“More pixels are cool but better pixels are amazing.” – CNET
Is it time to upgrade?
OKMULGEE, Oklahoma—I recently went into a mall and saw signs for a pre-Black Friday sale (a pre-sale sale, if you will).
Yes, it is that time of year, again. The time for getting bombarded with advertisements for the many sales available during the holiday season. It seems with every passing year Thanksgiving becomes more like Black Friday Eve.
In the spirit of the shopping, I mean holiday season I wanted to talk about what is surely to be a huge seller this year. 4K televisions (Ultra High Definition).
4K TVs are nothing new; they’ve been around for a few years now. What will make this year different is their affordability. As with all things techy, the longer they are on the market the better and cheaper they will become.
Rewind the clock back to 2012, when the first 4K TV went on sale in the U.S. for $20,000. The LG 84EM9600 saw little success that first Christmas. Compare that to today’s average cost of $1,100. I use average price because there are so many variants at play that will determine what you pay: size, brand, OLED/LED, HDR and, of course, smart functionality.
Before we look at a couple of these options, I must address a common misconception about 4Ks. That is the misconception that it will be 4x better than your current set (assuming that most have an HDTV). It won’t be.
Resolution is expressed by the number of horizontal pixels by the number of vertical pixels on the screen. Pixels (short for picture elements) are the tiny, individual dots that collectively make up a picture.
In past years, that single number given to denote resolution was the number of vertical pixels (e.g. 1080 vertical pixels). However with 4K, that way of expression changed and was given in number of horizontal pixels (3840x2160 rounded up).
So by this way of measurement your HDTV is a 2K (1920x1080 rounded up).
Next, we must address the common argument against upgrading, which is that there isn’t a lot of content made in 4K yet. This is true, but it is growing fast with content from platforms like Netflix, Amazon and the like, but more 4K content will require a higher bandwidth to stream it.
To better demonstrate this, let’s say you have four devices streaming at the same time, all HD. No problem, right?
Let’s throw a 4K stream into that scenario. With the addition of the extra bits (digital 1s and 0s) that come with 4K streams, all streams will slow down and the “loading” screen will be a common occurrence.
Cable service providers have been working on the logistical nightmare that comes with this transition for years now. Think back to the 90s when standard television was phased out for HD. The same is happening now with an effort to slowly make 4K the standard.
Now let’s look at two of the main selling point options for 4K sets: HDR and smart functionality.
HDR (which includes wider color gamut, or WCG) refers to the colors that your screen can reproduce. Basically, it allows for more shades of red, blue and green and all the different shade variants in between, which result in more vivid colors and detail.
Like 4K resolution, HDR is dependent on whether the content you choose is offered in HDR. HDR put simply, is metadata (information) attached to the content that gives your television instructions on brightness/darkness and what colors to produce. The results of a CNET survey of video experts regarding 4K vs. HDR was summed up with, “More pixels are cool but better pixels are amazing.”
Finally, there is smart functionality. In the past, this was somewhat of an issue when all smart TV’s operating systems were proprietary and updates were few and far between.
These lackluster systems seemed cool out of the box but in a lot of cases were set aside for gaming systems or devices like Fire Sticks and Rokus, which offered an interface that was simple and fluid and regularly updated.
This isn’t much of an issue anymore now that many brands come with operating systems like Firefox, RokuTV and Android. Even the manufacturers that don’t offer these well-known platforms have really improved their own to stay competitive.
Now to the question at hand; should you upgrade? An HD set will suffice for another year or two, so I’ll save that ‘yes’ until next year. But if you do decide to elbow your way to the TV section this Black Friday, I’ll see you there.