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Tech Talk Tuesday: 4K Resolution replacing HD... Already???
Updated: Tuesday, September 17 2013, 12:01 PM MDT
By Lonnie Valencia
HD is dead! Just kidding ( but not really!) Believe it or not, that new television you got a couple of years ago is ready to be put down “Old Yeller” style, if you know what I mean. In today’s tech talk, I’m diving into the new world of 4K televisions. Are they worth it? What’s the difference? Why now? I answer all of these questions and more, so let's stop lingering around like “standard definition” and move on already!
Before we can move forward we have to take a step back and look where we've been. In the before times, in the long long ago, we all enjoyed our TV’s in what was called standard definition (SD, 480i). The Federal Communications Commissions (FCC) said, "Let there be one standard! And it was good." Then, in 2009, free over-the-air television stations switched from analog transmissions to digital and this was good. A Digital signal made it possible for new advancements in television to be broadcast and this too was good, making way for high definition (HD) to be born. Then the National Association of Broadcasters steps in and, what they did next, was not good (well, at least in my opinion!) Because the NAB was not able to decide on just one standard for HD, they decided to open it up to a multitude of different settings. 720i, 720p,1080i,1080p, 1440X1080 are all part of the HD family. They all come in different speeds too like, 24fps (frames per second), 29.94fps, 50fps, 60fps, with or without drop frame. Confused yet? I work with all of them and it makes my head spin, especially when someone tells me they have HD video and can’t tell me which settings they used. Ahhh! Sorry I digress!
Moving on, you at home have these televisions that can figure out all of these cool HD settings and display them with ease. In a flash you are watching movies, TV shows, and internet videos on your big screen in the best possible combination of HD clarity your peepers have ever seen. Now it’s time to blind you with the next best thing... 4K.
4K (Ultra HD) does not refer to the amount of money you will be spending on these next generation televisions, it refers to the resolution. The highest resolution in the HD family is 1080p (1920x1080). 4K is four times that resolution, it comes in at (4096x2160). This resolution allows you to do two things: 1. Cram more detail into the picture adding clarity and contrast. 2. Break the 65inch screen barrier. You could easily go up to 84inchs and see no pixel separation, making 4k bigger, badder, and better then anything that has come before it. Samsung, Sharp, LG, Toshiba and Sony are some of the companies that have televisions out on the market right now. Be ready to dish out some money as even the lowest model (55” Sony) is priced at $3,500.00.
So, why now? Why is 4K coming out when television stations (like us) are barely HD? Why the push? Two words... Video Games! The next generation of consoles (PS4, Xbox One) are coming out later this year. Both consoles are coming with support of 4K graphics. Side note, the last console war had video gamers deciding media adoption between HD-DVD and Blu-Ray. This time it’s to see how well received 4K is going to be. Believe it or not, video gamers are on the cutting edge of when it comes to home electronics. Sony is pulling out all the stops. Not only are they producing the Playstation 4 and a whole line of 4K televisions, they are also starting a new 4K digital movie service. The FMP-X1 ($700) is the only device streaming 4K video. If you’re into watching Breaking Bad, for example, having a new 4K TV, Sony’s FMP-X1, and HDMI firmware upgrade to 2.0 will allow you to see it in 4K glory. I don’t know about you, but that sounds like a lot of work!
4k is in its infancy, and it will take a year or two to really see if this new product is going to make it. There are a lot of people still using SD televisions. HD is a whole new world to them, and making the jump to 4K is totally out of the question. Early 4K television adopters are going to find it hard to find programing shot, edited, and streaming 4K. Everything on the market for the exception of the FMP-X1 is sub standard to the resolution. Sure the salesman will tell you that watching your blu-ray player will look amazing but you are truly never going to see what your new TV can do until the rest of the devices catch up.
My advice to those of you that have the money to spend on updating to the latest and greatest….WAIT! I know the urge to buy now is great, but you won't have to wait long. I’m saying wait six months. The current 4K televisions on the market came out well before the necessary HDMI 2.0 firmware upgrade. This firmware is vital to receive a 4K signal. Without it you’re stuck in an HD world upscaling. Yuck! Plus, let's see what happens with the video game consoles and their offerings. There are a lot of cool things they can do with this new HDMI upgrade - 4K, 3D full-dual screen, and 32 channel audio. Video games are now becoming bigger then blockbuster movies in Hollywood. Make sure the 4K television you’re buying comes with or can upgrade to HDMI 2.0. Budget in as well for Sony’s FMP-X1/PS4/Xbox One, and call us to check out your set up! We’ll bring the popcorn. After you have all that, you should be set... well until 8K comes out which is in the works as you read this article.
That does it for this episode of Tech Talk Tuesday. As always we would love your feedback/suggestions for this or our next edition, so feel free to send your comments to our resident Tech Guy Lonnie Valencia.