Microsoft Undercuts Others with $299 UHD Blu-ray-Capable Xbox

When Microsoft’s Xbox One S hits retail Aug. 2, it’ll be just the third Ultra High-Def (UHD) Blu-ray Disc player in the market, and it’ll be $100 cheaper than standalone players offered by Samsung and Philips.

The first UHD Blu-ray player, the Samsung UBD-K8500, debuted earlier this spring with a $399 price point, and Philips is next up with its BDP7501, also for $399. Panasonic has produced its first UHD Blu-ray player, the DMP-UB900, but hasn’t announced pricing and availability for the U.S.

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If suggested retail prices for those players don’t change between now and August, Microsoft should have a significant advantage over the standalone players, with a gaming console that does more than the competition, for $100 less.

“You’ll now be able to watch Blu-ray movies and stream video in stunning 4K Ultra HD video, with content from partners like Netflix and Amazon Video,” Matt Lapsen, GM of Xbox devices marketing, wrote in a blog post. “Xbox One S also offers high dynamic range (HDR) support for video and gaming, so you can experience richer, more luminous colors in games like Gears of War 4 and Scalebound. With a higher contrast ratio between lights and darks, HDR brings out the true visual depth of your games and media.”

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The $299 version of the Xbox One S includes 500 GB of storage, while a 1 TB version will cost $349. A 2 TB special launch edition will run $399.

The home entertainment industry is backing UHD Blu-ray in the hopes of offsetting declining DVD spending, and by taking advantage of increasing consumer demand for 4K UHD TV sets that handle HDR. Among major Hollywood studios, only Disney has yet to announce or release films on UHD Blu-ray.

Bill Hunt, editor of The Digital, said the Microsoft UHD Blu-ray announcement was good news for the format and home entertainment. He also suspected Sony would follow suit later June 13 when it held its Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) press event.

“It’s going to put players for physical UHD discs and streaming pipes for UHD content in a lot more homes, and at a very consumer friendly price point,” he said. “That can only be a good thing for the future of discs. Samsung, Philips — they have the display business as their mainstay and they’ll be very happy I think to have more 4K content available to show on them.

“I strongly suspect Sony’s PS3 ‘Neo’ will have Ultra HD Blu-ray capability too, which is why they haven’t already unveiled a set-top player of their own. All of these are very exciting developments for 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray, in my opinion.”