Perhaps you just bought your first full-HD (1080P) TV just a few months or even weeks ago, just in time for the big sports event. And perhaps you’re really happy with your new HDTV or 3DTV.
So, why do you need to hear that the technology curve is about to pass you by…. and so quickly?
We never want to hear the news, but we always expect it. So hold onto your Christmas high-tech fantasies because LG and Sony will both be shipping televisions with unbelievable resolutions of 3840 by 2160 pixels…. and just in time for the coming holiday season. Yikes!!!
Originally dubbed “4K”, this next generation of displays has taken the name “Ultra High Definition”, or “UltraHD.” Expect to see a lot of product introductions at this resolution level at the January 2013 Consumer Electronics Show. Thus, the 3D-TV fad seems to be fading as giant, cinema-style 4K sets become the newest cutting-edge tech marvels destined for your living room. In a nutshell, 4K technology can be thought of as huge screens and four times the image quality of regular HD, plus passive 3D content that you’d consider actually watchable And at around $25k, it’s feasibility for your home theater experience may well be… well, just a little southeast of nowhere, and no how.
At 2160 pixels, 4K TV is double the resolution of the current 1080-pixel HD standard. So at 3840 x 2160, it’s twice as wide, twice as tall, with an 8.3MP image that’s mind-blowing, quadruple the 2.1MP image found on current HD. Interestingly, the term “4K” actually refers to the horizontal pixel count, even though the industry standard counts along the vertical axis. But why stop there? Why not move up the ladder a bit from 4K TV, and encounter 8K TV: the upper tier of the Ultra-High Def category. With 8K, at twice the resolution of 4K, the display shows a staggering 7680 × 4320 resolution. You’d have to stack two rows of four current HDTVs to match the bit count of a single 8K set. And of course there’s that behemoth 33.2MP image—equivalent to the quality produced by top-shelf pro cameras like the Nikon D800.
However, like all brand new technologies, the UHD TV standard, especially the higher 8K range, still has a few kinks to work out, not the least of which is the fact that current network infrastructure struggles to transmit such large amounts of data. Oh, and let’s not forget the fact that those 8K UHD TV cameras cost enough to make even Romney gulp.
You probably haven’t ever seen much 4KTV on a consumer television—unless, of course, you had an extra 25 grand laying around to get the new 84-inch Sony Bravia. But you will see it. The beauty of 4K is that it packs so much visual data onto the screen, that the pixels can be absolutely minisucle while still displaying 10 bits of data at a time. Think of an Apple Retina display, but at a higher resolution, and on an 80-inch screen—that’s UHD.
An increased pixel count will also benefit 3DTV. Passive 3D cuts the horizontal resolution in half to create a 3D effect—so if you’re watching a 1080p movie (1920 x 1080) in 3D using passive glasses, you’re really watching a 1920 x 540 picture. By doubling the resolution of the whole image, 4K effectively overcomes 1080p’s limitations, producing an HD-quality 3D image. You’re in for crisper, clearer 3D movies. And research is already under way to see if a 4K image, combined with sufficiently high refresh rates, can deliver 3D images sans glasses.
As more and more companies jump on the 4K bandwagon, prices will undoubtedly drop as precipitously as they did with early HDTVs.But we’re not done just yet, as there’s another new splashy kid in town: OLED, or ‘organic light-emitting diode”. This ultra thin new technology — one that has become standard in smartphones like the Samsung Galaxy S3 — with a much crisper, brighter image than a typical HDTV, has only recently started to make its way to bigger screens. Unlike conventional TVs, OLED has no backlight, as the pixels themselves light up allowing for deeper blacks and sharper contrasts. One of the world’s biggest OLED sets is Samsung’s 55-inch version, complete with TV tricks such as allowing two people to watch two different shows at the same time. The images for one show alternate with the images for the other at an extremely high speed. Each person wears 3D glasses that have tiny shutters inside that flicker in time with their show’s images. Samsung’s new models also have motion controls, courtesy of a tiny camera that catches movement. Viewers can control the TV’s volume and even play video games by simply moving their hands.
The future looks ultra fantastic. Full speed ahead!