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?
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.
[Banner image for this post found at Which?.]