Technologizer

Yes, You Want a 4K TV (Or at Least I Do)

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Harry McCracken / TIME.com

A wholly inadequate smartphone photo of Sony's new 4K TV (trust me -- in my in-person demo, those musicians looked real)

When I attended the CEATAC consumer-electronics conference in Tokyo last October, my favorite bleeding-edge technology was ultra-super-high-resolution TV — sets with displays that are 4,000 or even 8,000 pixels across in pixel resolution. Almost a year later, these HDTVs haven’t reached my living room or yours, and it’s possible that it’ll be many years before they do.

But Sony’s first 4K TV, which it announced this week at the IFA conference in Berlin, has made its way into the Sony Store at the Stanford Shopping Center in Silicon Valley. Sony held a media event at the store this morning to show off the set and other new products, and I cheerfully admit that I found the TV demo enthralling.

The TV is the Bravia XBR-84X900, and it’s an 84″ LED set with simulated 5.1 surround sound. There’s no broadcast 4K content or 4K Blu-ray yet, so the store was showing a loop of sample video played off a PC. It was spectacular — far more real-looking than any 3D I’ve ever seen.

Sony didn’t show us any 1080p video — which we may need to start calling “low-def high-def” someday — but the company says that it also looks great on the set, which uses Sony chips to upscale everything to cover all those additional pixels. (I sure hope that it looks better than standard-def video looks on today’s HDTVs.)

Now, there’s no consensus yet that 4K makes sense in the home. In January, home-theater journalist Geoffrey Morrison, who knows far more about this stuff than I do, argued at length that the human eye can’t see the difference between 4K and garden-variety 1080p video, especially when shown on TVs in the sizes that are typical for in-home use. (The new 84″ Sony is the company’s largest set ever, although it didn’t look all that vast at the Sony Store — the place is sprawling, and the TV had a large quantity of wall real estate to itself.)

Morrison summed up at-home 4K in one word: “stupid.” He did concede that it’s helpful for 3D TV that uses passive glasses, since that technology effectively halves the pixel resolution and therefore needs all the pixels it can get — the Bravia also does passive 3D, but Sony didn’t show it to us today.

I bow to Morrison’s expertise. I understand that sample video created to make a TV look good, such as the loop Sony is using, can be deceptively impressive. And I know that it’s pointless to get too excited about 4K until there’s lots of content and affordable devices capable of delivering it to a 4K TV. (Some content is being shot in 4K already, including a Taylor Swift music video that’s premiering tonight.)

Ultimately, though, I care most about what my own eyeballs tell me. They’re still excited about 4K, and Sony’s demo only got them more riled up about it.

Sony says that the XBR-84X900 will ship by the end of this year. It hasn’t disclosed the price yet; it plans to do so at next week’s CEDIA Expo, a conference attended by high-end electronics installers who specialize in catering to the needs of the sort of well-heeled home-entertainment nuts who might plausibly consider buying an 84″ 4K TV in the near future.

10 comments
AndrewBoggs
AndrewBoggs

Basically right now 4k tv's high cost is to pay for the research of what it costs in research to bring it to market, as well catch the uber rich who can afford the cost to have it first. After that market dries up, then the cost will come down. I'd make a wild prediction the set will be at a cost the normal consumer can afford in about six to ten years. The physical material to actually produce the set is between $400 to $800 - the greatest cost is the science that went into its development. However, I want to see the term '3D' thrown in. Also that it would be a 3D set that does not require glasses - active or passive to see the '3D' picture. Let me remind everyone, the technology is already here!    

Sam Trutna
Sam Trutna

This is all well and good, but I know what question is on everyone's mind. When will we get 4k adult movies?

Game Center Games
Game Center Games

I think I will wait until these come down in price a few thousands dollars. :]

Buy Steroids UK
Buy Steroids UK

i may well wait for 8k i think it will come alomg sooner than expected.

Samir Shah
Samir Shah

Despite whatever Geoffrey Morrison says we are nearing 4k TVs and even 8k TVs and the ultimate goal being wall TVs. TVs just do not run programming off Blu-Ray, they can and do run programming through Thumb Drives which CAN HAVE 4k programming side-loaded through a PC. And remember even 128 GB Thumb Drives are available. For a person who buys this 4k TV, buying a 128 GB Thumb Drive is chump change. 

Ashwani Sarda
Ashwani Sarda

All this talk of 4k reminded me I've been too lazy to upgrade to 1080i on my SAT TV service or replace the 720p DVD player with a blu ray inspite of having purchased a 1080p TV a couple of years back. 4k can wait.

AlessandroMachi
AlessandroMachi

I still like standard def 32 or 37 inch. I love the tonal range.  HD creates amped up tonal ranges by just being a lot brighter. It's like, play all the instruments LOUD.  However, the brighter the screen, when the rest of the room is still the same brightness ambience, is probably not a good thing for the eyeballs.