Blu-ray Players

I Don’t Have a 4k TV, Are Ultra HD Blu-Ray Discs Worth It?

If you haven’t purchased a new TV in the last half dozen years, you probably don’t have 4k resolution. Likely, you are still rocking 1080p. If you are honest, it looks pretty good! Nothing has really made you want to run out and get a newer display. Sure, 4k and HDR would be nice (and, if you are a gamer, there are other benefits). But nice enough to stop using your perfectly good TV? Plus, what would an Ultra HD player even do with your system? If you don’t have a 4k TV, would Ultra HD Blu-ray discs be worth it for you?

Blu-ray VS Ultra HD Blu-ray

What are the differences between the two formats? Honestly, not as much as you might think. The main difference is the amount of data that can be stored. Ultra HD Blu-rays can store much more which means more features. For example, standard Blu-rays are 1080p resolution while Ultra HD Blu-rays sport 4k resolution. Standard Blu-rays come in SDR (standard dynamic range) while Ultra HD Blu-rays can display HDR (high dynamic range. This allows Ultra HD Blu-rays to have a larger color gamut (more colors) as well as brighter highlights (greater contrast).

One thing to remember is that the Ultra HD Blu-ray players can read regular Blu-ray discs. They are backward compatible. If you decide to upgrade, you won’t have to replace your current Blu-ray (or even DVD) collection.

Is the Increased Resolution Enough?

From a purely technical standpoint, is 4k worth the cost of upgrading your TV to get access to Ultra HD Blu-rays discs? The answer is normally no. Most people are sitting too far away from their TVs to see the individual pixels. If you see pixels, upgrading your TV is probably a must. For everyone else, it will almost certainly be an unnoticeable difference.

But what about all those people that say that 4k is a massive difference? Well, remember that there is more to a 4k display and Ultra HD Blu-rays than just the resolution.

Is the Increase in Color and Contrast Enough?

Very few people actually need the extra pixels that 4k provides. But the increased color palette and contrast are a whole different thing. HDR provides a lot more contrast while the increased color gamut gives more realistic images. Those people loving their 4k displays and saying that they look so much better than their 1080p sets? That’s probably because of the HDR. You may not need the pixels, but the HDR can give you a much more impressive picture.

What About Atmos or DTS:X?

If you don’t have a 4k TV, then access to the HDR on Ultra HD Blu-ray discs certainly isn’t worth it. No 1080p display can decode any of the HDR formats. But do you have a high-end surround sound system? Adding a couple of Atmos speakers overhead is certainly a lot cheaper than upgrading your display. If you want Atmos or DTS:X, certainly you’ll need to upgrade to an Ultra HD Blu-ray player?

Not necessarily.

The studios would have you believe that you need the latest disc format to get the object-based audio formats of Dolby Atmos or DTS:X. It just isn’t true. Many regular Blu-rays have either an Atmos or DTS:X soundtrack. Some don’t. But it isn’t because of a limitation of the format. Blu-rays have more than enough storage for object-based audio. Studios sometimes wall it off behind the Ultra HD Blu-ray format but that is their decision.


So is worth it to buy Ultra HD Blu-ray discs if you don’t have a 4k TV? We’d argue yes! No, you won’t experience the increased resolution, color, or contrast. If you don’t have overhead speakers, you won’t even experience the object-based audio. But we still think it is worth it and for one reason – This is likely the last disc format that will exist.

DVDs still outsell Blu-rays. Ultra HD Blu-rays have no chance of becoming the dominant disc format. As streaming services increase their offerings (and quality), fewer and fewer discs are sold. We don’t see a future where some manufacturer(s) will try to release an 8k format. As this is the last disc format, if you want the highest quality transfer possible, now is the time to buy.

Even if you only have a Blu-ray player, buying the Ultra HD Blu-ray is still advisable. As you are probably aware, nearly every Ultra HD Blu-ray offering has a Blu-ray disc included. So, enjoy the Blu-ray for now and the Ultra HD disc when you upgrade your display!

Wrap Up

The real issue is that the Ultra HD Blu-ray discs are more expensive. We can understand not wanting to spend the extra cash on something you can’t yet see or hear. If you’ve ever wanted to stream a specific movie and realized that none of your streaming services have it, you know the value of owning a disc. Sure, it is more out of pocket now. But this will be the last disc of that movie you’ll ever have to buy. It might not be worth it to buy the Ultra HD Blu-ray disc for the 4k pixels, it will eventually be worth it for the HDR and object-based audio. Buy once we say.

Have you started buying Ultra HD Blu-ray discs? Do you even have a player or a 4k display? Let us know in the comments!

2 Comments on I Don’t Have a 4k TV, Are Ultra HD Blu-Ray Discs Worth It?

  1. John

    Hi Tom Andry, I want to upgrade my TV to 75 inch but do not know which screen type to get for my purpose. I have over 700 movie DVDs and a number of music DVDs. I also have blu-ray movies but no 4k blu-rays. I do not have a 4k blu-ray player. I also watch free-to-air tv and a lot of sports. Do I really need a premium 4k tv when I have no 4k content? Do they still make high quality 1080p tvs that would suit my purpose. I note not many(if any) new tv reviews ever mention the upscaling ability of DVDs to 4k or suitability for viewing on 4k tvs. Your advice would be greatly appreciated.

    • Well, honestly, you don’t really have much of a choice in getting a 4k TV. No one really makes 1080p flat panels anymore, especially at that size. The truth is that upscaling DVDs isn’t all that difficult for modern TVs of any quality. Will it look as good as a Blu-ray? No. But I watched the DVD of Big Trouble in Little China this weekend with my family and it was perfectly acceptable.

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