By Rob Dzedzy, Houzz
I know there are people out there who have no problem watching a movie on a laptop. But my reaction always is, “Wow, you are missing an incredible experience.” Personally, I watch a movie to be transported away from my everyday life. I like to connect with the movie, relate to the characters, feel the emotion the director intended and become immersed in the soundtrack.
I’ve been installing, designing and constructing media rooms, home theaters and all the electronics that go with those spaces for more than 30 years, and I still get excited by all the new advances that come onto the scene every year. To get that aforementioned big-screen experience, it’s all about ultra high-definition, or 4K, technology. Though this tech emerged a few years ago, there have been many changes in terms of price, size and options. Here’s a look at what you should know.
What is 4K?
Just like other technologies, the home theater experience is changing. Today, most flat-panel TVs larger than 32 inches are 4K. The 4K technology essentially means that ultra high-definition TVs have four times more detail than standard high definition (1080p). The 4K technology is not a plot by TV manufacturers to sell more TVs; it is the manufacturers’ effort to offer the best image possible. The increased resolution of 4K allows the viewer to see stunning detail and amazingly rich colors.
This large family room in Miami features an 85-inch 4K TV by Samsung. Speakers are hidden in the ceiling.
What Can You Watch in 4K?
As with any new technology, there are segments of the technology that need to catch up. Just because you bought a 4K TV doesn’t mean you will be watching a true 4K image. To be able to see the full, amazing impact of 4K, your TV will need a 4K source. This means the TV show needs to be broadcast or streamed in 4K.
Many of Netflix’s original series are being shot in 4K, such as House of Cards (second season) and Stranger Things. Amazon offers some of its original titles in 4K, including Transparent and Mozart in the Jungle. YouTube, GooglePlay, DirecTV, Dish Network and Comcast also offer some 4K options. You’ll want to check with each service to see which TV brands are compatible with the shows to make sure yours, or the one you intend to buy, will work with your favorite shows.
There are also 4K Blu-ray movies, with new titles available every week.
Digital Trends recently came out with a rather comprehensive guide to watching 4K content.
In addition to the availability of 4K source material, keep in mind that 4K TVs “upscale” the standard 1080p high definition, so the picture image quality will be improved on anything you watch. Not every TV is created equal. Better-quality TVs offer better signal processing, better image quality and better upscaling.
Since 4K provides awesome picture quality, the increased resolution enables manufacturers to build much larger TVs. As an example, a 65-inch high-definition TV used to cost $5,000 or more. Now 65-inch 4K TVs are available for about $1,299 to $1,799 on average.
TVs larger than 65 inches did not exist a few years ago. Now you can buy a 75-inch TV for around $3,400 and an 85-inch TV in the $8,000 to $10,000 range. Even larger TVs are available. LG has a 98-inch 4K TV at $40,000, and Sony has a 100-inch TV in its top of the line Z-series at $60,000.
What if you want a picture size larger than 100 inches but don’t want to spend $60,000? A video projector could be the answer. Commercial theaters have been using 4K projectors for several years. The availability of 4K projectors in the home market is more recent. Several models are available, and many more are on the way.
Sony has invested millions of dollars to develop 4K projection technology, primarily for commercial applications. This development process also has brought forth 4K models for the consumer. The Sony VPLVW365ES model video projector (similar to the one shown here) is true “native” 4K and retails for $9,999.
Native means that the image is true 4K resolution. A cost-effective alternative is Enhanced 4K, available from several manufacturers, such as JVC and Epson. Enhanced 4K projectors use a pixel-shifting technology to produce a high-quality image. These projectors are in the $5,000 to $8,000 range.
What’s Next for Projectors?
New chips. Texas Instruments invented the DLP micro-mirror chip in 1987, and most video projectors use this technology. The company also has developed a 4K projection chip, again for commercial applications. This 4K DLP chip is used in many projectors, such as Digital Projection, NEC, Barco and Christie, to name a few. These projectors are expensive, many costing $80,000 or more. Texas Instruments also has developed a 4K DLP chip for the home market. We will be seeing several manufacturers bringing affordable models to the market soon using the TI 4K chip.
LED and laser light sources. To further improve picture quality, several manufacturers are beginning to use laser and LED light sources in projectors. Those are just now coming onto the market and have a couple of distinct advantages over the traditional lamp used in projectors.
Projector lamps usually last about 1,500 to 2,000 hours before they burn out and need to be replaced. Both LED or laser light sources last 20,000 to 30,000 hours or more. This means that you may never need to change the projector’s lamp. Laser light sources also are much brighter than traditional projector lamps. The extra brightness means you can use a laser light projector in a room with ambient light.
This performance theater I designed for a home in Philadelphia includes a stage for family band concerts, an adjoining bar area and an Epson PowerLite Pro Cinema LS10000 Laser 4K Enhanced projector hidden in the soffit.
Short-throw projectors. There may be situations where you want a 100-inch to 130-inch screen but don’t want a video projector hanging in the middle of your theater room. Maybe your room has high ceilings or a decorative feature you don’t want ruined by a projector. Or you may have a traffic flow problem in which you don’t want someone constantly walking in front of the projected image, casting a shadow.
A solution to these situations is a short-throw projector. One example is the Sim2 Multimedia Sim2xTV model (shown here), which sits on top of a counter or cabinet directly below the screen. This video projector projects the image upward onto the wall or a video screen. A projector sitting on a cabinet about 20 inches deep can display a picture with a screen size of about 100 to 120 inches diagonally. The Sim2xTV retails for $15,000.
Our FREE comprehensive Smart Home Planning Guide helps you plan what features best suit your needs.
Want your shades lowered? Do it in seconds from a smartphone. Not sure if you locked the door when you left the house or left the garage door open? Again, it’s as easy as pressing a button on your smartphone.
Our FREE comprehensive Smart Home Planning Guide helps you plan what features best suit your needs.Get Your FREE Planning Guide Today!