UltraHD/4K may have four times as many pixels as HD, but it may also come with four times as much fine print. In an recent article entitled; “DON’T Buy 4K UHD 84-in. TV” by Stewart Wolpin, he points out that manufacturers, specifically LG and Samsung, have begun placing some alarming disclaimers on their UltraHD products. I checked out Mr. Wolpin’s claims by visiting LG’s UHDTV’s mini site and sure enough came across this disclaimer:

“*No “ultra high definition” or “4K” video content is currently available. No broadcast or other standard currently exists for “4K” or “ultra high definition” television and the 84LM9800 may not be compatible with such standards if and when developed.”

At first blush the disclaimer doesn’t sound too alarming. It’s no secret that there is no UltraHD or 4K standard or format presently available; though the last bit, the part about the LG potentially not being compatible with a future standard, is. If true, and who’s to say it isn’t, that would make these first generation UltraHD sets little more than 1080p displays with upscaling capability. Think about it, since no UltraHD or 4K standard exists, and these displays are saying they may not be compatible when one comes calling, they’re little more than flat panel equivalents of JVC eShift projectors -meaning they’re all HD brother.

Why is this? Well, in order to get 4K into our homes we need to employ far more compression than what we presently “enjoy” today. I’ve written about compression at length in a few of my previous articles so I won’t repeat myself too much here, suffice to say, compression is everything when it comes to video -4K or not. We currently live on a steady diet of h.264 compressed content, be it streaming or Blu-ray. h.264 and HD go together like peas and carrots, though for UltraHD/4K something a bit more robust is in order. This is where h.265 or HEVC (High Efficiency Video Coding) comes into play. h.265 is the next evolution of h.264, in that it keeps quality (largely) the same or better, but shrinks file sizes down considerably over what we have today. According to early tests and those more familiar with the inner workings of h.265′s development, the new codec allows for UltraHD/4K content to “fit” into a similar “space” as today’s HD content. This is a good thing, especially if we talking about streaming.

The problem with h.265 is that it’s not something that can be easily implimented at the flip of a switch -i.e. a firmware update. It’s a hardware thing, and since it’s still being developed -though close to release -the hardware needed to playback h.265 content simply isn’t available, nor is it installed in any of today’s current crop of UltraHD/4K displays. Plus, as Mr. Wolpin also points out, a new HDMI standard may have to be implemented in order to adhere to any new standard as a result of h.265′s arrival on the scene. Now, that isn’t to say that these displays couldn’t be made to be compatible down the road, I’m sure there will be some 3rd party devices aimed at making early adoption sets truly UltraHD/4K compatible, but that isn’t a guarantee. Samsung eludes to as much on their site, but no hard information is given. Sony on the other hand says nothing.

So does that mean you should stay away from UltraHD/4K altogether? Well, I can’t say for certain as any purchasing decision is bound to be a personal one. If it were me, I would definitely shy away from spending tens of thousands of dollars on an UltraHD/4K display that had a chance of being no better or worse than my current HD ones. In reference to the Seiki I’ve been discussing recently and will be reviewing next week, I’m not as worried. While $1,500 isn’t free, it’s a far cry from twenty grand or more, so I’m willing to roll the dice if for no other reason than for my own edification. Moreover, if the Seiki turns out to be a home run, then I’ll be using it in my post production suite where it will be connected to a computer rather than your typical source component, which may or may not rectify any issues referenced above. But I won’t know until it arrives next week for review.

As always I thank you all for reading. Until next time, take care and stay tuned…

Andrew

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  • Donny Purych

    Man I am really looking forward to that seikei tv review . Hope it turns out to be good and forces sharp , samsung , and the rest to drop there prices. If possible take some hi res pictures comparing the same blueray scenes with another tv and the seikei. Pictures side by side . Projector central does this when it compares panasonic to epson etc. and it really helps to explain when you talk about inky blacks , and vivid colors .

  • http://twitter.com/ARobinsonOnline Andrew Robinson

    I too am very excited about the possibilities of the Seiki. I’ll see what I can do in getting you pics to compare to. I’m putting it head to head with my Panasonic GT50 as well as Vizio E-Series.

  • Donny Purych

    Here’s a link to an example of some nice screenshots. Would be cool to see the seiki vs panny http://www.projectorreviews.com/1080p-projector/jvc_rs45_vs_sony_hw30es.php

    I think a lot of people are going to be reading this review.

Filmography

 April Showers (2009)

Genre: Drama
Studio: WarnerVOD
Written/Directed by: Andrew Robinson
Produced by: Jenna Edwards, April Wade
Starring: Kelly Blatz, Daryl Sabara, Janel Parrish, Ellen Woglom, Illeana Douglas and Tom Arnold