Time to toss that HDTV? 4K UHD TVs become affordable

$999 price may spur TV price wars

The third largest television maker in the world, China-based TCL, announced today that it will sell a 4K resolution, 50-in. Ultra High Definition (UHD) TV starting this fall for $999.

The edge-lit 7E504D LED 4K Ultra High HDTV will launching in the U.S. this September. The set will debut along side TCL's new flagship 5510 LED 1080p HDTV series, which will be available for sale in August with 40-in., 46-in. and 55-in. models.

TCL's 50-in 4K UHD TV will sell for an aggressively priced $999.

TCL's 40-in. 1080p HDTV is priced at $399, its 46-in. HDTV for $499, and its 55-in. Smart TV for $799.

The new 50-in 4K 7E504D Ultra High HDTV is the lowest priced Ultra High HD TV by a long shot, according to analysts, and it could spur a pricing war with consumers being the beneficiary.

Fellow Chinese TV maker Seiki offers the next closest 50-in. 4K UHD TV. The SE50UY04 is priced at $1,499, but can be found on Amazon for $1,100.

The prices are a significant drop for the new TV technology. As recently as April, Sony was selling its 55-in. 4K TV set in its XBR line for $5,000.

"That is the cheapest one I've heard of," said Paul O'Donovan, a consumer electronics analyst with Garteer. "And, it's not really happening too quickly when you look at the personal cameras we have that have resolution that is leaps ahead of where HD TVs are today."

Most smartphones, for example, have cameras with 5 to 8 megapixel resolution.

Ultra High Definition TV technology offers resolution measuring 3840 x 2160 pixels, or 8 megapixels -- four times that of 1080p televisions, which offer 2 megapixels of resolution.

Besides far higher resolution, one advantage pointed out by industry pundits is that 4K TV can show passive 3D better than today's 1080p sets.

"That has to be sold to the consumer, and I think it's starting to come through," O'Donovan said. "3D TV was always a fad or novelty that was going to wear off, but this is actually a technical revolution coming along."

The 7E504D LED 4K UHD TV will come with a 120Hz CMI (Clear Motion Index) engine with 5,000,000:1 dynamic contrast ratio for brilliant color and contrast. The television will feature an ultra-thin bezel with a gunmetal gray finish.

The 4K TV will come with four HDMI inputs to allow users to connect to satellite or cable, DVD/Blu-ray players, gaming consoles and other devices at the same time. As an MHL (Mobile High-Definition Link) enabled TV, users can also connect smartphones or tablets to the TV to display content while simultaneously charging the device.

"Similar to what the market saw a dozen years ago with the introduction of HDTVs, 4K UHD TVs are priced so high today that most consumers cannot afford them," Michelle Mao, president of TCL USA, said in a statement. "TCL is able to change that. While other brands see the introduction of 4K as an opportunity to make large margins - we see it as an opportunity to demonstrate to U.S. consumers the combination of advanced technology and great value we've been delivering across the world for over 30 years."

Content issues

One nagging problem with 4K UHD TVs is that there's very little content available for viewers to enjoy on them, O'Donovan said.

"There isn't any content available today, like movies and television, because although the movies exist, they've not been transcribed onto Blu-ray, or there aren't many satellite TV services transmitting them at the moment, but the content is there," he said.

The 4K format is standard cinematic production today, but Blu-ray players aren't capable to playing the higher-resolution format.

For example, Sony has up to 50 4K films that it has produced since 2004 backlogged and ready to be offered to the public.

O'Donovan said a 50-in. 4K UHD television will likely spur sales because while many consumers have only recently purchased HDTVs, the average screen size has increased. So consumers who purchased 32-in. to 42-in. flat screen TVs over the past few years, will likely spring for a 50-in. or 60-in. screen UHD TV if the price is right.

"People are saying, "maybe I can put my 32-in. TV into another room," O'Donovan said.

This article, Time to toss that HDTV? 4K UHD TVs become affordable, was originally published at Computerworld.com.

Lucas Mearian covers storage, disaster recovery and business continuity, financial services infrastructure and health care IT for Computerworld. Follow Lucas on Twitter at @lucasmearian or subscribe to Lucas's RSS feed. His e-mail address is lmearian@computerworld.com.

See more by Lucas Mearian on Computerworld.com.

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Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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