Don't Be Fooled, 4K TV Is Here

Screen "real estate," not increased image intensity or depth of color, is what was driving the next wave in TVs at the recent Consumer Electronics confab in Las Vegas. New technology called ultra high definition, or UHD, delivers roughly four times the pixel density of a full high-definition (1080p) display, hence the moniker 4K TV. With prices down by about half from last year's introduction, and dropping, word on the street is that UHD is poised to take off in 2014 with an "eight-fold" increase in shipments, according to the CEA.

No trouble with the curve
The curved OLED screens in UHD are top-of-the-line, and LG  (NYSE: LPL  ) and rival Samsung (NASDAQOTH: SSNLF  ) are both expanding the line of spectacular display sets with a 65-inch and 77-inch size, respectively. LG's 77-inch television is a "bendable" version that can transform back to a flat screen when used for ambient viewing of art. These UHD curved TVs, according to Dr. Ray Soneira of DisplayMate Labs, have marked advantages in that reduce glare and screen reflection from bright images behind the user. Curved displays "substantially" improve performance and are "no marketing gimmick," according to Soneira's technology review. 

Sony (NYSE: SNE  ) is also going all out with UHD, using LCD technology, and will introduce nine models supporting the new 4K standard in three categories from 45-85 inches. It's a tough play for most TV set makers, all facing price pressure from the Chinese. In fact Vizio is on record with a 50-inch P series UHD set that will sell for under $1,000.

Don't count on UHD to rescue the likes of Sony and others on boosted profits from the technology just yet. Both Samsung and LG appear to be gaining traction in the high end with their curved OLED UHD sets, but Chinese manufacturer Konka showed its first 55-inch OLED TV (prototype) at CES as well. So, China is catching up here, too. 

UHD is the real deal
Also at CES, chipmaker Broadcom displayed impressive 4K TVs, with simultaneous video streaming of four full-HD football games on a 70-inch screen, each stream displayed in full-HD. The extra UHD TV real estate affords the "control room" view, which would likely attract avid sports fans. But, its difficult to say just how successful Broadcom will be with its HEVC deployment, considering that there were over 28 vendors with various HEVC based solutions at the International Broadcasting Convention IBC in Amsterdam last fall.  

Broadcom enables the bandwidth necessary to deliver all that extra data using a new delivery standard called HEVC, or High Efficiency Video Codec, also commonly known as H.265. It boosts coding and doubles the delivery efficiency of images through existing pipes and is used in both content production and delivery to the home. For its part, Broadcom said it is sampling two new low-cost satellite set-top box chips based on HEVC to deliver UHD. The goal is to help pay-TV providers increase the number of HD feeds without increasing bandwidth.   

The value of UHD is in the extra pixels, which afford other configurations on new, massive screens. Plus, the concept can go beyond television programs to include social networking, Internet video calls, and even home automation, all on the big screen at the same time. 

More real estate means more to display
Home automation will tie in nicely with this extra TV real estate, as sensors become integrated into the things around us. Some analysts speculate that this has helped drive web-based home automation vendor Nest to its stellar $3.2 billion valuation and subsequent acquisition by Google earlier this month. 

Added real estate from UHD may also help entrenched cable and satellite television providers. First, they must deploy a new HEVC-enabled set-top-box to play in the UHD space. Services like UHD and home automation might also stem the tide of consumer defections away from companies like Comcast and DISH Networks, all suffering from cord cutters and the younger "cord never" generation.  

There's no doubt that enhanced real estate on the big screen from UHD affords pay-TV companies new opportunities for revenue generation. The question is, can they remake themselves and remain relevant? Further, while the recent court ruling striking down the FCC's role in "net neutrality" gives Internet providers more leverage over pricing and delivery of bandwidth, it's still too early to tell if this alone can reverse the precipitous slide. 

UHD TV = Information hub in the home
One thing is certain, UHD and curved OLED screens are real and they're coming. Just as high-resolution and dual displays for PC desktops improved both computing experience and efficiency, this technology will bring a new user experience that goes well beyond better images. The technology will help usher in completely new services that would reside on-screen and update in real-time beside the main content. This may eventually afford new advertising opportunities as well. So, get ready for another TV upgrade, and be prepared to get blown away -- again -- by the beauty and enhanced functionality a new 4K set will bring.

Get in early on the living room revolution
You know cable's going away. But do you know how to profit? There's $2.2 trillion out there to be had. Currently, cable grabs a big piece of it. That won't last. And when cable falters, three companies are poised to benefit. Click here for their names. Hint: They're not Netflix, Google, and Apple.

 


Read/Post Comments (3) | Recommend This Article (3)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On January 25, 2014, at 8:18 PM, VisualAmbrosia wrote:

    1/25/14

    Here are eleven useful Ultra High Definition video files, USEFUL because they are DOWNLOADABLE.

    Of course, you can stream them easily on the Vimeo pages.

    However, by DOWNLOADING THE Vimeo VIDEO FILES, you get the original file, not subject to the picture changing depending on Internet connections.

    YouTube ONLY allows streaming of UHD video clips; YouTube DOES NOT ALLOW DOWNLOADING THE ORIGINAL FILE.

    DOWNLOADING THE ORIGINAL FILE is the best way to test how purely original the video looks when stream broadcast.

    The eleven video clips are short documentary art clips, and they are silent, on purpose. The UHD video clips emphasize Ultra High Definition details nicely, with a lot of variety. Some say the downloaded versions of the eleven UHD test video clips , listed below, move too slow. Just double the speed, even play backwards. The movies are silent, remember. It’s all about the details and how well the demo videos show off UHD TVs.

    The movie clips are GREAT advertisements for UHD TVs.

    https://vimeo.com/54857097

    https://vimeo.com/54421708

    https://vimeo.com/54410376

    https://vimeo.com/54317453

    https://vimeo.com/54114887

    https://vimeo.com/53979786

    https://vimeo.com/53963662

    https://vimeo.com/53712874

    https://vimeo.com/53560716

    https://vimeo.com/53621510

    https://vimeo.com/52892170

  • Report this Comment On January 29, 2014, at 1:27 PM, cnlpcez wrote:

    Hi Steve. Informative article - thanks! What do you think 4K monitors will do to 2560x1440 QHD monitors? Do you think QHD will be obsoleted? If so, over what time period? Thank you!

  • Report this Comment On January 30, 2014, at 3:08 PM, Sechrist wrote:

    Thanks for the question. UHD has huge of momentum from the TV side of the industry, and that's spilling over into the desktop monitor space. We see the UHD panels gaining the benefit of economies of scale so eventually more exotic resolution panels should face price /performance pressure. Time (and adoption rates) will drive this.

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