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CES 2014: Inexpensive 4K TVs are still… cheap

2014 is off to a great start for pixel enthusiasts.  4K tech is entering mainstream at a rapid pace, but be aware that not all 4K TVs/displays are what they’re hyped up to be.

A large portion of the CES show floors were dominated by 4K displays, some affordable enough, and others not so much.  The story, however, isn’t that there are plenty of 4K displays making their appearances at CES, but rather it’s that they’re actually not 4K displays.

Manufacturers of Ultra High Definition (UHD) displays tend to use the 4K term interchangeably with UHD.  The majority of these consumer-ready UHD displays are actually 3840×2160 in resolution.  If you care about pixels, then you will notice that many of the ‘4K’ UHD displays currently on the market today (and even the ones that were just announced at CES 2014) are shy of the actual 4K standard, which is 4096×2160.  There’s not much to gripe about here as 3840 is ‘close enough’ to 4K, but it’s just some food for thought if a ‘true’ 4K display is what you’re in the market for.

Another thing early 4K adopters should take a note of is that most UHD displays have HDMI 1.4a/b.  This means your UHD is only capable of 24 or 30 frames per second in UHD mode.  For static images and other slow moving objects, this shouldn’t be a problem, but if your UHD purchase is meant for watching sports, gaming, and other TV broadcast, it is advisable that you wait until there are more HDMI 2.0-capable UHD displays available before making the leap to 4K.  HDMI 2.0 will broaden the UHD experience by allowing people to view their ‘4K’ content at 60 frames per second as supposed to 30 frames per second.


(An off-brand set we found on display at CES 2014 to likely not have future HDMI 2.0 support)

Brand name set makers like Sony will allow users to upgrade their current UHD displays to be HDMI 2.0 capable via firmware updates.  The same, however, can’t be said for off-brand set makers, some of which proudly had their unspec’ed UHD on display at CES.  When asked if their company intend to release some type of firmware upgrade to enable HDMI 2.0, some show floor reps did not know the exact HDMI specs of their sets, and some had no idea what HDMI was altogether.

4K (minus two hundred or so pixels) displays will eventually replace the current Full HD displays.  Most gamers and entertainment enthusiasts are probably already well-aware of the current UHD techs that are available.  For people who are just now tuning into the 4K movement since CES, above are just a few things you need to make a mental note of before you research your next display purchase.

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