Configuring a UHD Blu-ray Playback System

The rise in popularity of OTT streaming has coincided with a decline in the popularity of physical media formats such as Blu-rays. Irrespective of the market statistics, it is indisputable that the bitrates possible with the latter simply can't translated to OTT services. Bitrates usually directly correlate with video quality, though, beyond a certain point, it becomes very difficult to distinguish. HD audio formats such as Dolby Atmos, DTS-HD MA, Dolby TrueHD etc. are also yet to be widely adopted by OTT streaming services. On top of all these, Blu-rays are often treated as collectibles by some consumers.

UltraHD (UHD) Blu-rays (with their 4K resolution videos encoded in HEVC) were a bit slow to take off. On the PC front, the number of licensed software Blu-ray player vendors has come down from 3 (ArcSoft, Corel, and CyberLink) to just CyberLink alone. PowerDVD 17, with UHD Blu-ray support, was released in April 2017. The hardware requirements were quite specific, and we decided to pass up on a hands-on review at that time.

While reviewing the Intel NUC7i7BNH, I realized that it came with support for SGX, one of the primary requirements for PowerDVD 17 to play back UHD Blu-rays. I also remembered that the BIOS of the ASRock Beebox-S 7200U had a SGX option. Both of these systems also had a LSPCon on board to support HDMI 2.0 with HDCP 2.2 capability. Pioneer launched the BDR-211UBK in March, but, had specifically indicated that KBL-U was incompatible. However, based on our discussions with both CyberLink and Intel, we decided to give the drive a try by connecting the internal SATA ODD using a compact SATA-USB bridge.

The Pioneer BDR-211UBK and the UGREEN SATA-USB Adapter Combine to Make the Intel NUC7i7BNH a UHD Blu-ray Player

We looked up Amazon for a compact bridge and chanced upon a versatile UGREEN adapter. In addition to supporting the SATA drive, it also had a couple of USB 3.0 Type-A extension ports and a microSD reader. This made sure that the optical drive would not completely take over the USB port in the host system.

Using an Internal Drive without an Enclosure is not an Issue if the Setup is Tucked Out-of-Sight

After setting up the hardware and configuring the BIOS appropriately in the two systems, we installed the Management Engine components. The next step was to confirm that the system and allied components were correctly set up for UHD Blu-ray playback with HDR. CyerbLink provides the Ultra HD Blu-ray Advisor tool for this purpose. It also helpfully points out missing ME components or mis-configured BIOS options. Even though we were aware that the Zotac ZBOX MAGNUS EN1080K doesn't pass the requirements check (no SGX, iGPU inactive), we did try out the tool on it also.

The CyberLink Ultra HD Blu-ray Advisor (L: ASRock Beebox-S 7200U, R: Zotac ZBOX MAGNUS EN1080K)

Even though it is possible that the Zotac EN1080K might enable SGX in a future BIOS release, the use of the Intel GPU is probably disabled at the board level. This means that there is no protected audio/video path for secure decoding of the UHD Blu-ray streams. Given that there is no talk of UHD Blu-ray support from NVIDIA Pascal, consumers shouldn't keep their hopes up regarding the possibility of UHD Blu-rays getting played back on NVIDIA Pascal-equipped systems. Coming back to the results of the UHD BD Advisor tool, we find that the two KBL-U systems pass all the checks. We purchased a retail copy of the Planet Earth II UHD Blu-ray for testing out our setup.

Local Media Playback UHD Blu-ray Playback in Action
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  • Reflex - Tuesday, January 2, 2018 - link

    You are not answering my question:

    If I play back content that is encoded in DD5.1, 7.1 or Atmos, will your equipment do the proper object placement so that I get a sound effect in the appropriate location?

    It is an important detail, if you cannot do that with the material that is available today, your solution is a solution for an audience of one. If it can do that, I am curious how it accomplishes it with what you are describing as essentially a 3.1 setup and with no Dolby or DTS license.
    Reply
  • Bullwinkle-J-Moose - Tuesday, January 2, 2018 - link

    "what you are describing as essentially a 3.1 setup and with no Dolby or DTS license."
    -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    The original reference design was 3.0
    Moving the Bass speaker to a separate sub cab and calling it a 3.1 system makes zero sense

    No Dolby or DTS License is correct
    I do not support fake standards forged from a Real Standard

    If Dolby and DTS is as good as mine, they should get a License from me

    If you wish to play incompatible standards, be my guest
    As I have said, I do not support Lesser Quality, incompatible or forged Standards

    Dolby Vision is the same in that regard, as I or anyone else can easily create an "Open" Standard that is Visually the Equal of Dolby Vision without need for a Dolby License

    Being locked into a proprietary and lesser Standard is "your" choice / not mine!
    Reply
  • Reflex - Tuesday, January 2, 2018 - link

    Then your setup is good only for you and content you produce, and for the purposes of the article and the discussion thread essentially meaningless. If you can't play back the content that is being produced accurately then it just isn't relevant to the discussion.

    I'm glad you enjoy your setup, I also enjoy mine.
    Reply
  • Bullwinkle-J-Moose - Wednesday, January 3, 2018 - link

    "Then your setup is good only for you and content you produce"
    ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    You are correct
    I can produce content for anyone, and they can Lock it down with whichever proprietary standard they want for sale to people like you

    My content can be encoded in the standard of the week or whatever "standard" Dolby comes out with next year

    Yes, I wanted a system that can master for anyone!

    and you want the finished result in a proprietary format of your choice
    GOOD FOR YOU!

    we are both happy with what we have!
    Reply
  • Bullwinkle-J-Moose - Wednesday, January 3, 2018 - link

    My Home Audio setups are for creating frontal 2 and 3 channel Audio Imagery

    I am not interested in surround but I could easily add as many surround channels as the next standard can handle

    My focus is on audio production/mixing/mastering/Imaging

    yet they are all I need or want for Video / Home Theater as well

    All I really want is a great Audio Image in front, so I want what I have and I have what I want!

    It's right for ME!

    What works for you is also correct
    There is no wrong standard here
    You can believe in one standard, a hundred standards or none
    Reply
  • wiyosaya - Friday, January 5, 2018 - link

    I choose C: You are a troll! Reply
  • Aspernari - Tuesday, December 26, 2017 - link

    Everything came out of your pocket, except several thousand dollars worth of stuff you recommended because you didn't have to pay for it, so it had no budgetary cost to you.

    Would you have really bought the $500 receiver instead of a suitable HDMI switch (if you didn't have enough HDMI ports for all your 4k sources) and using ARC or optical out from the TV with your existing receiver?

    Your cost/benefit analysis is broken in this article. You keep trying to defend it, but it's not defensible.
    Reply
  • ganeshts - Tuesday, December 26, 2017 - link

    The $430 receiver was what I wanted in the build. That is what I was ready to spend my budget on.

    What part of the sentence 'pick and choose from the list' did you not get in the concluding section?

    A HDMI switch will not do the job of the AVR.

    It is not a matter of defensible or not - I have presented what worked and what didn't, even with the sponsored equipment. I have presented alternatives also. I think $349 for the AVR driving a $700 TV is a very reasonable budget - incidentally, the same amounts that I spent back in 2008 with a Toshiba Regza 46" TV and a Onkyo TX-SR606.
    Reply
  • Aspernari - Tuesday, December 26, 2017 - link

    Regarding not understanding: I understand just fine. Your choices are poorly considered and presented. I'll restate from elsewhere: You recommend readers buy $200 worth of Bluray-related hardware and deal with BSODs and/or pursue beta drivers, among other issues.

    Regarding the receiver: I guess you just wanted a new one, since a budget option would have been a TOSLINK cable or other solution to get audio from the TV to your existing receiver, abandoning the HDMI ports on it, and making use of an HDMI switch if you were short on HDMI ports. Total investment of about $40. Sure, you lose some of the functionality of the obsolete receiver (which you could still use fine on 1080p and lower content), but you also save $349 on sale/$430 retail/$464.40ish after tax by not buying a new receiver. Or getting someone to sponsor you.

    " I have presented what worked and what didn't, even with the sponsored equipment." - You didn't present anything that I noticed that didn't work with the receiver. You state the inverse actually, "None of the issues encountered in the course of the evaluation presented in this piece could be attributed to the Denon AVR X3400H." - Which may well be true. But you also didn't evaluate the hardware you then recommend people go out and buy anyway, so the entire thing is moot. You're pushing hardware you didn't get your hands on, which just makes this all the more silly.

    Imagine publishing a hardware review article, giving something a good "buy" recommendation,but never actually using the product. Oh wait - you just did that.

    It's cool that you're going back and making edits based on the response here, but there's really two articles that should have written, crammed into this one:

    1) A blog post about stuff you bought and the setup you made, where you can squeeze in your promotional consideration for Denon.
    2) The testing you did and the issues you had navigating the current home theater market, focusing on 4k and HDR with HTPCs and high-end settop boxes.

    Are you going to actually review the $1000 receiver, or is this article all that they're getting out of it?
    Reply
  • edzieba - Tuesday, December 26, 2017 - link

    "I guess you just wanted a new one, since a budget option would have been a TOSLINK cable or other solution to get audio from the TV to your existing receiver, "

    That's... not how things work. At all. Adding an S/PDIF cable is not going to magically allow transport of audio streams that:

    a) Are too high bitrate for S/PDIF (which cannot even carry 5.1 LPCM)
    b) Were developed decades after the S/PDIF standard

    It's as ludicrous and nonsensical a suggestion as installing an IDE cable to allow your SATA motherboard to use m.2 PCIe NVME drives.
    Reply

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