Saturday, January 28, 2017

UHD Blu-ray playback on PC will require Intel Kaby Lake processors

It has taken a long while, but PCs are finally getting UHD Blu-ray support. Pioneer Japan has just announced that they are releasing 2 new UHD Blu-ray drives, the BDR S11J-BK and the BDR S11J-X. However, there's a catch.

Your PC will need to have the recently-released Intel 7th Generation (Kaby Lake) processors, running Windows 10 and an HDMI 2.0a connection that's compatible with HDCP 2.2. This will also mean that if you are using the HEDT (high-end-desktop) class of i7 CPUs (Ivy-Bridge-E, Haswell-E, Broadwell-E), you're out of luck too as these CPUs are also not supported. At the time of this writing, there's no information if any newer AMD CPUs like the upcoming Ryzen architecture will be supported.

This steep hardware requirements is definitely going to lock out a lot of PC users from adopting this disc format on the PC, including myself, having just recently upgraded my PC to a Skylake system. There's a saying that DRM can get to a point where they become so draconian that they kill the format entirely. While I can understand that only Kaby Lake CPUs currently have the hardware HEVC decoding chip on board, it still feels like a cheap way to force people to buy Kaby Lake processors, which itself has very little improvement, IPC performance-wise, over Skylake. In my opinion, it's decisions like this that will seriously kill the disc format in favour of online streaming services like Netflix, which, by the way, also requires Kaby Lake Processors for 4K streaming. As a person who still believes in physical disc formats because of their superior picture and audio quality and not having to rely on constant internet to watch, this news is fairly disappointing to me.

Hopefully, someone will find a hack to get UHD Blu-ray playback to run on older CPUs, so we can use software like VLC media player to play them back, and I'm sure that will happen, even though it's not going to be easy.

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