The new name for 4K High Definition TVs has been named at Consumer Electronics Association (CEA): they are now to be known as Ultra High Definition. Demand for HDTVs has been steadily dropping, with OLEDs and 3D HDTVs either too expensive or too niche for most consumers. With the market becoming saturated the CEA felt that an industry-wide marketing strategy would get consumers excited again about HDTVs.
Ultra HD was conceived as a way to make sure consumers understand what the technology means. The “4K” name as a branding was considered too esoteric since it assumed that consumers understood that 4K stood for the 4096 horizontal pixels being displayed in a 2.39:1 ratio movie screen. Most 4K TV screens, on the other hand, would display a standard 16:9 ratio which is the norm for 1080p HDTVs. The new Ultra HD branding would conform to the Quad Full High Definition (QFHD) resolution standard, which doubles the horizontal and vertical pixels of a 1080p screen for four times the number of pixels. The Ultra HD 3840 x 2160 display resolution could be compared to Apple’s “Retina Display” branding that is used with their iPhones, iPads, and MacBooks.
The Ultra HD televisions will face an uphill battle for acceptance. There is very little Ultra HD content beyond a film by Taylor Swift and one called TimeScapes. Most cable or satellite television streams are 720p at most, never mind 1080p or the 2160p of Ultra HD. The DISH network would have to launch new satellites to handle the high bandwidth of Ultra HD or they’d have to offer less HD channels in total. It’ll also be a while before Ultra HD TVs are available at affordable prices, with the first 84-inch models being priced somewhere between $20,000 and $25,000 USD. But to give you an idea of how prices will probably drop, back in 2007 the first OLED HDTV from Sony cost $2500 yet it was only 11 inches!
The biggest obstacle yet is whether the eyes of consumers will even notice the difference between HD and Ultra HD. The high pixel density of Apple’s Retina Displays only become noticeable because you are viewing the screens at extremely close distances. To make Ultra HD worthwhile you have to combine smaller living rooms with Ultra HD TVs larger than 80 inches. This chart from CarltonBale.com explains it better than I can.
The biggest immediate benefit to Ultra HD would be autostereoscopic technology which allows glasses-free 3D . Autostereoscopic technology lowers the resolution of the resulting image so combining it with Ultra HD would result in a 3D picture at 1080p resolution. In addition, newer Ultra HD TVs like the Toshiba 55ZL2 combine lenticular lenses, cameras, and facial recognition software that allows up to nine people to enjoy a 3D movie at the same time. While there are some caveats with 3D depth and head-tracking, the biggest benefit is not having to wear 3D glasses and reviewers have also mentioned there’s no eye strain–a huge plus in my opinion!
Ultra HD is still in its 4K infancy but already has some benefits. What would it take for you to buy an Ultra HD TV?