Is now the right time to buy a 4K TV?
Stephan Jukic – February 03, 2015
2015 is definitely shaping up to be the year in which 4K TVs go fully mainstream and because of this now is a great time for really looking carefully at whether buying a 4K TV is already a good idea.
These TVs have been around since 2012 at least but until early 2014, the technology behind them made owning one difficult for various reasons.
For one thing, most name brand TV models cost thousands of dollars even with mid-range screen sizes and some of the really big 4K models could cost upwards of $100,000 dollars.
Next, there was the issue of technology standards, namely that there weren’t any established “must have” features that had yet been fully fleshed out.
But, now it’s 2015, and the ecosystem around 4K TVs is truly maturing into something convenient, broad and easy to access, meaning that it’s now a better time than ever before to get your hands on a new UHD TV at minimal cost for the sake of enjoying both native 4K content and Full HD content in a clarity never before seen in any TV.
Here are some reasons why 4K televisions have become an honestly unbeatable home entertainment option.
4K technology is here to stay
There’s no longer any doubt about it. 4K is here for the long run, or until it gets replaced by even higher resolutions as the highest available standard, but that’s still more than a few years away.
While a lot of pundits and “experts” claimed that 4K technology in TVs would go the way of the now defunct 3DTV, they turned out to be wrong and it was pretty obvious they would be right since the beginning. I mean, people love high resolution and the more of it they can get at a decent price, the better. The arrival of Full HD clearly showed this and so did the earlier advent of 720p HD.
The same is the case for ultra HD and the only thing which made 4K adoption low at first was the price of new UHD TVs. Now that they’re getting cheaper, they’re also quickly growing enormously popular.
By buying a 4K TV, one thing you’re definitely doing is future proofing your home entertainment options and giving your family access to shows and movies in a format that was previously closed to you. You can also still enjoy all the HD content anyhow.
Standards have stabilized
In the beginning of 4K TVs, there were still a lot of holes that needed addressing in the underlying ecosystem of supporting technology. This is no longer nearly the case.
While there will still be much more evolution in 4K technology and some convenience factors still need to be addressed, video compression codecs like HEVC and VP9 to a slightly lesser extent have been standardized across the board.
Almost all newer model 4K TVs are now arriving on the retail shelves fully ready to play a wide range of existing 4K content and most future content that emerges in the coming months and years. Furthermore, firmware updates are coming out regularly to existing newer TVs which address lingering deficiencies and the latest TV models all come with “must have” features like HDMI 2.0, HDCP 2.2 and DisplayPort.
In essence, the latest 4K sets, while not as good as they’ll probably be next year, are already more than future proofed enough to cover all your 4K entertainment needs down the road if you don’t want to wait another unnecessary 12 months for the beauty of native ultra HD resolution in your home.
Prices just keep falling
Buying a 4K TV is no longer something that requires you to spend your own or your children’s college fund.
While the 4K TVs of 2012, 2013 and part of 2014 were indeed expensive and sometimes insanely so, this simply doesn’t apply anymore. Competition is heating up and several excellent TVs fro name brands come fully loaded with the latest and best technology at prices that are roughly comparable to those of high end HDTVs.
Vizio can largely be thanked for having started this trend in October of 2014 when it released a whole line of 4K UHD TVs with the very latest internal technology at prices that had been unheard of up to that point. Their 50 inch model cost less than $1000 and even the company’s gigantic 70 inch 4K set retails for less than $2500.
Now others are falling in line with similar pricing and even Samsung has recently released two new 4K models in the 55 to 65 inch range, both of which cost less than $1500 and $2400 respectively.
In other words, you can now get your hands on a big screen, excellent, fully future-proofed 4K TV for less than $3000.
Content is springing up everywhere
Content remains one of the big hurdles when it comes to 4K TVs but this is also changing now. Streaming 4K shows and movies are available to most of the latest major 4K TV models from Amazon and Netflix while several other content providers are already offering ultra HD programming via streaming connections, set-top boxes and even satellite connections to select TV makes and models.
Then there is Sony, whose media player and accompanying VoD service offer the single largest library of 4K content available from anybody today, roughly 1,300 different movie and TV show titles.
Of course, some 4K content models are still stubbornly and ridiculously proprietary or limited in scope but this will soon change and it’s good to be ready in advance. Notable examples of this narrowness include M-Go and Comcast, both of whom offer limited UHD content packages but only to owners of Samsung 4K TVs. On the other hand, Sony has already learned and its media player set-top box can be connected to certain UHD TVs from other manufacturers.
Luckily however, the entire content landscape is not only growing very, very fast, it’s also becoming much more broadly compatible with assorted TVs that meet the basic requirements of HEVC compatibility and the right web connection speed.
There’s much more to 4K TVs than just extra pixels
4K TVs aren’t just awesome because they offer 4 times the pixels of HD TVs. In addition to all that resolution, there is a whole plethora of associated color and image technologies that are being built into them instead of even newer model but much less profitable HDTVs.
For example, there is quantum dot technology –explained in detail here– which was unveiled at CES 2015 by at least two different TV manufacturers and which we explained in detail here. This is an innovative new display feature that creates far more vibrant, realistic color blends in the content viewed on the screen and it’s only available with ultra HD TV models and unlikely to be released with any upcoming Full HD TV sets.
This isn’t the only technology that’s exclusive to 4K either: High Dynamic Range (HDR) is another new innovation that should start appearing in televisions as of mid-2015 and beyond. This development, which revolves around dramatically improving the degrees of luminosity in screen visuals for the sake of greater realism, will only be coming to the streamed 4K content and 4K TVs of this year and beyond.
Then there are also the web connectivity and “smart TV” features of ultra HD TVs. These also exist in HD televisions but the best features are found in 4K models.
The internet connected apps found in all the latest 4K TVs offer their own broad selections of ultra HD content (YouTube being one great example) and several manufacturers have overhauled their TV operating systems to run on highly intuitive Operating systems such as Panasonic’s Firefox OS for TVs. Furthermore, manufacturers like Sony and Sharp have also built in Android TV from Google for even greater access to apps from the Play Store.
In other words, as the TVs take on more importance to makers like LG, Sony and Samsung among others, we’ll start to see all of the newest, most innovative technologies appear only in 4K TVs. This will partly be to encourage greater consumer interest in 4K and partly in an effort to save money, since HD TVs are not nearly as profitable and thus don’t warrant the same level of attention.
Story by 4k.com