4K: Fad or the future?

Premium 4K TVs are in the limelight right now, with displays making a move into businesses and sets already popping up for sale in High Street retailers. Matthew Jarvis asked industry executives and analysts if the Ultra HD format is here to stay...
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Premium 4K TVs, boasting four times as many pixels as 1080p HD displays, are in the limelight right now, with displays making a move into businesses and sets already popping up for sale in High Street retailers. Matthew Jarvis asked industry executives and analysts if the Ultra HD format is here to stay…

It wasn't too long ago that HD displays were still a technical marvel, with consumers praising the massive jump in quality from Standard Definition TV sets and monitors.

Now Ultra HD ‘4K’ seems to be the hot new thing on the market, with a slew of announcements at IFA about the display format. Panasonic showcased the “world’s first 20-inch tablet with a 4K display” – the Toughpad 4K UT-MB5, while Samsung revealed the S9 – a 98-inch 4K TV set – as well as a 65-inch curved 4K OLED TV, and Philips announced the “future-proof” 9000-series of 4K TVs.

However, despite a growing variety of 4K products, the technology currently remains too expensive for many consumers, and commenters in the market have questioned if the technology is doomed to follow the 3D fad – or whether 4K will find more success in the business market.

“A lot of change has happened over the last year in displays,” Gerwald van der Gijp, director of commercial products for HP’s PPS EMEA Business Unit PC category, told PCR.

“Manufacturers have to make the choice and say: ‘When are we going to bring 4K to market?’ If it reaches a certain demand, we will offer it."

“Today there’s a lack of demand. For workstations, where there’s a certain performance, then there’s a choice. But elsewhere, there’s not a need to offer 4K displays at the moment.”

Sony claims to hold “a lot of influence” in the 4K market, and used 4K camera equipment to film the Sony Pictures-produced After Earth.

“In the residential market, the most important area is home cinema and products in the living room. 4K is an important theme for us,” added Damien Weissenburger, Head of Display at Sony.

“There is a need for higher resolution – especially in Hollywood. In five to ten years the prices of 4K TVs and bigger screen sizes will come down – tech moves fast,” Weissenburger explained.

Sony was a major supporter of 3D technology: the PS3 includes support for 3D, and the PlayStation 3D Monitor was released by the company.

Asked whether 4K was receiving the same tepid response, Weissenburger commented: “3D was different. HD to 4K is a step up in resolution – so 4K is kind of like the next HD.”

Lachlan Welsh, senior analyst at Context, agrees with the comparison, and told PCR: “4K will be a success in certain markets as it is a natural progression from Full HD."

“Price will be a barrier at first but as volumes and uptake increase we expect to see prices come down quite quickly."

“For consumers the major obstacle is the value received – to gain the full benefit of 4K they would need to sit quite close to the set."

“In the commercial market where viewers are closer to displays, more value will be realised.”

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It’s not just 4K that’s getting people talking. Curved 4K OLED displays are designed to offer a great viewing angle for everyone in the room, with the OLED display tech offering some of the best contrast ratios and colour quality available in the market.

Some are even more expensive than regular 4K displays – LG’s 55-inch 55EA980W starts at a cool £8,000, while Samsung’s S9C (pictured, above) is exclusively available at John Lewis for £6,999. The S9C boasts ‘MultiView’, which displays two channels on-screen simultaneously. Special glasses, equipped with integrated headphones, allow people to watch two different programs on the same set.

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