I Don’t Know Why I Want Ultra HD

by Barrett

Behold the mighty 85” Samsung Ultra HD TV on the floor of this year’s Consumer Electronics Show.  What’s Ultra TV?  Exactly.

Behold the mighty 85” Samsung Ultra HD TV on the floor of this year’s Consumer Electronics Show. What’s Ultra TV? Exactly.

Another CES has come and gone.
If you were following the tech reports from Vegas, you know one of the big technologies on display was cutting edge HDTVs designed to turn the current TV market on its head.

More Star Treky than today’s glistening pinnacle of tech achievement-
The 1080P HDTV?

More Tron-alicious than the 3D technology that was supposed to revolutionize your home entertainment experience two years ago?

Why yes. Better than that.

It’s called Ultra HD.
(cue the angelic chorus)

Welcome Ultra HD
Ultra HD is four times better than regular HD.
Also called 4K, which refers to the number of horizontal pixels on the screen, this nascent TV format is designed to really knock your socks off.

And not to be outdone…
There’s already an 8K Ultra HD TV format designed to kill the 4K revolution before it even begins.

Sharp was the first out of the 8K gate, displaying their 85” proof of concept TV at CES.
Its 8K display was made up of a mere 33 million pixels.

There’s one tiny problem.
Virtually no cameras shoot in 8K yet.
And there’s very little commercial TV content currently available in 4K.

But every revolution has to start from somewhere, right?
So today, the commercial evolution of the Ultra HD story is predominantly in the 4K space.

Did you know that 4K Ultra HD TV sets have already been shipping to those of us with a little disposable income…
Sony and LG, respectively, sell their 84” 4K models for a mere $20K and $25K.

You read it right.
That’s twenty thousand.
For a TV that’s sharper than your neighbors.
(And has a great picture)

All Hail Samsung – New King of Ultra HD
AT CES, Samsung introduced their 85″ Ultra HD whopper,
with their ‘S9’ 4K Timeless Gallery TV.
(The S9 UHD TV edges out its 84” competition by 1 inch.
95” and 110” Samsung models are due out by the end of the year.)

And how much does it cost to become the proud owner of the largest Ultra HDTV in the world?

(preorder pricing from Korea)

You’re Going to Need a Bigger Piggy Bank
Face it. These massive Ultra HD TVs are going to cost you well into five figures.
And there’s no real programming out there yet in Ultra HDTV.

(ring ring)
Hello, George Jetson? Is your used hover car still for sale?
(That might give you a bigger bang for your buck.)

Okay. So these first generation Ultra HDTVs aren’t ready for prime time.
But like all new tech, the pricing will eventually drop.

Should You Supersize Your TV?
Assuming you’re not going to spend a ludicrous amount of money on Ultra HD today, the Ultra HD price point will still be expensive in the future when you consider jumping in.

So the three questions you’ll want to ask yourself before going Ultra HD are –

  1. Why do I need to upgrade the size and pixel count of my current flat screen?
  2. Do I really want to pay for it?
  3. And will I be happy with a massive screen in my family room?

Technology is Evolving Faster than People’s Pocketbooks
One problem with the rapid advance of technology is the way it affects the life cycles of home technology.
By the time you get used to your new gadget, the next version is often already on the market!

This phenomenon is juiced by the mega marketing machines out there with their mission to drive you to replace your old, but perfectly functional tech.

Apple, of course, successfully cracked the code on this one.
Their must-have tech devices refresh themselves every year, and their older tech become obsolete within three years.
(Usually due to self-created software incompatibilities)

It’s like a scene out of “Blade Runner.”
Every time I retire an older Apple product into a drawer and look at it for the last time,
I think I see Rutger Hauer, hanging on for dear life as I push it coldly into the darkness of premature obsolescence.

For better or for worse, when I watch “Blade Runner” on my Apple TV,
Roy Batty always dies in the end.

But not every consumer tech company is an Apple.
Certainly no company today that’s known for making TVs.

Unless we’re still talking about Apple and its unannounced, but long rumored, Apple TV that’s actually a TV.
I’m drooling already, and I don’t even know what it can do.
(well, nobody does yet)
But I’m assuming it will be a game changer.

Goodbye Analog. Hello HDTV!
Being a game changer is one way to prompt a purchase.
Another is fear of obsolescence.
The HDTV revolution a few years back was propped up by that concern.

The government’s forced digital transition deadline back in 2009 chained your old analog TV to those crummy analog/digital converters. How humiliating.

That’s real pressure that would have sold the Brooklyn Bridge to anyone!

Plus, the wide screen/flat screen combo punch was hard to ignore.
And you got all that floor space back in your living room.

So in the end, HDTV was a welcome upgrade.

3D, Really?
I love 3D films in the movie theater.
Especially when the 3D is done right.
(“Avatar,” “Prometheus,” “Life of Pi.” )
But seriously, not every movie needs it.

For the past couple of years, I’ve resisted the pressure to buy a premium priced 3D HDTV for my living room.
Sure, 3D is cool, but I can get my fix at my local multiplex.

And those big, expensive, clunky glasses are just going to get lost when my toddler sees me wearing them.

Day 1: Dada, what are those?”
Day 2: “Dada, look at me!”
Day 3: 2D is cool too.

I’m not alone.

The success of 3D HDTVs is somewhat unclear.
Some reports put the technology at 20-30% market penetration.
That’s hardly a tipping point.

But now, the 3D voodoo has begun to trickle down to mid-level TV screens.
So 3D is becoming just another TV feature, vs. the big selling point that drives the TV set’s sole purpose.

A lot more 3D displays will be slipping into living rooms this way.

So 3D may be part of my next TV purchase after all-
As a passive upgrade.
But only after my current model sputters towards complete darkness.

Size Doesn’t Matter Anymore
What, if anything would get me to prematurely retire my beloved 42” Panasonic Plasma?

Yes, my plasma screen is a 720P dinosaur that I’ve owned for the past six years, but its picture looks just fine, thank you very much.

(Before that, I own a 25” Zenith tube monster for over a decade, which was still alive and kicking when I pulled its plug to make room for the HDTV.)

I’ve mused before about how much of my media consumption has recently been handled by my portable screens.
They’re so teeny-tiny by comparison to my plasma display.
So size hasn’t been driving my screens of choice lately.

And I don’t think I need four times the pixels of Ultra HD.
Heck, even now, I’m not even taking advantage of the 1080P standard of HD.

Something revolutionary really has to convince me to upgrade.
I’m sure Utra HD looks stunning.
But, Ultra HD still isn’t it.

How to Make Bigger Better
Now, don’t give up on me, oh mighty marketing machines.
Not so quickly.
Maybe, I’m just playing hard to get.
Maybe you just haven’t found the right hook yet.

Here’s an idea…

What if your Ultra HD TVs got so big, so massive, they become complete walls unto themselves in people’s living rooms?
(You’ve seen it sci-fi movies, where the screens rotate changing window vistas.)

And make them interactive.
And affordable.

Suddenly, it’s something else. Something different. Something I’d really crave.

Parlor Walls – The Must Have Tech for 2023
You can quote me now. I must have one of these.

I’ll gladly ditch all my bookcases and their contents to make space.
(except for my tattered copy of Fahrenheit 451)

If you haven’t already made the connection, I’m salivating over a tech vision that’s sixty years old.

Remember the parlor TV walls in Ray Bradbury’s dystopian novel?
(Yes, the parlor walls represented the addictive and isolating effect of technology, but that’s a conversation for another day.)

My point is… there are plenty as-yet unrealized applications for the evolution of Ultra HD imagery.

Some related ideas have already been conceived by Corning, the glassmaker that brought you Gorilla Glass for your smartphones and tablets.

Their forward thinkers have envisioned quite the future partnering their intelligent glass with companion technologies.

Corning Screen_docsLast year Corning produced their viral YouTube video (almost three-million-views) called –
A Day Made of Glass 2.

This way-cool video imagines the everyday uses for their architectural display, wall format display, and 3D TV display glass technologies.

It’s a remarkable vision.

My credit card is already on the table.
But there’s no one to call.

If one little YouTube video can get me this excited, it shouldn’t be that hard to convince me to buy my next TV.

Note to Ultra HD Coalition
There’s a new TV in my future.
That’s better than the one I have.
In ways I care about.
That I can afford.
And I really want.

Now please go make it.

I’ll be waiting in my parlor…