Poll: Do You Care About 4k Ultra HD Yet?

The buzz at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show was all about 4k, 4k and more 4k. Almost every electronics brand had 4k Ultra HD televisions on the showroom floor. Yet, much like the big push for 3D a few years back, this largely seems like an upgrade the manufacturers want to sell us more than consumers actually want to buy. Are you convinced by the hype yet? Will 2015 be the year you buy into 4k?

We’ve asked similar questions to this in the past (notably here and here), but this year it seems like 4k may really be on the verge of becoming the default standard for upcoming televisions.

I feel like I should be more excited for this than I am. I consider myself a videophile and have tried to build a nice home theater. I even just installed a full Dolby Atmos surround sound system. A big part of me wants to have all the latest and greatest new tech, if just to be able to say that I’m on the cutting edge.

Nevertheless, I remain hesitant about 4k. Most experts agree that 1080p hits a sweet spot for how much detail your human eyes can actually see in a video image, even on a fairly large screen. Even the majority of theatrical cinemas are still only 2k resolution. 4k may be overkill for the home, except on the largest of projection screens, and the other side benefits of Ultra HD (such as better color depth to reduce banding artifacts) will be subtle improvements at best.

In order to upgrade to 4k, I’d have to replace not just my projectors (I have two), but my video processor and any other HDMI devices in my signal chain. It would be a major, expensive overhaul to my theater room – especially since the most affordable 4k projector at the moment is about $10,000.

What’s more, right now seems like a really bad time to buy 4k. The HDCP 2.2 spec hasn’t been finalized yet, which means that the Blu-ray UHD players scheduled to debut next year most likely will not work with a 4k television or projector bought today. Nor will any A/V receiver that promises “4k passthrough” (including the Denon X5200W I just bought) actually be able to pass through a signal with that encryption.

This drive to cram more pixels into our televisions has less to do with a real need for better quality than simply being a marketing bullet-point the manufacturers can use to sell you a product with some new sizzle. You know this won’t be the end, either. Next year’s CES will be all about 8k UHDTV. (A few of those were already on display this year.) By 2020, you’ll be able to get over 120k micron-sized pixels on your cell phone screen, which will of course already be obsolete by the time you get it in your hand. Where does this end?

Of course, I reserve the right to change my mind in the future if a nice 4k projector falls to within my price range. Certainly, if I find myself needing a new projector, I should probably hold out for 4k. However, at the moment, I have no immediate plans to upgrade, and I’m at peace with that.

Do You Care About 4k Ultra HD Yet?

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74 comments

  1. Kyle

    Costs to upgrade every piece of equipment aside, i dont really want to upgrade my bluray collection to 4k..especially since i havent even finished upgrading the dvds i have pegged for upgrades

  2. William Henley

    I MIGHT be upgrading to 4k in a few weeks. I had a lightning strike about two weeks ago, took out my entire home theater. It is all covered by insurance, but the question is, am I going to use it to replace everything at this time. I am house hunting right now, so like all my funds are going into that at this time. I have a tube and my laptop, and may decide to stick with that for a few months.

    So do televisions with HDMI 2 not have the new HDCP?

    • You have some luck Mr.Henley. Fiirst a fire, now this?! I hope you get a big check, you certainly deserve it. Make sure you get a good surge protector. I hope the powers that be are good to you this year. Give a brother a break!

      • William Henley

        🙂 I am waiting for my insurance company to go “Really? You file too many claims, we are dropping you!”

        The stupid thing is, ONLY the stuff hooked up to surge protectors got taken out. My laptop and external harddrive were plugged directly into the wall, and are fine. The only way I can think how this may have happened is that the stuff on surge protectors were on different circuits than the other. I spent about $100 this week on new surge protectors and battery backups.

        Another thing that may be the culprit is that I was actually watching television when the lightning struck. I didn’t even know it was raining – the insurance guy said it was VERY localized, he got about 20 calls for lightning damage within a half mile radius of where I live, but no one else in all of DFW even saw lightning. Most of my friends did not even know it rained that night. Talk about luck!

        In the fire, the fire started in the apartment next to me, and took out the entire building. The guy in that apartment died in the fire.

        So yeah, talk about luck! On the plus side, last year I used insurance to get out of debt before I replaced anything. This year, it may go toward downpayment on a house. So, yeah, it seemed like bad luck at the time, but both ended up turning into good luck in the long run

        • Josh Zyber
          Author

          The reality is that even a good surge protector won’t be able to stop a lightning strike from destroying your equipment. A surge protector is still useful for other power surges, of course, but lightning is so powerful that it will just tear right through the thing.

  3. My in laws bought a 65 lg 4k a couple of months ago and it is very nice. The price was pretty reasonable at about 2500. The way he set the picture is waaay to bright! ( what a waste ). It certainly has piqued my interest in 4k a little more, but I’m very happy with my 1080 tvs at home. The biggest improvement I’ve seen is in the passive 3d content. The “scan lines” that show when wearing polarized 3d glasses are a little bit harder to notice. They’re not totally invisible but definitely harder to notice. I can sit closer to the tv watching 3d without them being a total distraction ( for experimental purposes only, I don’t sit that close to the tv for regular viewing ). Detail on 3d content seems slightly improved, but I’m not sure if its in my head. I would have to do a direct side by side comparison to be totally sure. Right now I’m happy enjoying the 4k vicariously through my in laws and hopefully they’ll get a 4k player when it becomes available and hopefully it will be compatible with their tv’s hdmi inputs/outputs. If for some reason my tvs were to crap out on me, I’d probably get a 4k but it isn’t a real priority.

    • William Henley

      That is actually the set I am looking at for a possible replacement. 65 inch seems like just the right size (It was the size of my Vizio), and it has passive 3D, which I really like (I HATE active 3D – clunky glasses, ghosting, color distortions, etc). Unfortunately Vizio has dropped 3D on their 4ks, which sucks – I have a large 3D collection, plus 2 3D cameras, and I game sometimes in 3D.

      It sounds like you are impressed with the LG. My local stores do not have that model on display, although they carry it. I’m on the fence on it. However, it seems like the only display in that size that does 3D on a 4k, unless I want to go up to one of the way more expensive brands.

      • I would recommend it. I have a 55 lg 3d in my bedroom and I love it. I would totally get an lg if and when the time comes to go 4k. That would be the first brand I would research. I hope they don’t drop 3d.

    • Josh Zyber
      Author

      I haven’t heard about an official delay, but the late 2015 release seems like wishful thinking to me. Reportedly, the “prototype” player that Panasonic had on display at CES was just a regular Blu-ray player with a new faceplate, not connected to anything.

  4. T.J. Kats

    I chose if I have to replace something I will try and go 4k if possible but I currently have no need or desire to change anything just for that. I think, unless something breaks, I am a few ways from changing out either of my primary displays and by the 4K will probably be on most if not all sets and projectors.

  5. eric

    I got my first 4K TV about 7 months ago, a 55″ LG and I love it. As CSM101 says above the Passive 3D is phenomenal, I have never been a fan of 3D until I got this TV. This is what 3D is all about, so easy to watch this way. The TV content is up converted and looks cleaner and clearer, sports look especially good. My existing Blu Ray’s also, while not perfect they do look a lot better on this TV than and of my top of the line 1080P TVs. The streaming 4K content is sparse but is so enjoyable to watch that I have been rewatching BREAKING BAD and the first two seasons of HOUSE OF CARDS in 4K, simple awesome.

    I cant wait to add another 4K TV this year and hopefully replace by projector in my media room with a 4K projector, also looking at adding some Dolby Atmos.

    • William Henley

      So that is two fans of the LG 4k 3D sets. Are you streaming through the built in apps?

      I am just really looking at this line right now. It seems to be the sweet spot between price and features.

      • eric

        I stream through the built in apps, in general I have not been a big fan of “smart” tv apps. But the LG interface and apps are better than the others and the Netflix app brings up 4K and 3D selections by default so you don’t even have to search for them. The YouTube and Amazon apps work fine you just have to search for the 4K content.

        I have created some playlists of 4K trailers and other short content and left it looping on the TV during parties and people love it. It always becomes the center of discussion.

        I wish LG and the other would preload some nice demo content.

  6. I have a 70″ 1080p Sharp with a viewing distance of 20 feet, it seems great for what I use it for. Sometime in the next year I will get 50″ 4k sets for the bedrooms viewing distance 12 ft. I may notice a slight improvement, but the falling price of 1080’s may cause me to reconsider

    • Chapz Kilud

      Kirby you should save your money. With a 70″ TV you need to be sitting around 4.5 ft or closer to see the difference between 4K and 1080p. At 20 feet they will look exactly the same. With a 50″ TV, that distance is about 2.5 ft. It doesn’t matter if you have better than 20/20 vision. Nobody has eyes good enough to see that kind of detail at 12 feet.

      By the way aren’t you sitting too far from the TV? I have a home theater with 70″ Sharp Elite. I’m sitting about 5-6′ away.

      • eric

        I have watched 55″ thru 70″ side by side at 10 feet and could easily tell the difference. I can spot a 4k tv at best buy from 30 – 40 feet away without a problem. The math of the pixels would tell you differently, but it doesn’t pan out. People walk into my room and see the 55″ inch tv from 20 feet away and immediately notice that tv looks better than all the rest.

        I have noticed that when I watch some of the 4K sets from 2013 they don’t look as good and sometimes it is harder to tell from a distance.

        • William Henley

          Interesting followup question – how does upconverted 1080 look? I was at the store yesterday looking at possible replacements, and most of the televisions were playing their 4k demos, but one was tuned to ESPN. Based on the other screens, I would assume this was an HD source, but it looked REALLY BAD on the 4k in question – like displaying 480i letterboxed digital stations on your 1080p television looks after you zoom it. I will admit I did not look too closely at it to see if it was being fed over HDMI or over coax, but it really did look awful. I believe the set in question was an LG 65 inch 4k. This actually really concerned me. Of course, it is also highly possible that someone tinkered with the picture settings on it as well.

          So how does digital cable / satelite look for you guys?

          • eric

            Looks the same or better as the 1080p TVs in my house. I do have the contrast and brightness set a lot lower than the 1080p TVs. I have to do a lot of tweaking to get the 1080p TVs to look just right, this TV looked great out of the box. It has a lot more settings you can tweak. I turned the contrast and the brightness way down on the 4k, you don’t have to crank it like on the 1080p TVs to get the image to pop.

            If a channel/TV show looks good or bad on your 1080p, it will still looks just as good or bad. The overall picture is crisper and I have never noticed any channels that looked soft.

            I watched football on it today, and it is great to be able to get up and walk by the screen and not see all that nasty pixelation like on lower resolutions.

          • William Henley

            Thanks. I guess the one at the store, someone had probably monkied with the picture settings. The same channel was on on a few of the 1080s and it looked fine. I was hoping that is all it was – not sure why the set was left to look like that on the showroom floor, but the salesperson seemed more interested in moving a set rather than knowing any of the technical questions I actually had, so may not have known how to fix it.

        • Chapz Kilud

          Read my post below and the cnet article I included which has a definitive chart. In case you didn’t realize, human eyes are analog and they have limitations. I’ve seen the Samsung’s split screen demo and as I pointed out below, the extra details started to disappear as I move back. If you don’t have a A/B comparison then it doesn’t count. As I mentioned before, my Sharp Elite 70″ will look much sharper in 1080p than a crappy 4K Seiki because my TV has incredible contrast ratio. There are many other factors that will make a TV look better, resolution isn’t always the answer. But it’s much easier and cheaper to make a TV with high resolution than making a TV with outstanding contrast.

  7. I’m definitely going to sit this one out for a good 2-3 years. We just upgraded the living room TV and speakers in September when we moved into our new house. And honestly, I don’t feel like upgrading my Blu Rays so unless they start packing in regular Blu with the 4k copy I doubt I’ll ever get around to 4k short of no more standard Blu Rays being sold.

  8. Until the broadcast networks/cable companies start offering programming in 4k, I have ZERO interest in it. The big difference with 1080p was that by the time the TVs came out, most of the networks had an HD feed. Even if your cable company didn’t offer HD yet, you could use an over-the-air antenna to get the signal. However, none of that is happening (as of yet) with 4k, and I haven’t heard anything from the cable companies or major networks about when they plan to go in that direction.

  9. Deaditelord

    While I don’t use it now for anything other than movies because it’s an IR machine – even when mixing up content, watching just two hours of a channel with regular commercial interruptions will result in a visible retained image of the channel logo that takes on average 48 hours of logo-free content to clear – the actual picture quality of 2D/3D movies on my ISF calibrated Panasonic ST50 plasma has me in no rush to upgrade to 4k. Will make that decision once it or my older Panny plasma (which is practically immune to IR) croaks.

  10. Jin

    The problem to me is becoming the problem of high end video cards. Everyone is rushing to one up the highest powered card/tv yet the developers haven’t made anything that high end cards from 3-4 years ago can’t run.

    So the focus is so much on “Latest and greatest” that I think that the main focus of CONTENT is being lost, hell cable TV hasn’t even gotten to 1080p yet, and most 1080p blu rays, unless you get certain movies or collections, still look pretty soft as well.

    I’ll wait until there is content before I jump to the next thing, for now a high end 3D 1080p is just fine for me.

  11. Barsoom Bob

    My new home in Austin just so happened to have a room with two french doors and no windows right off the living room, that I knew would be just perfect for a home theater. I had a bit of a personal tragedy that slowed this down but I recently finished it up with a Sony 4K projector. I have a 9 foot horizontal scope screen and the picture is just jaw droppingly stunning. I matched it with an Oppo and have not shown one single piece of actual 4K content, but I am not missing it actually, the upscaled blu-rays themselves are just flawless. At that size it is still better than my old Panasonic VT50 and the equal of a 65″ 4K display I have in the living room for general TV watching. Drew predicted that I would love it if I built the theater and got a good projector, and right he was !

    I am in movie lover heaven with this right now. I don’t think the projected image would have been this beautiful if I hadn’t gone for the 4K.

  12. Clemery

    I have always been happy to wait for a few generations of 4K TV’s to go buy before upgrading from my 2K 58″ Panasonic Viera plasma panel. But now it seems that 8K glassless-3D is emerging, so might as well continue to wait.

    I guess by the time these screens hit the consumer market, 16K will be the new buzz, and might just have to wait for that also! 🙂

  13. C.C. 95

    As a lifelong cinephile and home video nut (I was one of the Laserdisc geeks) I can honestly say 1080p is indeed the sweet spot. Even James Cameron is pushing back on higher resolutions, saying that at higher resolution the illusion is gone. You no longer see characters in a world- you see actors on a set.
    Furthermore- there is no content out there for 4k (that is the dirty little secret), and precious little coming.
    And you have upgrade everything and subscribe to a dedicated server.
    Even the NFL can’t commit to 1080p yet! They are still at 720! 4k, much like the curved screen, is very much a gimmick.

    • Chapz Kilud

      I also spent a lot of money on Laserdisc. I still have the Philips CDV-488 which was Joe Kane’s reference player for a while, and CLD-97 and CLD-99. How many people actually tried to stream/download Blu-ray quality over FIOS? Imagine doing that with 4K. Blu-ray is barely hanging in there with only ~20% household owning a Blu-ray player. DVD isn’t going to be replace anytime in the distant future, if at all. If I were one of the major movie studios I’d ask myself why I should commit into another format when DVD is still the king? Nothing will convince me that 4K will replace Blu-ray or DVD.

      • eric

        Blu Ray sales made up more than 65% of the Game of Thrones units sold early last year… not sure DVD is king in this situation. I looked several popular shows and Blu Ray out sells DVD each time.
        http://www.homemediamagazine.com/research/game-thrones-rules-disc-sales-charts-32664

        Edge of Tomorrow, Captain America: Winter Soldier, Guardians of the Galaxy, Boyhood are other examples of movies that sold more Blu Rays than DVDs. Seems to me Blu Ray is holding its own. Blu-ray made up more than 40% of disc sales in 2011, almost 4 years later Blu Ray makes more than 50% of the top 10 discs on average.

        Also, physical media still reigns with an almost 90% share of people buy or rent movies in the household.

        BTW your 20% blu ray player ownership is flawed too, by the end of 2011 more than a third of American households had atleast one blu ray player. Nearly half of U.S. households now have a Blu Ray player and the number continues to grow. the format has seen more than a 20% growth year of year since 2008 and it continues to grow now that wifi connected Blu Ray players are only $49 and Xbox One, PS3 and PS4 continue to sell they way they are.

        • William Henley

          NOt only that, but many homes may have a Blu-Ray in the living room and DVDs in the other room (I know I do, although I plan to change that eventually), which is why these combo-disc packs are so attractive. So a home could realistically have five disc players – A Blu-Ray in the living room and DVDs in the four bedrooms. So the number of DVD players does outnumber the Blu-Ray, but they will buy a Blu-Ray combo pack and watch the DVDs in other rooms.

          Also, from people who actually BUY movies, more people are buying Blu-Ray than DVDs (erics comment shows some examples). The exception may be kid-movies that the parents have no intrest in watching with the kids and which are only going to be played in the bedrooms anyways. People with Blu-Ray players are going to buy Blu-Rays. However, people who still have DVD players, at least in my experience, tend not to be big movie buffs, rarely buy movies at all, and tend to rent or copy movies, if they watch television at all (many of the people I know who do not have Blu-Ray rarely watch movies at all).

          I think Laserdisc is a great example from the 20th Century – it never replaced tape, and had a small niche market. However, people with Laserdisc players bought laserdiscs, paid a premium for them, and obviously the studios saw enough of a market there that most movies were released on the format for over 20 years. Shoot, go into someone’s house who had VHS, and the average person may own a couple of Disney movies on VHS, and maybe a couple of other. It seemed that the normal person may have 5-10 movies on VHS that they bought, and a ton of stuff recorded off of television. But a person with Laserdisc player may have 20, 30 or more movies they had bought.

          So number of players does not equal disc sales in the least. Blu-Ray is coming up on 9 years old – if Blu-Ray sold as poorly as Chapz makes it sound, the studios would have bowed out long ago.However, on new releases, Blu-Ray outsells DVD, at least on the first couple of weekends after a release, and in any case, there is enough of a demand that it is profitable for the studios. The same will happen with 4k – they may not outsell, but it will turn a profit for the studios.

          As far as streaming capabilities – Vudu streams at 9Mbps. That is not too far from what Blu-Ray is – most are encoded around 12 Mbps, only a few are encoded around 18, and a handful at 24 or higher. Now that 9Mbps does include the audio as well, but its Dolby Digital Plus. In other words, Vudu streams very close to Blu-Ray quality, and way higher than DVD quality. Yeah, we can split hairs on putting Vudu and Blu-Ray side-by-side and comparing frame by frame, but higher bitrate does not necessairaly equal higher quality – its all in the encodeing

        • Chapz Kilud

          I meant stand-alone players. But it doesn’t matter because I never said anything about Blu-ray sales which is all that mattered. I didn’t check all your data but I think you’re correct on the “specific” Blu-rays and “specific time periods”. Overall DVD outsells Blu-ray, plain and simple. This website the-numbers.com has the DVD and Blu-ray sales. Take some of the titles that have been out for a while. For example, Frozen which has been out for 44 weeks, DVD outsells Blu-ray 11 mil to 7 mil. Blu-ray had the lead for one week and lost every week after that. Take another super-hit title Avengers which DVD outsells Blu-ray 5.3 mil to 4.9 mil. After week one DVD always outsells Blu-ray. If you take crappy Blu-ray titles they are no match for DVD counterpart. You don’t need to convince me Blu-ray is much better. I have over 1000 2D Blu-ray titles and 150 3D Blu-rays. But most people are still buying DVD’s. That brings the main point I wanted to say, which is Blu-ray is never going to replace DVD. The sales and trend prove it. So now you want to convince the studios to release 4K movies, when they have another issues they are afraid of: piracy on their master-grade movies. So are people not buying Blu-ray because they are holding out on a better format? Or do most people think DVD is good enough for them? That brings us to another point about cnet’s article (http://www.cnet.com/news/why-ultra-hd-4k-tvs-are-still-stupid/). If most people cannot see the benefit of 4K, why do you think the studios want to commit on this new format? Who’s going to guarantee them that the sales are going to be better than Blu-ray or DVD? If so, with what data are they basing this?

          • William Henley

            Once again, the sales don’t HAVE to be better, they just have to be profitable. Even if it only has a 5% adoption rate, the studios will probably still release movies on the format. Now, with a 5% adoption rate, you may not see someone like CBS going back and reconstructing Star Trek yet again for 4k, but most films that you have film or 4k digital masters will probably release it. This is why movies released theatrically in 3D are still getting Blu-Ray 3D releases (you may have to go to Europe, but you can find them) – with as low as 3D sales are in the home, it is still profitable for the studios to release them.

          • Chapz Kilud

            I’m trying not to get sidetracked with other topics. I agree with you and I said it earlier that it’s all about the profit in movie media sale. I agree with 5% adoption rate “some” studios may jump in. After all LD only had about 2-3% household ownership before DVD came about and it stuck around as a niche product. Only Pioneer was making the LD players for the final 7-8 years (Other companies offerings from McIntosh, Runco, and Marantz were all based on Pioneer players). There were very little competition and my CLD-97 and CLD-99 were super expensive even in 2015 dollar. Since you mentioned 3D, I believe the market is a lot worse than that (but I don’t have the actual numbers right now). I’m sure you read a few articles declaring 3D a failure. The Disney 3D mess was caused by its contract with VUDU giving VUDU exclusive on 3D. So we have to buy Frozen, Plane Fire & Rescue, and Maleficent 3D overseas. But had 3D sales been money-maker there was no way Disney would abandon 3D Blu-ray in United States. But going back to what others have already said, I believe 4K is already gone beyond the point of diminishing returns due to biology. And as for other people talking about 8K I would say they are r3tarded. I’m pretty sure you’ll agree that 8K has no place in consumer market because nobody is going to buy a 100″ TV and watch it 2 feet away from it. 4K has a lot going against it, unlike what 1080p and Blu-ray had to go thru. As someone also pointed out, I believe 1080p and Blu-ray hit the perfect sweet spot. They are perfect for the size of TV most people buy, and what our human eyes can see compared to 720p. You just can’t say that about 4K and 1080p.

          • William Henley

            Now I will agree on 8ks – this seems like it might be ideal for giant displays at areanas and billboards and possibly store windows and such. I don’t see a potential market for 8k at home, but as I have never seen an 8k display, I’m reserving judgement. The math doesn’t work out, but it doesn’t work out on 4k for me either, yet there is a visable difference.

            As far as the split-screen demos, those can be misleading, because the picture is simulated. Really the best to do is to see two sets side-by-side rather than split-screen demos. Of course, you also have to wonder how the picture is adjusted on the set. One of the things I have noticed is that if you go into the store serious about buying a set, many will let you play with the controls, and I have even had stores let me test out my own media on it to see how it looks (whether that be a disc or a thumbdrive that I bring in).

  14. Chapz Kilud

    http://www.cnet.com/news/why-ultra-hd-4k-tvs-are-still-stupid/

    That article from CNET summed it the best. 4K is nothing but gimmick. And talks about 8K is just absurd. The market for 70″ and larger TV is about 1%. For 4K to be noticeably better than 1080p you have to have a 80″ screen at 5′ or closer. With a 65″ you have to be sitting about 4′ away, and that may be too close for most people. People aren’t going to buy bigger and bigger TV’s. The drastic price drop on the big screens haven’t pushed most people to go big. The median screen size of TV sold has been stuck to 46″ for the last 10 years. There is an upper limit. Even if we haven’t reached it I doubt it would go much higher. I’ve seen 70″ Sharp LED go for as low as $1200 on sale. Even if it goes down to $800 I don’t think most people will upgrade because of space considerations.

    When you go into an electronic store, it’s easy to see what 4K will deliver up close. But when you sit down on a chair positioned where you’d watch a 60″ or 65″ TV, then all those extra detail disappear. Most people don’t realize that it’s very possible for a 1080p TV to look sharper than 4K by having better contrast.

    Why is 1080p such a sweet spot? The biggest reason is it only takes a 40″ TV sitting at 5′ away to realize the benefit of 1080p over 720p. With the median screen size of TV sold being 46″, that meant a great majority of TV can benefit from 1080p. On the other hand, Blu-ray player ownership hovers around 20% compared that with nearly 100% for DVD player. A good portion of that may have to do with PS3/PS4 ownerships. So even Blu-ray isn’t going to replace DVD in the distant future. If a lot of people don’t care about 1080p movies then they would care less for 4K for which they won’t even see the benefit over 1080p. The last time I checked, my cable company isn’t broadcasting 1080p. Most of it is in 720p and a few in 1080i.

    Someone mentioned 8K and 16K? Yeah seriously, you have to be sitting no more than 2 feet away on a 100″ 16K TV to reap the resolution benefit. Any company that wanted to develop those products deserve to go bankrupt.

    • Drew

      EXACTLY! This is what I’ve been saying — sometimes, on this very blog — for years. I even tried a couple of different 4K televisions, in my secondary HT. They’re utterly pointless. 4K has no practical use in a television. 4K should be for projectors, only. My screen is 12′ wide. On a screen that large, I still only derive minimal benefits from my 4K projector. 4K in a television is worthless. I’ve experienced it first hand, and compared it, side-by-side to 1080p at the same screen size. There’s simply no advantage, whatsoever, unless you are absurdly close to the screen.

      • Chapz Kilud

        That’s why I recommended people over the holidays to stay away from 4K. I’ve seen 4k and 1080p on split screen with Samsung’s demo. One of the scene was a study room with books on bookshelves. With the 4k you can actually see the details on each individual books. But as I move back to sit on the recliner, those detail disappear. So why are people buying something they can’t see? Regarding the falling prices, 4K will always be more expensive to make than 1080p TV. Those people waiting for the price to drop on 4K, by the time 4K prices are low enough for them to pull the trigger on, 1080p TV would be substantially cheaper. Seriously you wouldn’t want to save that extra money to buy something else when both 4K and 1080p look exactly the same under normal viewing distance?

  15. Peter

    4K TV, not much. UHD, very excited especially after this CES. I don’t think the extra resolution of UHD over HD (sort-of 4K over 1080p or even 720p) is a big deal to get excited about in home theater for all the reasons mentioned above. The increased resolution of UHD was the easiest, cheapest item to implement in TVs to try to get a sales boost, and the manufacturers did that in late 2013 and 2014. TVs that you can buy today called UHD are really just HD TVs with more pixels. Everything else is the same.

    The much more exciting aspects of UHD that haven’t even been agreed upon by manufacturers, content providers, etc. are high dynamic range, better color accuracy, and much broader and more realistic color gamut than we get in HD. Many manufacturers at CES talked about these things, and had some implementations of them much faster than I thought. I think these things will dramatically improve picture quality available in the home, and it seems they may be here in a little way this year but more realistically in the next 2-3 years. I am excited to have a color gamut that would allow you to see movies at home much much closer to the picture you see in a good digital cinema, which is the color the director, cinematographer and others are shooting for when they make the picture. When a movie is released for home use (whether streaming or a disc format) the color is changed to fit within the more restrictive Rec. 709 standard for HD. Combine this wider color availability with more dynamic range and I think the future is bright (pun intended).

    As mentioned manufacturers started with resolution increases before the studios and delivery mechanisms were even ready (they still aren’t that ready) to get a boost in TV sales, and it has been shown that the broad public responds to resolution increases more than other factors of picture quality. Probably because it’s a number. We saw this dramatically with digital cameras where the megapixel count kept going up and up, on phones where the camera megapixel number keeps going up, on the screen resolution on smartphones and tablets. The resolution is a hard number that it is fairly easy to sell the public on while other factors can be tougher to get the general public to buy into so we’ll see where it goes. But for me, I am definitely excited at what is going in UHD after CES.

    In other words, I really disagree with you Josh when you say “the other side benefits of Ultra HD (such as better color depth to reduce banding artifacts) will be subtle improvements at best.” I think they will be big improvements and when these things get implemented and are truly available (at least a couple more years) people will want them.

    • Josh Zyber
      Author

      I understand what you’re saying and agree in principle. However, wider color gamut and improved color accuracy will be meaningless to the majority of consumers, who don’t understand anything about calibration and will not use them properly. If that’s the main benefit of UHD, the format is already a failure.

      Besides which, those features haven’t even been fully agreed upon, much less finalized, by the manufacturers. That just goes back to my point that right now is a terrible time to buy a 4k TV. An officially branded “UHD” 4k television bought today will not be compatible with BT.2020 or any other such feature.

      • Peter

        You are correct that right now is definitely the wrong time to buy a 4k TV, with things like HDR and better color not implemented or agreed upon yet, and none of the connection standards even being finalized (Super MHL, anyone?). I totally agree. I guess I was partially saying I am excited because those other things seem to be coming much faster than I thought before this CES (perhaps 2-3 years away instead of 5-7 years). And I think other enthusiasts will be excited by these things also.

        As for whether the general public gets behind them, I hope so but won’t bet on it. No matter how many times I mentioned it, nor how I explained the importance of contrast ratio, I have friends who insisted LCD, or excuse me, LED, was better than plasma because marketing told it to them – not based on anything they saw just by marketing. Perhaps pixel resolution will bring along UHD for the general public that likes bigger numbers and the other benefits will come along for those that value other features of improved quality. That seems like a win-win.

  16. malakai

    I’ll buy into 4k only after there is physical media content for it, and since I’m not rich, I doubt I’ll be getting 4k as soon as the UHD Blu-ray players are released. They really need time to get a good library of films built up anyway.

  17. eric

    I remember when HD first came out, I would go over to peoples houses who had just bought a fancy new HD tv. The would show it off and were so proud of it, but so many of them were still watching standard definition content because it took along time for most folks to even know the difference between just getting the TV and actually getting an HD signal. I still see family members watching standard definition channels and they say they cant tell the difference when it is pretty damn obvious to me.

    4K will be the same way. I know a couple of people that have 4K TVs but have never watched 4K content on it. I also ran into someone that thought they had a 4K TV because something on the box said 4K but it had nothing to do with real 4K, it was a 1080p TV.

  18. Simon

    I don’t see the point of 4k unless you have a seriously large projection screen – I’m talking something approaching the size of your local multiplex screens. For over a decade now we’ve been watching digitally post-produced movies that were more or less locked to 2k resolution, projected first on film then later digitally at both 2 and 4k resolutions and the quality has never been seen to be lacking. Full 4k-res post production is only now becoming commonplace and is still by no means the standard. I imagine most people would only notice a big improvement in sharpness and clarity of a native 4k movie in IMAX theatres.

    At most commonplace viewing distances for both TV sets and projection screens in the home, where the sceen size is sensibly matched to the viewing distance, the individual pixels are barely discernable at 1080p res. You have to sit uncomfortably close to the screen for visible pixels to become an issue.

    4k will benefit only those with exceptionally large screens in the 65″ and above bracket but even here I can’t imagine that the improvement will be worth the cost in most viewing conditions.

    • William Henley

      You know, I used to say the same thing. Like when Apple released Retina technology, I thought having that many pixels on a screen was stupid. Then I got a phone with a 1080p display, with higher pixels per inch than Apple’s, and the difference between that and my old phone (which was maybe a 480 display) was striking. I honestly did not think I would see the difference on a screen that small, but you do.

      I got three 1080p 24 inch monitors sitting about 2 feet from me right now, and already wishing I could go with a higher resolution, not so I can have smaller text but because what I have on there now is a bit on the fuzzy side. Oh, the display is fine – you can tell that there is no ghosting or anything on any of the pixels, its just that at this distance, you can start to see individual pixels, even on a display as small as 24 inch.

      I can certainly tell you that, even from a distance, in the stores, you can really tell those 4k sets apart from the 1080s. I argued math till I was blue in the face, but when you see them in action right next to a 1080p, even from 20 feet away, you can see a difference. However, it may not be just the higher resolution, but the addition of the additional color space. It really is quite striking, and there is a very distinguishable difference.

      Sadly, that difference seems to be limited to 4k content – they had a Blu-Ray player hooked up to the set at the front of the store, and it was playing Frozen, and it looked about the same as it did on a 1080p (except it had MUCH better motion estimation than I have ever seen on a display – I could not believe how fluid it looked, but maybe newer 1080p sets have similar motion estimation in them).

      Go to a store that has 4ks on diplay, showing a demo, and see if it does not grab your attention, even from a distance

      • Chapz Kilud

        Retina and 4K scenarios aren’t alike. You’re holding iPhones and iPads very close to your eyes. With that said don’t think that there isn’t a limit. There is. Unfortunately for 4K TV’s our analog eyes hit that limitation. Nobody watches the 4K screen couple of feet away as you would with a 4K monitor. Again, I pointed out cnet article above. There is a chart which is quite self-explanatory. But if you’re not convinced, I’d highly recommend going to a store and look at the Samsung’s demo material with a split screen of 4K and 1080p side-by-side. Everybody can see 4K is better up close. But the key is when you have to move back and sit down. The extra details disappear as you move back. I’ve yet to find a salesperson in the store who can tell me they can see the difference between 4K and 1080p under Samsung demo program “from a distance where they’d sit in their house” on the 55″ Samsung UHD, and these are the people who are trying to sell the TV.

        • William Henley

          Yes, but once again, you are talking resolution. There are advantages to UHD other than just the increased resolution. I honestly think that at a distance, it is the increased color space that is really wowing me instead of the resolution.

          I actually sit about 5 feet from my 65 inch 1080 (well, the one I had up until a couple of weeks ago – stupid lighting strike). It was the elite line that my maker made, and it was calibrated. It looks fantastic, but I am close enough that I could probably see the advantages. I like to sit close enough to my screen for it to fill up most of my view.

          • Chris B

            I don’t understand how people can sit so close to their tvs. I have a 50″ samsung upstairs at my house and I sit about 10 feet away, any closer and it seems overbearing. I know all the arguments for optimal viewing distance etc. but every time I move closer it just seems….wrong….maybe it’s just me.

          • Chapz Kilud

            I’m just going to quote on cnet’s article: “TV companies are pushing 4K because they can. It’s easy, or at least easier than improving the more important aspects of picture quality (like contrast ratio, color accuracy, motion blur, compression artifacts, and so on ).” So I guess 4K does have that going for the industry. But it does nothing to improving the picture quality. I’m more interested in OLED. The benefit of OLED is night and day, regardless of resolution. OLED 1080p will always be a lot more expensive than 4K LED, but it will also look a lot sharper and vibrant. That just goes to show you that resolution weights a lot less in picture quality beyond HD. Personally, if I had to choose between 1080p OLED and 4K LED, I choose the OLED. I’m pretty sure you would too. If I had to choose between 1080p OLED and 4K OLED, I choose 1080p because I could save $1000 that could go to better sound system or more Blu-rays. But that’s just me.

            I have some experience with 4K as a friend of mine bought the Samsung’s Best Buy BF deal. I’m not all that impressed with it with Panasonic 4K upscaling Blu-ray. I also auditioned the Samsung 55″ on the demo split screen which I considered to be true A/B comparison. It pretty much proved what Carlton Bale scale indicated.

            The only chance I’d consider buying 4K is if the OLED I wanted doesn’t come with cheaper 1080p version. I seriously doubt that will happen because we are not making significant leaps on improving OLED yield. So 1080p OLED will always be made because it’s cheaper and provides higher yield than 4K counterpart.

          • William Henley

            Well, if we are talking about saving money – this is actually where I was last year – I had the money because of fire insurance, but at the time, it was like $6k for a 60 inch 4k, or I could go with a $1800 65 inch elite model Vizio 1080p 3D. Guess which one I chose?

            However, now with prices dropping, and sales, when a 65 inch Samsung 65 inch 4k 3D set runs $2500 (this is what they were last weekend) and the 65 inch 1080p Vizios are still $1800-$1900, why not pay the extra $600, get a Samsung, and get the 4k with it (actually, those sale prices brought it down to the same price or cheaper than 1080ps from Samsung, Sony, Toshiba, etc in the same screen size range).

            Now if I had money to blow, bring out the 1024k 200 inch televisions! 🙂

          • Chapz Kilud

            I hear you. I wouldn’t have a place to put 100″ screen. Some people live in apartments where a 70″ wouldn’t fit inside the elevator. Some of my neighbors who live in the exact same model house as mine wouldn’t be able to get the 100″ TV into the basement home theater because the door to the outside is followed by stairs. Bigger screens aren’t for everyone. I bought Sharp Elite 70″ couple years ago. My next TV would have to be OLED because it’s the only thing that can possibly offer picture upgrade to my current TV. When I’m ready to buy OLED, hopefully they’d already come up with one that bends and can easily be hung on the wall like a picture.

            You’re correct about the pixel count in camera. Packing more pixels meant each will have to be smaller and capture less light. The picture will be noisier and offsets the extra resolution. For TV I think 4K will be the final resolution standard because it’s barely usable for the few that can afford/use large screens in their homes. But 4K is easier to market. Sony took the easy way out by going full throttle on 4K and completely abandoned OLED. It is more difficult and expensive to make a TV with better picture quality than making 4K.

  19. Peter

    Like it or not, I think this issue is mostly going to be a non-issue this year, and totally by next year. All the manufacturers are going to make their high end sets 4K, at least anything 55″ and bigger. So if you want a TV with a manufacturer’s top or even 2nd or 3rd best image quality technologies, it will be 4K. You won’t be able to buy a high end 1080p TV.

    • Chris B

      Exactly man, 4k will become the new standard in the next few years anyways…no sense in agonizing over whether or not to “buy in”.

    • Chapz Kilud

      Peter, everything you said is true (at least I agree with) up to the very last sentence. The reason is 4K TV are a lot more expensive to manufacturer than 1080p TV. So when 4K prices drop, 1080p prices will drop faster. You’re assuming every manufacturers will abandon high-end 1080p TV. But they are there to make money, not to push technological advancement. With a 55″ viewer will need to sit about 3 feet away to get the benefit of 4K over 1080p (see the article in http://www.cnet.com/news/why-ultra-hd-4k-tvs-are-still-stupid/ ). For all practical purposes 55″ 4K will look the same as 1080p with everything else being equal. Most consumers would want to save $500 buying 1080p. I buy a lot of Blu-rays (my forum handle is videophile, you can check my collection). I know $500 buys me a lot of Blu-rays. You shouldn’t need me to convince you that most people still buy DVDs and if they aren’t going to switch over to Blu-ray whose benefit is highly visible with TV 37″ and larger, then they aren’t going to switch over to 4K whose benefit isn’t very visible under normal viewing distance at 70″ or smaller.

        • Chapz Kilud

          That was a joke right? I don’t know anyone selling 720p 75″. Again, benefit of 1080p over 720p is easily visible with TV 37″ and larger within 7 feet to 15 feet on Carlton Bale scale. I have a 40″ in my bedroom and I’m only 3 feet from it. 720p isn’t going to cut it. From the manufacturing cost, the gap between 1080p and 720p is much smaller than between 1080p and 4K. If you do some math the pixel count of 1080p is 2.25 times over 720p where as 4K is 4 times the 1080p. A friend of mine is an executive at AUO. She said it’s not even worth making 720p many years ago. I think some people have trouble understanding that we’re not talking about bigger harddrive or faster processor when working with 4K. When we deal with resolution, there is a physical limit because human eyes have limitations. Resolution isn’t everything. A 6MP DSLR will take sharper and better pictures than a 12MP P&S camera. With TV we also have to deal with space issues. I don’t think it’s worth it to consider 4K below 70″, that’s a lot generous than Carlton Bale is suggesting.

          I’m not sure if Panasonic DMP-BDT460 is a good 4K upscaler. At my friend’s Samsung UHD TV I couldn’t really see significant improvement on Blu-ray. I understand that’s not as accurate as the Samsung split-screen demo, because upscaling does not provide more detail. The lines looked smoother up close at times. But again sitting back is where I want my money to count, and it didn’t.

          • William Henley

            Yeah, it was a joke. 🙂

            I have a friend who bought his first flatscreen back in 2005. He got a huge inheritance, and had money to blow, so he bought an 85″. But this was also 2005 – so it was a 720p set.

            Anyways, it was a joke. No one makes 720 in those sizes anymore (that I know of) – but that was kind of the point.

            As for cameras, its not just an issue of of DSLR versus point and shoots, the issue is that you are cramming more and more pixels onto the same size CCD sensor. This leads to issues such as less light per pixel, etc. Many camera manufactorors (especially on phones, point and shoots, etc) compensate by adding a bit of processing to the image. The problem with this is that this can introduce noise into the image (you could also compensate by raising other settings on the camera, such as iso, but in low lights, that also introduces noise. You could also keep the shutter open for slightly longer, which I have seen, and have had issues with cameras with higher pixel counts bluring because of movement). So yeah, many people just go with the camera with the highest megapixel counts because they understand “Higher numbers means better”, Of course, with cameras, there are way more things to take into account than just the number of pixels.

  20. Simon

    I can see how a 4k display will make 1080p content look better on very large displays or projection screens – although the image is being upscaled and as a result will lose a little sharpness, you won’t have the problems of individual physical pixels on the screen becoming visible and causing eye strain and distraction. That I can fully get behind. But I still think that your screen needs to be extremely large before the pixel issue becomes visible to such an extent that it detracts from picture quality or viewing comfort.

    I tend to always sit more towards the front of the cinema than most people think is ideal when I see a movie because I like the screen to fill my field of view and I have never been able to percieve individual pixels on the screen no matter how closely I looked. And that is presumably a 4k source being blown through a 4k projector. Based on that I don’t really see the need for 4k in a domestic setting unless you like to sit 1 foot away from your 65″ TV.

  21. Chapz Kilud

    I did a word search on OLED and it seemed nobody else mentioned it. I believe OLED is the next big thing in TV technology, not 4K. The picture quality between OLED and LED/Plasma is much more pronounced than between 4K and 1080p. You can see the benefit of OLED under any resolution and from very long distance. People need to remember picture quality encompasses a lot more than resolution. Even the best UHD LED cannot compare with OLED at 1080p. However OLED still struggles with yield in manufacturing. But once the technology matures, OLED will be the real game changer. It will change the way we use TV. You won’t need a TV stand. You can hang it up on the wall like a painting. You can bend it without having to buy a curved TV. To me that’s something a lot better to look for than 4K.

  22. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I thought I read somewhere that oled has kind of an image burn in issue and the diodes start to lose their brilliance after a while. Now I’m not sure how long that would be, but it was a bit of a turn off. Aside from being very expensive. The reason I never got into plasma was for this. I’m willing to sacrifice some picture quality for something more practical. That’s just me. I would love to see one in person though as I’ve read it has an amazing picture.

    • Chapz Kilud

      OLED has shorter lifespan than plasma. But the research is still ongoing and they found ways to prolong the life of blue OLED which seems to die out first. If you can afford it right now you probably don’t mind replacing one 5 years from now. I can’t afford it right now, and I can’t afford buying another TV every 5 years. So I got myself Sharp Elite which is the only LED that performs like a plasma in terms of picture quality, without the drawbacks of plasmas. But I hope they will fix issues with OLED (lifespan, pricing). Imagine something that has much higher contrast than anything we have right now, and with wider viewing axis. The 1080p in OLED will look much sharper and better than any 4K LED we have right now. And the required viewing distance is much friendlier. You don’t need to be sitting 2 feet away from a 55″ 4K in order to see the extra details offered by 4K.

      I’m curious how those floor model OLED will look after couple years of continuous use.

  23. We initially started installing 4K TV’s at the request of our clients. I personally don’t see a huge difference between these and pre 4K TV’s. I will say that it has been good for business in that it drives clients to us facilitating a faster upgrade cycle.

    4K is much like any other feature that is brought forward by manufacturers. It’s just another way to reduce the time between purchases for first adopters. I’m not going to complain about it because it brings us more business. But I’m pretty honest with our clients regarding the differences between these TV’s and the previous generation models.

  24. Keith

    To all of you that have pulled the trigger, stores like Abt, Best Buy, etc. send a different signal to their 4k tvs and a down graded signal to their 1080p and lesser sets in order to make the 4k set more desirable. that being said to each his own.

  25. Keith

    i also realized that in my home i sit aprox. 20 feet back from a seventy five inch screen, pixel density makes no difference to me.

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