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CES 2013 Highlights: 4K Ultra High Definiton

I've emerged from yet another Consumer Electronics Show saturated in new display knowledge.  As I predicted two years ago, we can expect premium 2013 HDTVs to feature densely packed pixels, expanded color palettes, and screen sizes that nearly eclipse a queen-sized bed.

While the world patiently awaits OLED's dethroning of LED and plasma as the display technology of choice, 4K resolution (aka Ultra High Definition aka 3840x2160) is available today and will become a standard feature on premium HDTVs 50-inches and larger by year's end.

Color is King
Another trend that was apparent among the premium 2013 televisions on the show floor was a claimed expansion of the available color palette.  The current HDTV video spec that we loving call Rec. 709 is a color-compromise with a restricted palette, compared to average human perception, that almost every HDTV can properly (and sometimes accurately!) display.  Forward-looking video standards like the Digital Cinema Initiatives (DCI) define an expanded color palette that features more richly-colored (saturated) hues of red, green, and cyan compared to Rec. 709.  Samsung and Broadcom unveiled new products at CES that support High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC) - another next-generation video compression standard that will support higher resolutions (up to 8K) and "improved" color gamut and dynamic range compared to the now ubiquitous H.264/MPEG-4 AVC standard.  The problem with a HDTV color gamut that exceeds Rec. 709 is that there is no commercial content available that properly utilizes this new selection of richly-saturated colors.  So the Catch-22 continues: the display technology awaits a new standard that everyone (the content creators and owners) can agree upon that defines an updated and expanded color system.

Note: I annotated the slideshow pictures in the Gallery View with more product information.

My 4K/UHD highlights in no particular order:

Sony's 4K OLED prototype was one of those things that made the jaded editorial analyst in me smile - amazing contrast, high resolution, and incredibly saturated colors.  I'm tired of the OLED tease, and there is no indication if or when Sony will release an OLED of its own, but the company certainly knows how to wow the eyes of someone who has seen and tested hundreds if not thousands of HD display systems.  Thinking of a sweet spot between screen size and pixel density (and killer design!), I'm especially interested getting a 65-inch XBR-65X900A into the lab as soon as possible!  Also featured in its premium 2013 offerings is Sony's updated Triluminous display technology that utilizes QD Vision's quantum dot technology that generates very pure and saturated colors that are ideal for an expanded color gamut HDTV.

Sharp's most impresive technology at CES was IGZO - Indium Gallium Zinc Oxide!  This new substrate material for OLED and LCD displays offers incredible energy savings by not requiring electricity to maintain a static image - similar to how e-ink technology operates.  In addition, IGZO also enables increased pixel densities - one image in the gallery shows a extreme closeup of a 6.1-inch IGZO display that has a native resolution of 2560x1600...almost 500 pixels-per-inch!  Sharp also unveiled the first THX Certified 4K HDTV - the ICC Purios LC-60HQ10.  The Purios TV demos appeared superbly calibrated, and this is another 4K screen I cannot wait to get in for testing.

Samsung's new S9 UHD television brings 85-inchs of Ultra High Definition to select home theaters in 2013 - its easel-like frame integrates a 120W audio system and supports the super-sized TV in elegant style.  I'll be curious to see if the S9 does anything special with its high-resolution, active 3D technology, screen - perhaps a "dual view" option similar to what the company has demonstrated with its upcoming F9500 OLED television.

The very first 4K HDTV I saw in person was from Toshiba, and the company's 2013 lineup features their 84-inch creation as well as plenty of new 1080p models to choose from - all featuring new thin-frame designs with refreshingly minimalist styling touches along the lower bezel.

4K this year - OLED next...
LG, Westinghouse Digital, Vizio, TCL, Haier, HiSense...they all demonstrated 4K resolution displays at CES.  While the major HDTV manufacturers are introducing 4K tech in their premium products, word on the show floor was that 50-inch 4K displays will crack $2000 this year.  So if you are looking for a new 50-inch or larger PC monitor with some 8-million pixels awaiting signal, you should have several options to choose from by the end of this Summer.

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Reader Comments (1)

Hey Robert, Love your coverage and your work on Tekzilla. Wondering if its just rumor or truth that Panasonic and Sony are making OLED panels together. If so, would their OLED TV's (whenever they come out) just be the same with a different UI and case style? Thanks

January 16, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJon L

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