At the 2013 International CES earlier this month, the big thing was Ultra High-Definition TV—in more ways than one. Manufacturers were showing off the new TV technology in some pretty giant screen sizes. Of course, the real hook on this new format is that it’s very pretty, no matter what the size. After all, UHD (or 4K, as many call it) offers four times the resolution of current 1080p TVs.
That said, we remember a time when 3D was all the rage as well. Ahem.
We’re all for better TV. However, we’re also impatient. After all, you can’t currently order up a UHD TV from Amazon. Several manufacturers have announced 4K sets, but LG and Sony are the only ones actually delivering at this point—as a specialty item in an 84-inch chassis. Having a TV that big is a wonderful thing, but certainly not an option for everyone. Not to worry; 4K sets are expected to come later this year, in a variety of sizes.
That’s great and all, but what exactly can you do with a UHD TV? Sure, it’s got an eye-popping resolution, but we don’t currently have the content to show off that little perk. It looks like it’s coming, though.
Related: What Can You Watch on an Ultra HD TV?
Sony shoppers will be the first to experience true 4K content in a home setting. The company recently announced plans to “loan” out a 4K media player that’s pre-loaded with 4K movies, with the purchase of its 84-incher.
If you aren’t planning to go with Sony, you could check out what’s on Blu-ray. At CES, several manufacturers debuted new players that will feature 4K upscaling capabilities. While that’s not technically 4K content, these models will start shipping this year. If you want to get picky, the Blu-ray Disc Association (BDA) says it’s going to start looking at the possibility of squeezing a 4K resolution onto the existing Blu-ray disc format. The BDA has organized a task force to see if it would be possible to add 4K to Blu-ray, without disrupting the format too much.
“The BDA recently decided to form a new task force to study just this sort of possibility. It’s called the format extension study task force, and it will do exactly what its name suggests: to study new technologies such as 4K, high frame rate, color enhancements, etc.,” says Andy Parsons, BDA president (via Digital Digest). “Each technology that will be studied needs to be evaluated to determine technical feasibility, market demand, and potential impact on the installed base of Blu-ray players already in the marketplace, projected to be in excess of 50 million in the U.S. alone by the end of 2012.”
Of course, you can’t always rely on recorded media for your 4K fix. Thankfully, there are providers looking for ways to get the tech out to the masses. OK, not everyone. According to Trusted Reviews, the BBC has zero interest in 4K. The company is still reeling from the cost of delivering HD and doesn’t even want to discuss 4K at this point. We’re guessing they’re not alone, considering there are still a lot of channels out there that have yet to broadcast in high-def.
However, Reuters says that Japan is getting ready to do TV in UHD. In fact, they’re planning the world’s first 4K TV broadcast for July 2014, in time for the World Cup. It may seem far away, but if all goes well, that target date will actually be two years ahead of schedule. The government hopes that the push will hope to drive demand of these new (and sort of pricey) sets.
Verizon FiOS is also throwing its name out there as a possibility. While U.S. broadcasters have yet to announce UHD TV plans, Version says that its high bandwidth, fiber-to-the-home connection is already ready to carry those signals without any sort of upgrade.
It’s certainly going to take time, but the wheels are definitely in motion. That’s OK, though; it will give you a little time to save up for one of those pretty 4K sets. Currently, the average price of a big-screen UHD TV is somewhere around $20,000.
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Over the past 15 years, Rachel Cericola has covered entertainment, web and technology trends. Check her out at www.rachelcericola.com.