Is It Time For 4K TV?
Adoption of the bleeding-edge 4K Ultra-HD TV resolution standard is accelerating. According to industry analysts at IHS, Inc. over 3 million 4K TV sets were sold in April, 2015, alone. That’s two-thirds of the number sold in the last six months of 2014. Consumers are getting 4K fever, it seems. Here's what you need to know...
4K is Coming Faster Than Expected
It seems like only yesterday that HD TV was introduced; actually, High Definition TV sets first went on sale in the U.S. in 1998. Today, “1080p” is a familiar TV standard. It means a picture that contains 1920×1080 or 2,073,600 pixels per frame in a 16:9 aspect ratio.
Now brace yourself for Ultra-High Definition TV, also known as UHD or “4K.” It’s tempting to assume that means “4 million pixels,” but in fact the UHD standard is 3840x2160 or 8,294,400 pixels per frame… four times the pixels of HD TV.
Early this year, I bemoaned the sky-high prices of 4K sets. The good news is that falling prices are the biggest factor in unit sales growth, according to the folks who track the 4K market. Mid-range sets were selling for $3,000 in 2013; today, the same features and more are available from multiple manufacturers for well under $1,000.
The VIZIO M-series set the price standard for entry-level 4K TV in late 2014. Street prices start at $599 for a 43-inch screen; Walmart sells the 55-incher for $659. If you have space for a 70-inch TV, the M70 runs $1,398. (See 4K.com for news and reviews regarding 4K tech.)
Size is not all that matters. The M-series includes a full connectivity package: WiFi, Ethernet, HDMI 2.0, HDCP 2.2 compatibility and full HVEC and VP9 functionality. It doesn't matter if you can't unravel all those acronyms. The upshot is that whatever the source of your 4K content, you’ll be able to access it.
Additionally, like the P-Series before it, the M43-C1 sports full-array backlighting that still remains an expensive “extra” feature for most Samsung, Sony or LG models. It has 28 different lighting zones to give you precise control over illumination of content regardless of ambient lighting. Automatic software updates keep the TV’s internal systems always up to date. (And you'll never, ever have to worry about evil hackers taking over your TV set. Right, Vizio?)
As you move up the price scale, features become a bit more obfuscated. Take nano-crystal color technology, for instance (or its less descriptive but more consumer-friendly name, Quantum Dots). Basically, it enables display of a much wider range of colors and deeper depth of color on an LCD 4K screen. The frustrating thing is, every manufacturer has its own name for this tech. Sony calls it Triluminous. Samsung calls it SUHD, and LG Electronics went with Prime UHD. Television specs are the only thing more inscrutable than telco wireless plans.
For Your Viewing Pleasure...
Okay, we've covered the under-the-hood stuff. Now what about the action that happens on that beautiful screen? Cable, over-the-air TV broadcasters, and DVD/Blu-Ray producers are not cranking out content in 4K format yet. Stay tuned, as they say.
Currently, 4K content is available only via the Internet. Because 4K content is four times bigger (in terms of bytes) than standard HD, the whole video delivery industry is scrambling to adapt.
Netflix currently offers a limited selection of 4K content, including TV shows such as “House of Cards” and movies on the order of “Smurfs 2.” However, Netflix can stream 4K only to TVs made by Sony, LG, or Samsung, and you must be a tier-four family subscriber to get 4K programming.
Amazon Instant Video is also offering streaming 4K content. You'll need a compatible 4K Samsung, LG, Sony or Vizio set to join the fun.
YouTube is streaming 4K for free (with Google ads, of course), and users are uploading 4K content. The catch here is that Google developed its own, royalty-free code called VP9; make sure your 4K TV supports it if you want to watch 4K YouTube videos.
Are You Ready for 4K?
Keep in mind that you'll need a high-speed Internet connection to stream 4K shows or movies. If your incoming speed is less than 15Mb/sec, you might experience hiccups or lower resolution. (Netflix recommends a 25Mb/sec connection for glitch-free 4K viewing.)
Movie and TV producers are shooting some of their works in 4K now. It will be a while (probably mid-2016) before live TV (sports, news, etc.) is available in 4K resolution. But in addition to the online content mentioned above, we can expect to see 4K Blu-Ray versions of films and TV programming in time for the 2015 holidays.
My current TV sets are working fine, and I have no burning desire to count the number of pores on Vin Diesel's face. Personally, I’m going to wait at least until the end of the year before seriously shopping for 4K gear. By then, prices will probably have dropped even more (think Black Friday and holiday sales), and a lot more content will be available.
Are you ready to jump on the 4K wagon, or will you wait until next year? Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 22 Jun 2015
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Is It Time For 4K TV? (Posted: 22 Jun 2015)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved