4k ‘Ultra HD’ TVs are still hitting the market and range in price from $699 for Seiki’s 39″ class to $39,999 for Samsung’s 85″ flagship model. 4k TVs (branded ‘Ultra HD’ by the CEA but also referred to UHD and Quad HD), are specified as having 3840×2160 lines of resolution; or, twice the amount of vertical and horizontal lines of a 1920×1080 display. The resolution amounts to 8.3 megapixels, which equals about four-times the amount of a 1080p display with 2.1 megapixels. LG, Samsung, Sony, Sharp, Seiki and Toshiba have all introduced consumer-level 4k HDTVs.
There are only about a dozen Ultra HD TVs currently available in the US. And, 4k content is just as limited. For consumers, the only true 4k titles can be watched from Sony’s FMP-X1 4k Media Player which comes with 10 titles pre-loaded. Sony plans to soon launch a network video service from which you’ll be able to rent or purchase titles and store them on the player’s 2TB hard drive. Sony has also released a series of Blu-ray Discs labeled “Mastered in 4k,” but the content is still only 1080p and not true 4k resolution. A 4k movie would take up about 100GB of space, which is still a large of amount of memory even by today’s standards. As far as broadcasting 4k, we’re still light years away, as most TV broadcasts are still in 720p or 1080i.
Prices on 4k HD TVs, with the exception of Seiki models, are still “ultra” high. A 55″ will run you about $5k or $6k for a top brand like Sony, LG, or Toshiba. A 65″ costs between $7k and $8k. LG, Sony, and Toshiba all have 84″ models that range from $17k to $25k. And, Samsung’s flagship 85″ UN85S9 will set you back a mere $40k. Those are big pricetags for TVs that don’t have much content to show off the capabilities. It’ll be years before a standard disc format is developed to hold 4k movies. (Although, digital downloads may just beat discs to the punch this time.) But, HDTVs were just as limited and expensive when first arriving in stores about 7 or 8 years ago. And, the first 3D models were just as pricey a few years back.
The question of whether or not it’s a good time to buy an Ultra HD really depends on whether you want to be an early adopter or not. It’s doesn’t take a rocket scientist to predict prices will eventually go down. Next year’s models may end up being half the price. But there’s something to be said for those who can’t wait for the next generation. Have a look at your local Best Buy or home theater store and determine for yourself if the quality of 4k is something you can’t wait any longer for.
Let’s take a look and compare current 4k Ultra HD TVs available, or shipping soon, to retail stores in the US. For the sake of space we’ve listed only the basic specs and MSRPs.
|LG||55″||55LA9700||Smart TV||3840 x 2160P||LED||YES||July, 2013||$5,999.99|
|65″||65LA9700||Smart TV||3840 x 2160P||LED||YES||July, 2013||$7,999.99|
|84″||84LM9600||Smart TV||3840 x 2160P||LED||YES||Fall 2012||$19,999.99|
|Sony||55″||XBR-55X900A||Wi-Fi Direct||3840 x 2160||LED||YES||May, 2013||$4,999.99|
|65″||XBR-65X900A||Wi-Fi Direct||3840 x 2160||LED||YES||May, 2013||$6,999|
|84″||XBR-84X900||Wi-Fi Direct||3840 x 2160||LED||YES||TBD||$24,999.99|
|Toshiba||58″||L9300U||Smart TV||3840 x 2160||LED||YES||Aug. 2013||$4,999|
|65″||L9300U||Smart TV||3840 x 2160||LED||YES||Aug. 2013||$6,999|
|84″||L9300U||Smart TV||3840 x 2160||LED||YES||Aug. 2013||$16,999|
|Samsung||85″||UN85S9AF||Smart TV||3840 x 2160||LED||YES||Jan. 2013||$39,999.99|
|Sharp||70″||Aquos Ultra||Smart TV||3840 x 2160||LED||YES||Aug. 2013||$7,999|
|Seiki||39″||SE39UY04||None||3840 x 2160||LED||NO||July, 2013||$699|
|50″||SE50UY04||None||3840 x 2160||LED||NO||April, 2013||$1,499|
Jeff Chabot has a background in web development and design, as well as working in broadcast television as a studio engineer, lighting director and editor. He frequently writes about technology, broadcasting, digital entertainment, and the internet.