Tuesday, June 03, 2014


A lot of people grumbled and complained when DVDs were first made available because they didn't want to have to go out and buy new copies of what they already had. But the grumbling stopped once they saw how much better the DVDs picture was than that of the videocassette. The same thing is happening now with people wondering why a 4K TV should be their next purchase -- after all they cost more than a 1080p HDTV.  And just as with the DVD, it's the resolution that's getting all the attention -- the 3840 x 2160 pixels exceeding those of a Full HD TV by a factor of 4. But there's more to what makes a 4K TV (or Ultra HD TV, as its being called) valuable. So lets check that out right now.

The most obvious difference between a HDTV and a 4K Ultra HD TV is the resolution. What this really means is that details and subtle nuances on the screen are visible -- they're not smoothed over. Because of the high resolution, the eye reacts to what it sees as being more realistic, more "true to life.” That’s a really good thing, because once the image reaches this level, the viewer accepts and becomes immersed in what is seen. This is due to being able to sit closer to the TV without the pixels losing their "tightness" or becoming blurry; you can almost stick your face right onto the screen (but shouldn’t).

A lot is made over whether the TV's picture is colorful, but the real question should be whether the colors only approach, not reproduce, the reality that the eye sees when looking. A 4K picture doesn't just have a lot of colors (billions in fact) to work with; it has an infinite amount of gradations to project of those colors, which are deeper and more rich and saturated than their 1080p cousins. What happens is that this all translates into textures and skin tones and the difference between light and dark not exhibiting any blockiness -- it's smooth sailing all the way. Contrast levels, which can "destroy" detail and muddy colors when misused, are now able to effectively enhance the images without any of the negative effects that can plague a HDTV. The 4K Ultra HD TV’s color "space" is so much broader than that of a 1080p HDTV that if you saw the same image on both, it'd be pretty obvious which TV was which.

Most TV now come 3D-equipped, but whether wearing active glasses with batteries or passive glasses using polarization, the three dimensionality comes with a price. In the case of passive, it's a loss of resolution and even with active screens there's “crosstalk” and a loss of brightness that must be compensate for (or just put up with). A 4K TV doesn't have any of these issues: it can utilize a passive (polarized) screen with high resolution being what is seen and none of the other problems just noted. It's because of all this that the "glasses free" 3D TVs that have been on the drawing boards and most recently are being shown are all employing 4K.

The Home Theater

Front projectors and on-wall screens could make a room in the home a dedicated viewing space, although not everyone could afford the cost or space required. So the march began to increase the size of the TV, something that became possible (and cost-effective) once the flat panel showed up. Now pretty much anywhere the flat panel goes becomes the "home theater." But comparing it to a movie theater, which is what a lot of people used to brag about, wasn't really true. It wasn't just that the size of the movie screen was big (remember, we're talking about the days when the 19" TV was king and home installation was sticking a set onto an end table), but the vibrancy of the picture at home couldn't compare. With a 4K TV, it can. Now the "home theater" truly competes with going to the movies and is also democratic because it doesn't discriminate against those who live in apartments. Everybody's space can now be a "home theater.”


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