Sony’s brand new “Ultra” 4K Streaming service went live today, but with a catch
Stephan Jukic – April 04, 2016
If you’ve been hunting for still more 4K ultra HD content options to fill your home entertainment time and 4K TV’s screen with native resolution movies, you just might be in luck today. Sony’s Ultra 4K streaming movies app went live on the 4th of April and it offers up quite a selection of both new release and remastered older film titles in native 4K resolution and with high dynamic range as well.
There’s just one catch, you’d better be the proud owner of a Sony 4K UHD TV from 2015 or 2016. In other words, you can only access Ultra if you own one of the 2015 Bravia 4K TVs in the X850C, X900C, X930/940C series or if you own one of Sony’s even newer HDR 4K TVs in the 2016 X850D or X930/940D model lineups.
If however you do own any one of these great to downright excellent televisions, Ultra may be the app for you, or possibly not because what it offers, while interesting, also comes with some rather odd pricing.
As we said, the fairly decent and soon to grow selection of 4K movies on the Ultra App for Sony Android TV offers some great native 4K resolution or remastering from celluloid (for older titles) and it also features HDR technology which promises even more stunning picture quality in Sony’s HDR-capable 4K TVs. Furthermore, the available titles for Ultra include some great selections like Concussion with Will Smith and others like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Looper, After Earth, Elysium, Total Recall, Fury, Battlefield Los Angeles, several children’s movies and the entire Men In Black Trilogy.
Again, the Ultra selection will certainly grow further throughout 2016 and what’s even more important about it is that it expands the even smaller selection of HDR 4K content that’s available for streaming to owners of 4K TVs with the technology. The biggest shame is that at least for now, Sony is only allowing buyers of their TVs to access Ultra.
Additionally, as we alluded to above, the pricing system the manufacturer has imposed for Ultra is a bit clumsy. Instead of offering up their new movie roster to consumers through a convenient all-access monthly subscription fee service in the way that Netflix does or offering the movies as temporary rentals in the way that Amazon does, Sony is allowing only the purchase of individual streaming titles and for a rather hefty price of $30 each. Two problems present themselves with this: First, many potential users of the service would probably rather just buy a solid, portable physical copy of a 4K UHD Blu-ray disc instead. Not only will the video quality likely be slightly superior since it’s not streaming, but the Blu-ray version of any given movie will also possibly be cheaper than its streamed counterpart. Even now, Amazon is selling select new release 4K BD films and pre-order titles for less than $30 and with bonuses like HD Blu-ray versions thrown in for free.
Secondly, many of the Sony Ultra titles are themselves available in Blu-ray 4K format since Sony Pictures is one of the studios behind the production of these new discs. This alternative choice takes us back to the first problem stated above. Furthermore, just like these streaming titles, UHD BD disc versions also come with HDR and aren’t locked into a specific brand of 4K TV.
On the other hand, there is always something nice about ordering a particular movie on the fly from the comfort of your sofa.
In any case, Sony may end up changing the price schedule for Ultra down the road if market pressures force their hand. It wouldn’t be the first time the company has done such a thing. Even now, the alternatives in 4K content streaming look much more enticing, with Amazon Prime’s 4K offerings costing the same as their HD selections with no TV brand lock-in and as for Netflix, it not only charges just a measly $2 extra for access to its entire menu of 4K content, the company also lets you stream four different movies at the same time, if you have enough 4K TVs and one very seriously fast internet connection.
However, not all looks dim in Sony’s promotion strategy for Ultra. The service supports Hollywood’s UltraViolet initiative, meaning that subscribers can also stream Sony Pictures content that has been bought from other Ultraviolet-compatible sellers like Vudu, CinemaNow and Fandango Now. Sony will also allow customers who already have pre-existing Full HD Sony Pictures or Ultraviolet movies upgrade to their UHD versions for a discount of $15 to $17 if the larger resolution is available for a particular title.
Story by 4k.com