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Analyzing Ultra HD

A look at the Ultra HD offerings at 2014 CES

January 22, 2014 By Joe Paone
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What is “television” anymore? Is it a piece of hardware? Cable or satellite service?  Over-the-top streaming from companies like Netflix and Amazon? Something you watch on a tablet or smartphone?

CES 2014 provided an answer to those questions: It’s all of those and more.

What we observed: Smart TVs are now de rigueur. 3D TV continued to keep a low profile, although there were some glasses-free 3D TV demos (we weren’t overly impressed by any of them). But
Ultra HD TV, a.k.a UHD, a.k.a. 4K TV, ruled the roost at the show in terms of video product announcements.

The sense of urgency surrounding UHD in the CE industry is palpable: We’re in a race to find that desired, lucrative sweet spot between high profit margins and ubiquitous content. And time is quickly running out.

“It may be cliché to say content is King, but when talking about 4K Ultra HD TV, it reigns over consumer decision-making,” said Mike Lucas, senior vice president of Sony’s Home Entertainment & Sound Division.

As UHD prices plunge downward (relatively speaking, of course) due to the emergence of a glut of aggressively inexpensive UHD TVs from second- and third-tier manufacturers, the native UHD content still, for the most part, isn’t there. So the default buzzword of 2014 for UHD TV sales is upscaling. How UHD TVs handle HD content – and how you demo it – will be the vital selling point for these sets this year.

Not surprisingly, leading manufacturers echoed that sentiment at the show. Each touted its upscaling expertise, and each showed some impressive results.

Here’s what some top-tier TV manufacturers announced for UHD at the show:

• Sony led with a content message, which wasn’t unexpected given the fact that it also is a notable TV content producer. It touted its support of HDMI 2.0 and the new HVEC UHD codec to display 4K media at 60 frames per second; its Video Unlimited 4K content download service, which debuted in September, requires a separate Sony 4K Ultra HD Media Player, and currently features 140 UHD films and TV shows; compatibility with Netflix’s upcoming 4K service; and support for 4K photo services such as the 500px community and Sony’s own PlayMemories service. It also noted its sets’ support for its 4K Handycam camcorders. Sony’s 2014 UHD lineup will ship this spring and feature three new series for a total of nine models ranging from 49 to 85 inches.
 
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