Future looks bright for 4k ultra-def TV

The latest 4k TVs can deliver the ultimate home theatre experience

With four times the clarity of standard high-definition TV, Ultra HD (UHD) — or 4K as it’s more commonly known — is on course to become the next mainstream technology in living rooms across the country.

According to a recent study by leading research firm IHS Inc., overall TV shipments fell last year, but year-over-year 4K TV shipments rose by a whopping 173 percent. While early adopters of the technology may have been frustrated by a lack of available content, the future of 4K content is looking bright.

“I’m finally starting to see an increase [in content] now, even though 4K gear has been available for several years,” says Jamie Lendino, editor-in-chief of ExtremeTech. “Now you’ve got lots to choose from with a Netflix or Amazon account. It’s starting to happen by default; people are even beginning to record more movies on 4K on their phones. You can also look into UHD Blu-ray.”

Just a few years ago, 4K televisions were significantly more expensive than their standard HD counterparts and lacked a standardized format for transmitting video. In addition, finding compatible content was next to impossible. But as the price gap between UHD and HD has narrowed, more 4K models are being sold, ultimately leading to the production of more native content to meet consumer demand.

In a PC magazine article published this spring, Will Greenwald explained that the drop in price even extends to the bigger, generally more expensive names in the market. While flagship 4K TVs from LG and Samsung will still run you several thousand dollars, Greenwald noted that you can now get a well-equipped big screen from these manufacturers for a fraction of what a similar model would have cost in 2014.

Getting started with 4K

“Televisions range dramatically in price depending on the size of the TV and the features,” says Preston Lane, business development and marketing coordinator for Electronic Express.

For the ultimate at-home theatre experience, flagship models — like Samsung’s 65-inch Smart 4K UHD Supreme motion rate 240 — deliver an immersive picture experience. Thanks to the state-of-the-art curved screen on this model, lifelike colors and dramatic action scenes pop for viewers from every seat in the room.

More basic models like the LG 60-inch 4K Ultra HD TruMotion TV use in-plane switching to deliver rich colors and a strong contrast ratio, which remain consistent even at wide viewing angles.

Online streaming

When it comes to 4k content, the list of options is growing. From original programming like House of Cards, Marco Polo, Breaking Bad and The Blacklist to movies such as Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon and Philadelphia to vivid nature documentaries that bring flowers and fauna into sharp focus, Netflix has been offering 4K movies and programming since 2014 and is steadily adding new titles along the way.

Similarly, Amazon Prime Instant Video provides access to a variety of 4K movies that are accessible at no additional charge through an Amazon Prime account. Titles range from Annie to Godzilla and just about everything in between.

Direct TV has gotten into the 4K content game, along with YouTube, Vudu, UltraFlix, Playstation and Xfinity. Sony also recently launched its own proprietary “Ultra” streaming service, and there’s M-Go, which partners exclusively with Samsung.

Ultra high-def Blu-ray

Outside of streaming, Ultra HD Blu-ray discs are becoming more readily available, as is the selection of UHD video players required to watch them.

Earlier this year, Warner Bros. announced that 35 titles will be available on Ultra HD Blu-ray by the end of 2016, with Mad Max: Fury RoadSan AndreasThe Lego Movie and Pan leading the way and others to follow. Along with the new titles, catalog titles like Man of Steel and Pacific Rim will be remastered with new technology so they can be seen as never before.

Videophiles can expect to see Ghostbusters: Answer the Call and Taxi Driver from Sony, The James Bond Collection (MGM), X-Men, Apocalypse (20th Century Fox) and An American Werewolf in London (Universal) among many others in the months ahead.

If this new technology feels a little overwhelming, consumers will appreciate the work of the UHD Alliance. Developed through the collaborative efforts of leading film studios, consumer electronics manufacturers, content distributors and technology companies, the alliance shares information on premium UHD devices and content to deliver best-in-class home entertainment. In an effort to help consumers build a high-quality UHD system from end-to-end, the group has also created a system for testing and clearly marking premium content and products in stores.

Given the expected growth of the 4k market, that labeling could prove useful. Lane expects that by 2018 most TVs with screens 55 inches and up will be UHD sets.

“The future of 4K is definitely extremely bright,” he says.