are classics, and the high-definition scans of those 35mm film reels should make them those movies look incredible. These two, and other remastered classics to come, are probably the best (if not the only) reason to own a 4K TV and this player at the moment.
The FMP-X1 comes with a 2-terabyte hard drive built in, which is probably enough for about 50 movies (most will be between 20 and 40 gigabytes). That may be enough for some and too little for others, but you can always plug in an external drive if you need more space.
More information and specs on Sony's new player can be found at Sony's website, where early adopters and "Total Recall 2012" fans can pre-order it as well.
Devin Coldewey is a contributing writer for NBC News Digital. His personal website is coldewey.cc.
First published July 1 2013, 4:00 PM