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Tuesday, January 15, 2013

2013 International CES: Now THAT’S A TV!

Say Hello To The 4K Ultra HD Television

TV technology was at the forefront of new items displayed at this year’s CES in Las Vegas, Nevada.  In fact, the big innovation featured this year was that of 4K, or Ultra HD, televisions.  So what exactly is a 4K/Ultra HD television, you ask?

Currently most TVs on the market are what we call Full HD, or 1080p.  These TVs are shown at a 1920 x 1080 resolution, or 2.1 megapixels worth of data.  4K Ultra HD features a resolution of 3840 x 2160 (exactly double in each direction of Full HD) and has 8.3 megapixels of data.  In all, Ultra HD features 4 times the total pixels of 1080p Full HD.  Ultra HD can also include the 8K resolution, which is 16 times the pixels of 1080p, but this format is still in its very early stages and not ready for consumers just yet.  So what does 4K Ultra HD offer that Full HD cannot?  Simply put, it offers a cleaner, crisper, and more fluid picture.

If you are a big name in producing televisions, you can bet you were showing off a brand new 4K Ultra HD television primed (or soon to be released) for consumers.  Samsung, Sony, Panasonic, LG, and Toshiba are just a sample of the companies displaying their new units.  The sizes most companies had prepped for viewing pleasure were of the 84 to 85-inch varieties.  Westinghouse was also crazy enough to debut a massive 110-inch Ultra HD television.  Take a moment to process that… I’ll wait.  Many of the 84-inch models are already available for consumers, while models in the 50 to 65-inch range will be available in the coming months and into spring.

Don’t expect to see these new TVs flying off the shelves just yet.  Because of how new Ultra HD is, and the fact that most content we view is tailored for 1080p, there is not a lot of media out there that can make full use of the 4K resolution.  Most companies are realizing this issue and have made efforts to show how well their TVs can “upscale” existing content.  Upscaling 1080p to 4K resolution is actually not much of an issue, since 1080p resolution can scale perfectly upwards to match 4K.  A single pixel on a 1080p Full HD picture can be broken down and display as 4 separate pixels on a 4K Ultra HD television.  We may not see native 4K content become common for the next few years, so the ability to upscale well is important now.  Sony also sees this issue and is taking the initiative to get 4K content in the hands of the consumer.  Native 4K content on a 4K television will give you the absolute best quality and take it from personal experience… it’s definitely impressive.  To push this idea, Sony is bundling a server with its 84-inch model that includes 10 movies in 4K Ultra HD resolution.  This will allow people to taste the full experience right off the bat.

Of course I had to leave the best for last… the price.  Right now most 84-inch 4K Ultra HD televisions are going to run you north of $20,000, depending on which company you buy from.  Luckily LG has a deal for their 84-inch model, running it at about $17,000 (wow, the savings!).  The pricing for most 50 to 65-inch models is currently a mystery, but most are predicting a price range of $10,000 and under.

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