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50 inch 4K TVs for under $1K? Polaroid and Vizio are on board


January 11, 2014

The Vizio 50-inch 4K television provides a high-quality photo-like image (Photo: Vizio)

The Vizio 50-inch 4K television provides a high-quality photo-like image (Photo: Vizio)

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4K televisions have undergone tremendous progress this last year, as has been clearly demonstrated at the CES 2014 show. Both Polaroid and Vizio introduced 50-inch 4K televisions with an MSRP of US$999.99. But what kind of user can really use a 4K TV today? High-power computer users, that's who.

For anyone out there who doesn't know, 4K is short for 4K Ultra High Definition (4K UHD) Television. The screen size is 3840 x 2160 pixels in size, double in each direction compared to 1080p screens. The aspect ratio has to be at least 16:9, and the standard's frame rate is 120 Hz progressive (complete top to bottom scans.) Note the HDMI 2.0 standard must be used to achieve this level of performance – HDMI 1.4 stalls out at a frame rate of 30 Hz.

The two televisions are difficult to tell apart from the descriptions available today, but there is a bit more information on the Vizio P502ui-B1 than on the Polaroid 50GSR9000. The Vizio offers a 50-inch picture with 16:9 aspect ratio and full LED array backlighting, wherein the backlight provides 64 variable intensity zones to actively optimize the dynamic range of the picture. The P502 also contains a six-core processor combining a quad-core GPU and dual-core CPU.

At present, there is very little 4K UHD programming available. Further, it seems unlikely that the cable/satellite/broadcast providers will respond rapidly with upgraded offerings. They were hit with a huge upgrade expense in going to (somewhat crippled) HD, and right now the bandwidth just isn't available. But keep track of progress with the HEVC (High Efficiency Video Coding) codec, which would allow enormously compressed video streaming (an early unit is installed in the Vizio 4K TV).

Only a few very-high-end videodisk players are capable of 4K UHD service, and these do not use a standard format. Surprisingly, it turns out that the Blu-Ray system can be used for 4K source material. Unfortunately, the discs would be incompatible with standard Blu-Ray players, as the higher bandwidth requires additional dye layers in the disc. Still, this may be the first affordable 4K UHD programming source.

Of what use, then, is a 4K UHD television? A great deal, if you have any need for high-resolution computer graphics. I currently use a 50-inch HD television as my main computer display, and find it a great assist to my technical work, as well as allowing multiple windows to be used efficiently for my writing. But I can still see those 0.02 inch (0.5 mm) pixels at my 20-inch working distance.

Videocards capable of 30 Hz 4K UHD display start at about $500 street price, jumping to 60 Hz at about $1K. However, a formal computer display with 4K UHD-level resolution is a costly device. A 32-inch display capable of 60 Hz 4K UHD display resolution costs upward of $3K. While smaller displays have just been announced at lower prices, they are 28-inch and smaller, whose 0.005-inch (0.12-mm) pixels are a waste of 4K capability.

I can't offer an opinion on the use of 4K UHD televisions for computer gaming, as that is an indulgence in which I no longer wallow, although I did thoroughly enjoy a good deal of wallowing back in the day. But I will say that, even if January of 2014 is not quite time for my 4K upgrade, I am certain it will happen in 2014. I find visible pixels an irritant. The market will probably be filled with people who bought 4K TVs without really thinking about the lack of programming. However, people who think in advance about their uses for such a beast will likely avoid premature purchase and dissatisfaction.

Source: Vizio

About the Author
Brian Dodson From an early age Brian wanted to become a scientist. He did, earning a Ph.D. in physics and embarking on an R&D career which has recently broken the 40th anniversary. What he didn't expect was that along the way he would become a patent agent, a rocket scientist, a gourmet cook, a biotech entrepreneur, an opera tenor and a science writer. All articles by Brian Dodson

Late to the game. 50" 120Hz Seiki 4k TVs have been selling for well under $1000. Sears has one for $700 at this very moment, and a 55" model for $100 more. During the holiday season, Seiki 39" 4k TVs went for only $400 at Amazon, although it's back up to $500 now.


Though these aren't brands I usually consider buying, it's a good thing because it will help drive a bigger market for 4K and it will bring down the prices of Samsung and Sony 4K TVs. I predict the next trend in about two years will be true 4K TV. They might market it as SuperWide or something as it has close to a 17:9 aspect ratio.


Sadly, the only people buying these are Saudi princes... Instead of this 4K rubbish that no one will buy for a long time they should be focusing hard on flogging 3D TVs without the need glasses, although things like this are needed to up the standards.


Bluray disks hold 50gigs. YIFY torrent 1080p MP4's are near indistinguishable from the original BD content, and take up less than 2gigs (often only 1g). For-sure it's going to be absolutely possible to put 4K 120hz content onto an ordinary BD disk. The problem will just be all the manufacturers trying to corner the market with their own tech/patents/products, ... or maybe not? Every video store anywhere near me has gone bankrupt in the last 2 years. I'm guessing most people don't use physical disks anymore?


I can immediately think of one possible use for such a fabulously high res display - if you wanted to simulate a view from a window in a window-less room you could - and certainly I wouldn't be rich enough to be able to do so - use such a display for this role. The resulting effect would, with some thought and expertise with added lighting, give a very realistic effect. Viewing HD panoramas on my standard HD screen look convincing enough - at twice the resolution I would think it would be indistinguishable from reality.

I have a basement bathroom done up in travertine and imagined it might be nice to have a trompe l'oeil on the wall above the bath of a typical summer Tuscan villa view - you know, rolling dry grassy fields, blue sky, Cypress Cupressus sempervirens 'Stricta' dotted about - but a 50" 4K screen, suitably surrounded by a mock travertine or marble 'window frame' would give a much more realistic effect. MW

Martin Winlow

Great article. In Australia there is not enough 4K content to check the quality of these TV's. Might wait until there is...

Taj Pabari

You must be really really close to your screen if you can see individual pixels. My 27" iMac has 2650 x 1440 and I can't even see the individual pixels unless I'm 3 inches from the screen and even then I have to use a magnifying glass. You never said but just exactly are you doing that requires over 16 million pixels???


Halo9x, one thing is to be able to discern individual pixels, another thing is to be able to notice the image quality afforded by the additional pixels. Which with your iMac, you certainly don't need to be so close to the screen to appreciate. And as for the need for 16 million pixels... the more the better, absolutely. Another thing would be how big the screen has to be to enjoy them (or from another perspective, how big it can be before the pixels become too noticeable), but to see photos on the computer for example: A mere 6.2 megapixel image in the 4:3 format will make full use of a 4K screen's vertical resolution. Even cell phone cameras are pumping out 10mp+ images... 8K and above is what is required to start seeing digital camera images properly...

David Guerra

One thing that puzzles me is how everyone measures the need for display definition by the available video content. But what about photos? Why isn't there a market trend that demands quality screens for photo viewing? We already have the source, we have 20mp+ cameras, we have 20mp+ images all over the internet, why doesn't the demand exist for 20mp screens in the 4:3 format, to watch all this detail in full splendor? Not that the use would be limited to photography, I can think for example that a touch screen monitor with such resolution would make quite an acceptable digital painting canvas. And many other things...

David Guerra

4K tipically refers to 3840x2160, which amounts to 8,2944 million pixels, not 16 million. But even 16 million wouldn't be that much, compared to current digital camera resolutions...

David Guerra
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