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TV Resolution’s Brick Wall

The hot feature for home video gadgets this holiday season is 4k upscaling.

All the new Blu-ray players and A/V receivers have it and are promoting it as a vital bell & whistle.

But it’s a feature that 99.99% of consumers will never use because you need a 4k display to utilize it, which nobody owns because they’re astronomically expensive and there is zero available 4k content.

But the real issue, is that this symbolizes that there may be no more innovation left that the electronics industry can offer us with TVs — what we have now is as good as it gets.

The state of home entertainment has remarkably changed in just the last decade.

In the early 2000s all most of us had were 30” to 40” standard definition tube TVs. Sub 30” LCD TVs were just hitting the market for upwards of six and seven thousand dollars.

Today, 50” flat screens can be purchased for less than a thousand dollars.

What more can anybody want?

Nobody junked their current widescreen TVs to buy a 3D TV, so the latest upgrade we’re being told we need is a 4k TV.

This technology could not be anymore rushed to the market. First, the prices of the sets range from $20k to $25k. Those prices will of course drop, but it will likely take years until they get a below $5k, and by that point they’ll be competing against LED TVs that cost only a few hundred dollars.

But let’s say you can afford to drop $20k on a TV now; there’s no content available. 

The situation is so pathetic that Sony is loaning people who buy their $25k 4k TV a media server with ten 4k movies so that they have something to watch at that resolution.

That’s My Boy, one of the ten films being presented in 4K.  Seriously.

The content situation is unlikely to be improved anytime soon.

Two-hours of uncompressed 4k video comes out to be 1 to 2 terabytes. For home use compression will be applied, but clearly a successor to the Blu-ray format will be needed, or studios will have to sell 4k movies on external hard drives.

Ultimately, whether we need 4k in the home is more of a practical and philosophical questions. 

How many people actually have the space for an 80”+ TV?

Will 4k content viewed at a close ranges reveal too many imperfections in a film or TV show? Already at 1080p you can spot patches on an actor’s skin where makeup was not applied, or recognize textured paint jobs so that a surface appears to be marble, for example.

Bad Teacher is one of the other films available in ultra resolution, much to the disdain of star Cameron Diaz

In movie theaters it’s harder to see things like that because the resolution drops as a result of the imaging being blown-up so large. In fact, you’re probably already getting greater clarity when watching a movie at 1080p on a 50” display than a 4k one projected onto a screen that’s 30’ tall.

And of course, there is the fact that consumers prefer streaming content over buying movies despites the lower resolution because it gives them access to more content and more devices.

As an audio and videophile I’m hardly one to turn my nose at an opportunity for improved resolution, but at this point I’m a lot more interested in having a Blu-ray player that doesn’t take several minutes to load a disc because it heavily uses Java.

If these electronics companies want to survive long term, they’re going to have to come up with a new innovation besides a larger TV.

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