King-sized TVs are being sold at some princely sums, even as the main benefit isn't there yet. Sony has taken orders on its new $25,000 Ultra High Definition TV sets and they’ll begin shipping next month. And, as of Friday, bargain hunters can walk into a Southern California store and order up one of LG’s Ultra HD versions for $20,000.
Both the Sony and LG 84-inch sets -- are they too big to fit under the Christmas tree? -- offer a 4K format, which has four times the resolution of a current high-definition picture. For now, though, there is effectively no content in 4K, which begs the question why buy now?
Just three years after 3D had people buzzing at the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES), Ultra HD promises to set off a bunch of fireworks in January at the extravanganza. Toshiba is likely to announce its plans, while Panasonic and Samsung may seek headlines as well.
Sony is likely to spark much of the buzz, with its interests in production hardware, getting sets into living rooms and producing movies and TV shows. Expect it to make some announcements on content development.
The company is one of three owners of 3net, a 3D network co-owned by Discovery and IMAX. The partners recently launched a studio that will focus on 3D productions, but also has content in native 4K in the pipeline.
Up-converting is also an option and both Sony and LG say they have that capability. A recent video from Taylor Swift was produced in native 4K and is being shown in Sony stores on demo Ultra HD sets.
Still, with some networks still balking at the expense of 3D production, how likely are they to invest in 4K?
With the 4K talk, is 3D off the screen? Hard to say, but one executive said Friday that even as there has been ample coverage about 3D not meeting expectations in the U.S. – DirecTV has scaled back some efforts; ESPN 3D was dropped by a distributor; and 3net is only available to DirecTV customers (Google Fiber will offer it in the Kansas City-area as well) – the story is different in Europe.
There, at least 12 countries have a 3D network, including five in France and three in Poland, according to one count.
With both size and cost, there’s a lot of action in the screen world at the top and bottom. There’s the excitement about the iPad Mini with the 7.9-inch screen for $329 and the 84-inch option for at least $19,500 more.