Buy A 4K TV Now If You Have Gobs Of Money And Like Kevin Spacey A Lot. Like, A Whole Lot.

Full disclosure: He scares me.

Full disclosure: He scares me.

If you haven’t noticed by now, we’ve basically let Meg “I’m The Boss And What Happens In Vegas, Stays In Vegas” Marco loose on CES this week, where she’s sending on-the-ground dispatches about all things new and electronic. Her ramblings today took her to the various and sundry 4K TVs on display. So how jazzed do the TVs seem, compared to your usual 1080p resolution sets? “Jazzed as hell,” sayeth Meg.

For those not in the know, so you don’t have to reach for the Internet right away, a 4K TV is ultra high-definition, or at a 4,000 pixel resolution, almost four times the resolution of a standard 1080p TV.

“The TV themselves are amazing, Meg adds. “I walked by a regular 1080p and was like, ‘This now looks like a pixel party where all pixels were invited.’ “

That being said, there are some downsides to these thousands of pixels.

PRICE
For one thing, 4K TVs are expensive. Like, multiple thousands of dollars expensive for the bigger screens. Which, let’s face, it, plenty of people will want a bigger screen.

Of course, you’ll surely have some super rich, super braggy friend who buys a 65″ 4K TV and sets it up as the trophy of his massive, richly-appointed abode. That guy, he just will not stop talking your ear off about how “a-freaking-mazing” it is. But your average TV buyer is going to think twice (or 4,000 times) about forking over that cash.

LACK OF CONTENT
Now let’s consider the fact that there’s not really that much to actually watch yet on 4K sets that really takes advantage of the technology. This lack of content was evident at CES today — many of the companies’ 4K displays were showing demo videos on a loop, or a series of still images. That’s likely because 1. Still images are much easier to throw up in high-resolution, as any 8 megapixel or larger image is already 4K in terms of size.

Many showing video content were on smaller TV sets, and we can imagine why. While these 4K TVs can take a regular HD signal and automatically upscale it to show on 4K sets, it might not be the best quality. Some are better than others at doing that, but we haven’t seen much to determine how well they’re doing.

The belle of the TV show ball seems to have been House of Cards from Sony Pictures. Fittingly enough, the Sony display was streaming that program on its TVs, while Samsung also had a display with the show.

Sony is likely to be the driving force race to get 4K customers, we’re guessing, because they’re making a lot of their own branded content and shooting it in 4K.

And while Samsung (which also had a display with House of Cards) had DirecTV receivers built into the TVs and says it’ll launch a video-on-demand service, there aren’t any details yet so who knows when that will happen or how much content will be available.

It should be noted that Panasonic appeared to be the only one  to display practical applications for the TVs that could be used now. Everyone else was like, “Hey! Look! We’ve got 4K!” That included wearable 4K imaging (see below, no that is not Meg) and a service where you can upload your 4K content to the cloud and then stream it back.

Panasonic's 4K wearable imaging.

Panasonic’s 4K wearable imaging.

TELL ME ABOUT THE FUTURE
But it’s not like 4K TVs will just fade away. Think of all those big, splashy companies like say, Nike, Facebook, a fancy ad agency, whathaveyou — back when almost no one had LCD TVs, guess who had wall displays of LCD TVs showing company images and such in their big, luxurious lobbies? Those same companies will probably buy enough 4K TVs to keep manufacturers putting theme out. They don’t need to go out and produce video content in 4K if they’re just showing photos.

The bottom line: 4K TVs could become standard in the future — once there’s content, once the price drops — but until then, it’s probably going to be a limited set of buyers. But if you want to spend absurd sums to see Kevin Spacey ripping everyone a new one in 4K ultra high def, OMG! You’re in luck.

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  1. dullard8 says:

    It’s unlikely we’ll see 4K broadcast TV for quite some time due to broadcast bandwidth limitations, a reason we have 1080i instead of 1080p for broadcast.