I recently spent some time in my basement surrounded by 4K televisions. I was testing out some of the big-name brands – Sony, Samsung, LG and Panasonic – for a round-up review I was working on, so I watched a whole lot of ultra-HD Breaking Bad on Netflix.
I’ve since returned all those TVs and have gone back to my regular high-definition set, and I’m left with one realization: once you go 4K, there really isn’t any going back.
There have been plenty of articles on how 4K TV is an unnecessary technology and how it’s just another attempt by television makers, saddled with declining profits on regular HD TVs, to boost sales.
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A lot of that is probably true, especially the part about how you probably won’t notice a huge improvement when you first upgrade to a 4K TV.
But I haven’t seen any articles about what happens when you downgrade—and therein lies the difference.
My wife and I noticed it immediately when we shifted back to regular HD. For those of us who wear glasses, it was like moving back to an older, fuzzier prescription. For people without corrective lenses, it was like putting on a set of blurry goggles. That’s perhaps an exaggeration, but you get the idea.
This is because 4K TVs do a couple of handy things besides cram more pixels on screen. They also up-convert existing pictures to a higher resolution, and the images look considerably better close-up. You can sit right in front of the TV—not that you’d want to—and get a much clearer, less-pixelated picture than on a regular HD TV.
The result is that regardless of what is being displayed, it looks better – and you get used to that.
4K TV makers still have several problems to overcome, the biggest of which is content because there just isn’t much of it. But, with disc players coming next year—I’m expecting to see several at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January – and online streaming services such as Netflix ramping up, it will come.
Price is another issue, with 4K TVs still coming at a premium. But prices are falling dramatically, to the point where they’ll probably be accessible by the mass market next year.
Ultimately, 4K isn’t just another gimmick—it’s a better picture through and through. Pretty soon, everybody’s next TV will be a 4K.