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Comcast is rolling out its HDR-ready Xi5 set-top box before it rolls out 4K

With more and more TVs being sold that feature support for HDR (High Dynamic Range), which offers increased contrast and better color, there is a clear need for more content in that format. Streaming services like Netflix and Amazon offer a handful of titles supporting the new technology, and now Comcast is preparing to release a set-top box that will allow customers to watch the 2016 Summer Olympics — or at least part of them — in HDR.

Comcast plans to ship its first HDR-ready box, the Xi5, on July 4, company executive vice president and chief technology officer Tom Werner told Multichannel News at the Internet & Television Expo (INTX). This means the box will be released just in time for the Rio Olympics, for which NBCUniversal will produce some HDR coverage.

Comcast will also showcase some additional HDR content during the games to give customers and idea of what to expect from the box. While customers may own HDR TVs, they may not know just how much they’re capable of. Werner says he personally is more excited about HDR than 4K, saying that upconverted 1080p content looks fine on its own, but HDR makes it “noticeably better.”

The Xi5 is the latest box Comcast is rolling out to customers of its X1 platform, and the first model to support HDR. Another model, the Xi6, is also in the works, offering 4K in addition to HDR support, but it’s telling that Comcast is shipping HDR earlier than 4K.

Comcast isn’t the only company talking about its HDR plans at INTX. Ray Milius, Starz executive vice president of programming and operations, said that the company is pursuing HDR, but will likely debut the technology on its over-the-top (OTT) services. The company doesn’t have an exact timeline for when HDR will arrive, and it isn’t yet clear if HDR will appear before or after mass-market 4K from the company, but it certainly seems to be gaining momentum.

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