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Tech Envy: Is 2014 the year of the 4K television?

We asked Los Angeles-based tech writer Geoff Morrison

Jun 2, 2014

by Alberta Venture Staff

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$6,499: SONY 65” LED 4K ULTRA HD TV
Photo courtesy of AMC networks

Is 2014 the year of 4K televisions for consumers?

No way. Not even close. Though the prices have come down (and will continue to do so), there’s still very little content available. That’s going to take time.

You might have heard about 4K televisions already. And if you haven’t, well, you will soon enough. They’re the latest iteration of high-definition viewing, and they come in at 3,840 by 2,160 pixels – four times the resolution of the HD television that you probably thought was more than good enough. But while they’ve come down in price considerably, from upwards of $25,000 to around one-fifth that amount, they’re still expensive. Are they worth it? We asked Geoff Morrison, a Los Angeles-based tech writer.

The content for 4K TVs seems to be lagging the units themselves. When will it catch up, and what will that look like?
This was true with full HD content as well. We had 1080 TVs long before we had a large amount of 1080 content. There is 4K content out there (movie studios have been transferring movies at 4K and more for years), but the trick is getting it to consumers. A few of the streaming services (like Netflix) have said they’ll have 4K for certain shows this year, but we’ll see.

Is there any risk that 4K TVs become the Betamax for the 21st century? Or is this a technology whose arrival in the mainstream is a matter of when rather than if?
There’s certainly some debate about this. I’m in the “inevitable” camp only because all the manufacturers want this, and want it bad. That doesn’t mean anyone should buy a 4K TV right now, though.

How much further could prices drop, and is it worth waiting for that?
Well, in the really long term, there will be 4K TVs as cheap as the cheapest 1080p TVs now. That’s the standard progression of technology. The price is actually less of a reason to buy (or not) than other factors. Even if the 4K TV is $1,000, that still might not make it a good value, depending on what you need. Below a certain size, and from a normal seating distance, your eye can’t distinguish the difference between 1080p and 4K. So there’s no point in spending more on a 4K TV. You’re better off getting a better looking 1080p TV for the same money. Now if someone sits closer, or they’re planning on getting a really huge TV, then 4K is great.

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