UHD televisions – what’s all the hype about?

January 14, 2014 • Features, Top Stories

As technology steamrolls its way into the homes of eager users and early adopters, there is no doubt that 2014 will be the year of UHD (Ultra High Definition)televisions. A number of these televisions were unveiled at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show, but the one that garnered the most attention was Samsung’s 105” model.

Joe Stinziano, executive vice president of Samsung Electronics of America (image: Samsung)

Joe Stinziano, executive vice president of Samsung Electronics of America (image: Samsung)

But what exactly are UHD televisions and why are they becoming so popular in such a short time?

In layman’s terms, there are currently two forms of UHD: 4K and 8K. The former is four times the pixels of Full HD (1080p) , and has a resolution of 3840 × 2160 (8.3 megapixels).

The latter is much less utilised for now, but is double the amount of pixel of a 4K unit – effectively having a 7,680 × 4,320 pixel resolution (33.2 megapixels). That is about the same size as IMAX film or 16 times the pixel resolution of Full HD at 1080p.

It provides for a much crisper and clearer image than what is available with current HD televisions and monitors, and can be inserted into much bigger television frames. And according to UltraHDTV magazine, it’s not only the video quality that gets a boost, but also the sound quality.

“In addition to the significant upgrade in video quality, sound quality is also significantly increased with Ultra HDTV. 24 channels of audio can be used with 24 speakers, producing a difference comparable to the Ultra HD video resolution,” they explain.

There is currently a limited amount of 4K/UHD content available for users who are lucky enough to already have one, and video streaming service Netflix announced recently that Season 2 of their original series House of Cards will be made available in Ultra HD, while Amazon Studios announced that they would be filming a host of new content in UHD.

Samsung’s television monster

Korean electronics maker Samsung unveiled their 105” UHD set at CES, together with the world’s first bendable 85-inch UHD screen, and both products are expected to go on sale later this year. But with the current price of even first generation 4K television, users can expect to pay a fortune for the new models.

Going by the model number U9500, the 105” set is the world’s first Curved UHD TV and features a stunning aspect ratio of 21:9 to recreate the feeling of being in a cinema.

“People who are passionate about entertainment will have a whole new way to experience the content they love with these exciting new models that showcase exceptional design and UHD picture quality,” said HS Kim, executive vice president of the visual display business at Samsung Electronics.

While Samsung’s television will support current standards such as HEVC, HDMI 2.0, MHL 3.0 and HDCP 2.2, the device will also be capable of receiving Samsung’s UHD Evolution Kit – a device that clips to the back of the unit, ensuring that it remains current with technology standards. Naturally, all their sets will come installed with their Smart TV software and functionality.

Taking on the giants

LG also launched a 105” UHD television (image: LG)

LG also launched a 105” UHD television (image: LG)

While Samsung is arguably the biggest producer of a variety of electronics, LG is looking to unseat them as the television kings. The company also launched a 105” UHD, as well as 98-inch, 79-inch, and 65-inch curved panel models.

LG’s version is expected to be slightly cheaper than Samsung’s unit, as it makes use of LCD instead of the more expensive OLED, which incorporates the latest TFT technology. The model also has a 21:9 CinemaScope aspect ratio providing a 5,120 x 2,160 UHD resolution.

“LG Display has kept its dominant position in the display market with innovative and differentiated technologies. With a resolution of 11 million pixels, the 105-inch curved LCD panel is proof of our continued leadership in the next generation display market, offering exceptional world-class value to our customers,” said Yong-kee Hwang, Senior Vice President and head of LG Display’s TV Business Unit.

Also making the claim that they created the first UHD television, In-kyu Lee, Vice President and head of the Home Entertainment Company’s TV division, said they employed the latest technology to make it a reality.

“We’re proud to reveal our 105-inch CURVED ULTRA HD TV at the world’s largest technology event. Claiming the world’s first and the world’s largest titles, LG’s 105UB9 employs cutting-edge technology to provide a truly unique viewing experience. We will continue to drive the next generation TV market and demonstrate that with LG, it’s all possible.”

Not just televisions

But UHD isn’t relegated to just television sets, as a number of PC monitors have also been released to provide PC gamers and video enthusiasts with the latest in viewing technology.

PC peripherals maker ASUS unveiled their 28-inch 4K/UHD monitor and makes use of the new Z87-Deluxe/SATA Express concept motherboard, and will be the first to implement SATA Express interface.

“ASUS is delighted to unveil innovations that will surprise the industry and excite end users — our treasured customers,” remarked Jackie Hsu, ASUS Corporate Vice President and General Manager of Worldwide Sales, “Our goal always is to design and build products that make lives better, and we’re pleased to be able once more to showcase our work on the world stage.”

With a native resolution of 3840 x 2160 pixels, the monitor features a 1ms response time and its connectivity includes HDMI and HDMI/MHL (Mobile High-Definition Link) connectors and native Display Port for true 4K/UHD content support.

The future

It is clear from the plethora of UHD/4k products being unveiled, released and announced that it is definitely a format that is here to stay. As more industry players develop 4K units and content, users ultimately will determine the success of the format.

As for the price, it might still be a number of years before the average Joe can walk away with a UHD model – Sony released their version late last year, which retailed in South Africa for over $25 000. And in December last year, Samsung launched a 110-inch flat-panel 4K Ultra HDTV for the whopping $150,000 in select regions.

Charlie Fripp – Consumer Tech editor

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