Will Ultra HD Survive? A look at the Future of 4K

by on June 27, 2014

by Stephan Jukic – June 27th, 2014

4K UHD (Ultra High Definition) TV is marching steadily forward. It’s already beaten the now nearly dead plasma TV format as well as 3DTV (something which 4K itself offers on many sets) and OLED TV is still too expensive to seriously compete with 4K. However, despite these advances, 4K TV still remains a very small fraction of the wider HD TV market, which is currently dominated by 1080p Full HD.

Manufacturers of 4K TVs and related technologies want to see this change and they definitely want to see more viewers upgrading their existing sets to 4K versions but will this happen quickly enough? Many hurdles still remain.

Since 4K TV offers four times the resolution of conventional HD and a considerably faster frame rate per second, it’s excellent for watching just about any sort of action packed content such as sporting events and most Hollywood movies. With the addition of other rendering and display technologies also featured in many 4K TV screens, the benefits of the format are even more sharply noticeable.

However, with these excellent characteristics there comes a still steep price tag and this is one of the first hurdles that 4K continues to face. Currently, even the cheaper models of name brand UHD TVs cost at least twice as much as their 1080p HD counterparts and some larger 85 to 110 inch models from companies such as Samsung and Sony can cost several tens of thousands of dollars, the price of a luxury car in other words!

While prices for smaller 65 and 55 inch brand name models are fortunately dropping, many consumers might still find 4K TVs to be prohibitively expensive and particularly if they listen to some critics, who claim that the UHD quality improvement isn’t even clearly visible unless you go ahead and buy a larger screen. Whether or not this is a valid criticism, it is certainly causing some budget conscious people to question the idea of investing at least 2 to 3,000 dollars on a new 55” inch 4K TV.

Another, even bigger obstacle that 4K continues to deal with is the lack of available content. Inroads are being made into creating streaming Ultra high definition programming for the new type of TV, but these efforts are still slow and the overwhelming majority of all broadcast programming is still filmed and transmitted in 1080p HD resolution or even less.

Nonetheless, companies such as Netflix and the BBC are both working on expanding 4K content availability to mass audiences, and many of the TV formats biggest manufacturers are also playing up the marketing strategy of creating upscaling engines inside their 4K TVs, thus allowing them to also modify conventional HD content for an even clearer, pseudo UHD viewing experience.

Furthermore, another problem that UHD 4K content faces –the difficulty of streaming its very bulky volume of data over broadband channels— is also being worked on by the BBC through the use of clever codec compression technologies such as the newly developed HEVC standard.

While 4K resolution will almost certainly see wider use and greater interest on the part of consumers and content creators both, it still faces many problems that will take some time to clear out of the way. Ordinary 1080p HD isn’t going to disappear from digital media any time soon.

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