Friday, January 18, 2013

CES 2013: 4K vs. Ultra HD – The Future of Home Video Debate Rages On

As we look back on the exquisite chaos that was the 2013 CES Expo in Las Vegas last week, TV makers gave us a glimpse of the future of home video: 4K and Ultra HD. If this argument seems familiar, it is. The same formats were unveiled at the CES Expo of 2012. Only this time, major manufacturers are starting to unveil market-ready products that promise to usher in a whole new level of home theater resolution, and just like Blu-ray vs. HD-DVD and VHS vs. Betamax, there are two major formats competing for your eyeballs – Ultra HD (also called 4K) and OLED screen technology.

What’s the Difference? – The fundamental difference between the two is that OLED is a type of display technology while 4K is a resolution format. Both offer video definition that puts current 1080p displays to shame, but they go about it in different ways. OLED screens are celebrated for their vivid colors. Blacks are true black and colors pop better than ever. OLED screens also offer wider viewing angles and fluid fast motion thanks to a faster response rate. OLED screens can also be curved, ushering a whole new dimension in screen design. TechHive explains more about OLED technology here. Ultra-HD on the other hand offers a screen resolution of 3840 x 2160 pixels, or 2160p. This roughly quadruples the number of pixels vs. a standard 1080i screen. 4K resolution is also close to true 35mm film resolution, and is the standard that movie studios use to digitally archive their film content. Movie theaters are already using a different form of 4K to screen select movies like The Amazing Spider-Man and Prometheus. TechHive also has a great article that further explains 4K technology.

What’s the Cost? – Right now, 4K and OLED television sets are available from major manufacturers like LG and Sony. These sets are large, ranging in size from 65 to 80 inches, and boast a price tag of 20 – 25,000 dollars! This makes them out of reach of all but the richest and most committed home theater aficionados. The good news is that the price is likely to come down to more reasonable levels as the technology becomes more mainstream. This has happened from the very first VCR’s all the way to the latest HD televisions.

Why Wait? Take My Money Now! – Three major factors (other than price) might make you want to take pause. The first is that most people have HD televisions that are only a few years old. Unlike the HD TV, which was the first major innovation since color television in the 1960’s, these new formats come right on the heels of high definition TV. The second major factor is the lack of content. While 4K Blu-ray discs and digital downloads are being developed, there are not many choices available. Also, while your new TV may support 4K resolution, your set-top box, game console and Blu-ray player do not. Finally, the third reason you may want to wait is the best. At the CES 2013 Expo, Panasonic unveiled a 4K OLED TV that combines the best of both worlds! So it may be better to wait and get two fantastic technologies in one package.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Great discussion. It's great to know both.