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UHD \ 4k TV sets


richy
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There's a lot of talk about these sets and they are becoming both cheaper and widely available so I just wanted to share my thoughts and maybe de FUD the situation a little. 

 
TLDR version
 
Go to a store with a decent range of sets, look at UHD and FHD sets running side by side with the correct inputs (i.e. feeding UHD into the UHD set) and if you can see a difference and you feel that difference is worth the price tag then buy it. If not then don't, although you may want to wait until more content is available and things have settled down (like the newer hdmi standard, higher refresh rates and hevc built into smart tv's). It really is that simple :) Getting UHD content is still somewhat difficult, there is some streaming coming and a 'bluray 2.0' format which will support it. Beyond that I would suggest waiting about a year for things to settle a little more.
 
The grab a coffee version.
 
So first things first, what is 4k and UHD? The two are not the same. For reference a Full HD set is 1920x1080 pixels. UHD (ultra high definition) is exactly 4x this at  3840 × 2160 and 4K is a variety of resolutions , 4096 × 2160, 4096 × 1716, & 3996 × 2160. The first of those is full true 4k, the other two are various crops. True 4k is actually higher than UHD and the two are not the same so I am a little suspicious when I see UHD sets labelled as 4k. 
 
There are more improvements although not all will be featured in every set or delivery medium (expect physical discs to have a higher quality than streamed video) such as increased colour depth (basically more shades of each colour) and higher frame rates. IIRC there is also HDR support which should allow for more detail in the shadows and the highlights but I have yet to see this demonstrated. 
 
So if you buy a set today you will pay a premium and probably also run the risk of buying a set that doesn't fully support everything, many run at a maximum of 30Hz, they have an older version of HDMI (you really want v2.0 although apparently some 1.4's can be upgraded but I wouldnt risk it.)
 
Why UHD? The reason it exists is because if they don't keep making things 'better' then people wont buy sets as often. There are improvements in picture quality but how much will depend on how close you sit and how good your eyes are. Theres no shame in not thinking its worth the money nor is there in thinking it is. The biggest problem with UHD is that 3D flopped so fantastically set makers have rushed UHD sets out so quickly the supporting technology was caught out. The first sets used 4 hdmi cables running together to make a single connection, frame rates were limited, there was no physical distribution medium and streamed content wasn't available. All this is changing but I wouldn't judge UHD based on the last years performance. 
 
Be very careful about demonstrations, I was in a large blue food and junk store and they had a LG UHD set on demonstration that was an appalling example of UHD. My best guess was the footage had been over compressed and or re-compressed and the artifacts were abysmal. I also watched a few samsung and sony sets in a different store (sears I think) which were epic. Find a decent store and even check out a few stores. 
 
HEVC. If you want a smart TV you want one that supports HEVC which will be rare at the moment. If you want your set to stream content at UHD from netflix you will really want this codec and it is a massive improvement. If you have a very fast connection you might do ok without it but even at neflix's 15mbps and amazons 20-25mbps UHD will struggle more when encoded with h264 then h265(hevc). There are lots of articles on the advancements but one of the largest is that it allows each frame to be broken down into grids of different levels of detail rather than uniformly. The method of compressing video currently uses a uniform level of detail across an entire image when in reality there is often varying levels of detail which results in a compromise of too much detail being encoded where it isnt needed and not enough where it is. Conservatively this will result in about a 30% reduction of bitrate for the same quality, marketing plods are saying it approaches 50-70% but they are professional liars.
 
Upscaling. This is important as a lot of the content you will view will not be UHD so how the TV set displays this will be important. As UHD is exactly 4x FHD then you hopefully should be able to turn off any poor upscaling and just use 4 pixels on the screen for every 1 of the source but there are good an bad implementations of upscaling. A UHD picture is about 8mp in photography terms and FHD is about 2mp so it does take some grunt to do any fancy upscaling. What to look for, what I saw, is where there is an area of contrast like an area of blue next to red there was a halo in the red area. I saw some really good upscaling on the sony's and some really dreadful upscaling on another random named set.
 
Price, you can pickup UHD sets on amazon for 3-400, they arent amazing but they are driving down the price. Sets are still in the 1-5000 range depending on size for decent sets but that is dropping very quickly, expect partity with todays FHD sets in a year or two, right about time for new bluray players and discs to be out. 
 
Can I get X old movie in FHD. Many movies will need to be rescanned and remastered in UHD so it will vary based on demand. Sadly most films out on DVD and bluray were actually scanned in 4k and mastered in 4k and then outputted at 2k and they didnt keep the 4k files so they will have to revisit each film. Also theres a fair amount of TV and films that have been shot digitally at 2k or lower that cannot be rescanned. 
 
What about 8k. Theres an argument going on about skipping 4k because 8k is coming in about 8-10 years. 8k is a 33mp image, I'd love an 8k monitor for photo editing but it will come down to when you need or want to replace a set. Right now nothing is being shot in 8k, last time I checked theres only experimental 8k cameras, I think one of the sonys could do 8k but its partially interpolated. Time will tell but until we can actually see the footage, see the sets and understand how it will be delivered it is pointless speculating. 

 

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Still waiting for a flat UHD OLED TV. Until then, videophiles don't have a suitable replacement for plasma. Allegedly LG will release those next year.

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Still waiting for a flat UHD OLED TV. Until then, videophiles don't have a suitable replacement for plasma.

Flat  might not happen for a while, although samsung are getting close with their future bendable screens which should be able to go from flat to curved (it wouldn't make any sense not to). samoled UHD should be fantastic although the sony screen was pretty good with their unicorn tears triluminous tech. 

 

What really struck me was the difference in the UHD sets, from genuinely amazing pictures to utterly abysmal and worse than FHD. You think if you were trying to sell a set costing between 2 and 5k (thinking of a specific couple of models) you would invest a little more in the presentation in store, giving them better stock footage. 

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Still waiting for a flat UHD OLED TV. Until then, videophiles don't have a suitable replacement for plasma. Allegedly LG will release those next year.

 

 

videophiles have settled on the 1080P LG OLED that is out now for $2500 for 55"

 

Plasma is dead.  Long live OLED.

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