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Samsung debuts world's first ultra-high definition Blu-ray player

The device will launch in Europe early next year, and the company also showed off new speakers and talked up a streaming gaming service.

Samsung's new ultra high-definition Blu-ray player will be available next year.

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

BERLIN -- Get ready for some ultra high-definition DVDs.

Samsung talked up its first UHD Blu-ray player, the UBD-K8500, during an event Thursday at a press conference at the IFA electronics show here. The player is capable of providing four times the resolution and 64 times higher color expression compared to standard Blu-ray and can upscale content to provide UHD resolution for any disc. UHD streaming services are also available through the box, which features a curved design.

Samsung didn't specify any pricing, but said it would cost "less than $500" (roughly £350 or AU$700). It said the device will launch in the US and Europe early next year.

The sharp picture format, also called 4K, is the next optical disc format that will succeed Blu-ray. The format's first players and discs were expected to go on sale by the end of 2015, but none had been officially announced before Thursday. The discs will cost around $30 (£20 or AU$40) each, though exact pricing will depend on the movie studios.

A Samsung product manager told CNET the device will launch in the first quarter instead of later this year because of a delay in setting the standards for UHD Blu-ray products.

All of the big TV makers have been looking to UHD, also known as 4K, to get consumers buying TVs again. The market has stagnated for the past few years, and consumers have tended to hold on to their TVs much longer than their mobile devices and even PCs. The biggest drawback for UHD so far -- aside from high prices -- has been the lack of content available for the higher-resolution displays.

Samsung's mobile business gets most of the buzz nowadays, but it's really the television business that turned Samsung into a tech powerhouse. The company sells about three TVs every second. Samsung said in January that it has a 60 percent share of the market for UHD TV sets.

Offering a Blu-ray player capable of running UHD videos could help solve the content issue. Older DVDs will also look better than their original qualities, and consumers will be able to access new UHD content easier. Netflix, Amazon and others support 4K streaming over the Internet, but the quality of streamed movies likely won't be as high as that of an Ultra HD Blu-ray. Still, disc-based formats like Blu-ray continue to decline in sales while streaming video, with quality that's perfectly good enough for most viewers, surges in popularity.

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Just as Blu-ray discs improved upon DVD, UHD Blu-ray improves upon the original Blu-ray format. It allows the discs to have more storage -- up to 100GB versus Blu-ray's 50GB -- and to support the latest picture quality enhancements. The improvements include sharper pictures, better contrast and richer, more natural colors. The new format also handles the next generation of home audio formats, including Dolby Atmos and DTS, which have additional channels and speakers for potentially more realistic sound.

Along with the new UHD Blu-ray player, Samsung also revealed new speakers -- the R5, R3 and R1 series, which will cost $399, $299 and $199 respectively in the US.

It talked up too a new partnership with Gamefly to launch Gamefly Streaming, "a subscription service that brings the world's favorite games into peoples' living rooms without the need for consoles, cables or discs." Gamefly works by streaming popular, albeit older, titles over the Internet, with games including Batman: Arkham Origins, Lego Batman 3, GRID 2 and Hitman Absolution, all available directly on Samsung Smart TVs.

For the best of IFA 2015, see CNET's complete coverage.

David Katzmaier contributed to this report.

Updated at 11:50 a.m. CET and 12 p.m. CET with additional details.