By Gadjo Cardenas Sevilla
At CES 2013, 4K or Ultra HD TVs are the next big thing in consumer electronics and home theatre. They are this year's 3D. the must-have big feature that embellishes the newest home theatre models on the show floor.
If you bought a 3D HDTV and Blu-Ray player in the last couple of years, chances are you haven't enjoyed a 3D experience on your device recently. This isn't because the feature doesn't work well but because 3D content still isn't readily available save for a few movie titles and token TV stations. The prospect of having to have a pair of 3D glasses for each viewer to enjoy the show is also so terribly outdated it almost seems quaint. 3D glasses are so 1950's!
At CES this year, Ultra HD is the new rallying feature for the ultra large and ultra expensive HDTVs in the market. Both Samsung and Sony have each used Ultra HD as the foundation of their keynotes yesterday and you can bet Sharp, Panasonic, LG and upstart Vizio are all about the Ultra HD as well.
Ultra HD, also known as 4K simply means four times the resolution of 1080p HD video. That is, 3,840 horizontal pixels and at least 2,160 vertical pixels. Displays require an aspect ratio of at least 16 × 9. to be called Ultra HD.
The quality amount of detail and sheer gorgeousness of Ultra HD is truly staggering. When Sony demoed their 80" 4K HDTV last year in Toronto, I was beyond impressed but the $25,000 price point for that monster Bravia quickly set my expectations straight. Ultra HD is Ultra expensive.
Then there's the small but vital matter of the Ultra HD content. There just isn't any.
Sure, Sony announced plans to offer downloadable Ultra HD content later on this year and 10 movies will be made available initially. Sony has a lot at stake in the 4K/Ultra HD game since it also makes the 4K cameras that shoot the movies and the 4K projectors that will be used in movie theatres.
Here's the big issue with Ultra HD. Regular 720p and 1080p HD already takes a lot of bandwith to move the signals to TVs (that's why over the air HD is oddly of better quality than cable). What kind of infrastructure will 4K require and how much more will it cost consumers to enjoy the benefit?
Looking at the market today, 3D is still around but consumer have found out the hard way that it isn't all it was cut out to be. But they found out after spending for 3D capable HDTVs and Blu-Ray players which are likely used to play non-3D content 80 per cent of the time. Ultra HD will be a harder sell for sure, but if companies like Sony, Samsung, Panasonic, Sharp, LG and others can get behind it as a standard and also offer the content end, it might pick up in four or five years.