Much of the television buzz at the CES 2013 trade show was about Ultra HD, also known as 4K. So… you know that new high-definition TV you just bought? Well…
Have you ever had that sinking feeling when you buy the latest product and then some heartless soul says, ‘you know that’ll be out of date within six months, right?’
So what is this 4K TV business? Well, a 4K panel (3840 x 2160 pixels) has a resolution of over eight million pixels, around four times that of full HD (1920 x 1080 pixels). This means the sets can show sharper details and crisper pictures.
Sony and LG both unleashed 4K TVs on to the market last year, but they were 84-inch monsters with price tags north of £20,000 (they didn’t put off popstar George Michael, though, who snapped up three of them in an eye-watering shopping spree at Harrods). But behind the headlines, I believe we are genuinely seeing the early days of the next generation of TV that could herald the biggest leap forward since HD.
At a TV trade show in Cannes this week, the BBC showed off sequences from its new Survival wildlife series shot with 4K cameras. The film features meerkats, and was shown using a Sony 4K digital cinema projector. The Beeb is understood to have been looking at 4K technology for several years, and it also ran trials of 8K UHD, up to 16 times sharper than HD, during the Olympics last year.
NHK – Japan’s public service broadcaster that worked with the BBC on the 8K trial – intends to start satellite transmission of 4K in Japan by July 2014, in time for the next football World Cup. Satellite TV provider Eutelsat recently demonstrated a dedicated Ultra HD TV channel in Europe. And Sky Deutschland has already run tests of 4K, including the taping of a Bundesliga match between Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund using the technology at the end of 2012.
4K goes to the movies
Movies are also upgrading. Sony Pictures is now shooting most new films in 4K, as well as remastering old titles, such as Lawrence of Arabia, in the higher resolution for special edition Blu-rays.
The TV industry certainly has high hopes for Ultra HD. The big manufacturers are looking to it as a saviour, after the expected 3D boom failed to materialise, and Smart TV proved a slow burner at best.
Organic light emitting diode (OLED) – a technology that creates super-slim TVs with high quality displays – is another key TV growth area, but the proliferation of HD broadcasting (particularly in sport) triggered the last major TV market boom. Manufacturers hope that the upgrade to 4K can be four times the money spinner.
So should you be worried that your brand spanking new HD TV is about to become redundant? Well, no, not really.
Realistically, I don’t think the market for 4K TVs will move beyond the super-rich, early adopters before 2015. Today Sony announced prices for it’s new 55-inch and 65-inch 4K LED TVs – in the US they’ll cost a hefty $4,999 and $6,999 respectively. There are also still huge challenges to overcome in delivering 4K content to your home, either as TV channels or streamed over the internet. But rest assured that this technology is coming and George Michael may just be blazing a trail for the next TV revolution.
Are you interested in Ultra high definition 4K TVs?
Maybe - if they get cheaper (41%, 169 Votes)
No (38%, 154 Votes)
Yes (21%, 86 Votes)
Total Voters: 409