Last summer, Sony was first to the mass market with a media player capable of delivering 4K video. Now the second generation has been announced, model FMP-X10, maintaining Sony's lead in the race to bring 4K content home.
As with the original, the new player is proprietary to Sony's own 4K TVs and projectors.
The FMP-X10 will be available in July for $699, the same price as its predecessor. Sony says that people who pre-order between May 15 and July 15, 2014 will save $200.
The biggest new feature is the ability to stream Netflix's 4K content, which just began rolling out. Like its predecessor, it also includes a large hard drive -- 1TB -- for storing and playing back 4K movies and TV shows downloaded from Sony's Video Unlimited 4K service.
Sony says the service now offers 200 titles in 4K, including recent films like "American Hustle" and future releases such as "The Amazing Spider-Man 2." Notable TV series like "The Blacklist" and "Breaking Bad" are also on tap. Pricing for movies is typically $7.99 to rent for 24 hours or $29.99 to buy.
Between Netflix and the on-demand service, Sony's new player offers more content than any 4K device. On the other hand, it works only with Sony's 4K TVs -- not those of Samsung, LG, Panasonic, or others. Samsung recently announced a hard drive that works with its own 4K TVs and comes with a few preloaded 4K films, but doesn't offer a download service yet.
Sony 4K TVs from 2013 lack the ability to stream Netflix since they don't have the built-in H.265/HEVC decoders found on newer sets, so owners of those sets could conceivably buy a FMP-X10 to fill in the hole.
In addition to Netflix, several providers including Amazon, Comcast, Fox, and others have announced plans to deliver 4K streaming. We wouldn't be surprised if Sony's new player added the ability to handle those streams as well when they become available.
At a recent event in New York, focused primarily on demos of Sony's 4K TVs, we were also briefed with a bit more information on the FMP-X10. Sony touted the download model over streaming, saying downloads provided better video quality more consistently. We were also told the new player has an improved interface and control scheme addressing some complaints (from custom installers particularly) compared to the previous version.
Update May 21, 2014 In response to a couple of questions posed in the comments section since this article published, we asked Sony whether there was any word on availability outside the US, and whether the X10, like its predecessor, comes with any content pre-loaded free of charge. In reply, Sony told us that US availability has not been announced as of today, and that the X10 does not come with any content pre-loaded.