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84-inch, Ultra HD televisions – try wrapping one of these for Christmas


December 10, 2012

LG's new 84 inch Ultra HD television (Photo: LG)

LG's new 84 inch Ultra HD television (Photo: LG)

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LG and Sony have both introduced Ultra High Definition (UHD) TVs with 84-inch screens within the past three months and both are priced at US$20K or more. These monster televisions have 16:9 aspect ratio UHD screens (3840 x 2160 pixels). There are no more than a few hundred UHDTV sets available worldwide, but given the price, that should be sufficient to satisfy the Christmas demand.

Imagine that a Christmas miracle happens, and an 84 inch UHDTV finds its way under your tree. The very next thing on your to-do list is amazing your friends and neighbors with the unimaginable clarity of a UHDTV screen. If it looks like the blank screen Sony pictured above, no one will be very impressed. To show off a television, you need a video source matching the screen resolution, so, brimming with pride in your new UHDTV, you reach for ... what?

The world of home video entertainment is dominated by 1080p format HDTV. Satellite dish? 1080p programming at best. Cable? 1080p. Your 50 GB Blu-ray discs are chock-a-block full of wonderful 1080p video data, but such will not properly show off your UHDTV.

Hold on – these UHDTVs can upconvert HDTV video into 4K UHDTV video. Doesn't that cover the amazement requirement? Sorry, but as much as the salespeople would like to convince you otherwise, when you upconvert an image you lose resolution and contrast – all you gain is an assortment of video artifacts. Nice as a novelty, but ... lacking ... in amazement.

Uber gaming screen? Well ... no. Even though Sony's upcoming PlayStation 4 is rumored to have a 4K output mode, the highest definition art in current video games is stored at HDTV resolution. The actual resolution of games will be HDTV until some true (and likely truly expensive) 4K games are developed from the bottom up.

The one place that 4K content can be easily found is your local theater. Nearly three-quarters of the 100,000-plus worldwide movie theater screens have 4K digital projectors – a nod to James Cameron's 2009 film Avatar. Since then a number of truly 4K films have been screened. The Hobbit will be the first digital 4K movie to be shown at 48 frames per second, and Sony is currently in talks with Blu-ray about making 4K Blu-ray-based versions of their upcoming reboot of Spider-Man available for home use.

"Blazing Bristlecone", a single frame from "Timescapes", won Tom Lowe the Royal Observatory Greenwich Astronomy Photographer of the Year award in 2011 (Photo: Timescapes)

There is even a 4K movie called Timescapes, a lushly visualized 50 minute memento of the American Southwest available as a 330 GB video file on its own hard drive. It is in the Cineform codec, a nearly lossless format used in 4K theaters. That surely takes care of the amazement requirement? Yes – if you can play it.

Here's one of the dirty little UHDTV secrets – HDMI is currently not able to transfer native Ultra HD video. HDMI cables are able to carry an UHD bitstream, but there is no HDMI standard for coupling an UHD video signal into an HDMI cable. (DisplayPort works with UHD, but neither the Sony nor the LG Ultra HD TVs have DisplayPort connections.) Sony engineers are currently developing a converter box able to accept native Ultra HD via a bank of four HDMI inputs. This converter would then output the Ultra HD signal via a single HDMI to the projector. It is not known how LG is addressing this problem.

Sony is sensitive to the content problem, and has the resources to provide a solution that will indeed amaze your friends and neighbors. Everyone who buys a Sony UHD television will be "loaned" a US$25,000 Sony UHD video player, together with a set of ten UHDTV movies newly mastered from theater releases or original filmed versions. The loan is open-ended, with Sony noting that it will not be going into customer's houses to repossess the video players.

The movies include The Amazing Spiderman, Taxi Driver, and The Bridge on the River Kwai. In the end, it would appear that Sony will quench the need for amazing Christmas demonstrations of new technology, as long as that video player is available and delivered before Christmas. After all, what would Christmas morning be without a little suspense?

Product pages: LG, Sony

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

4k will eventually become the norm, just like 1080 has today. But I hope they also keep working hard(er) on 3D TV's. They need to be glasses free before they will gain a much larger acceptance to the masses.

Derek Howe

Could all the technology bloggers and reporters get together and use simply 4k and 8k?

thanks you, Easily confused consumer


Sunfly, And you would like them to use only 4k in reference to which one of the 6 recognised 4k formats?

hmmmmm. . . .

Format Name Resolution Display aspect ratio Pixels 4K Ultra-high-definition television 3840 × 2160 1.78:1 8,294,400 Digital Cinema Initiatives 4k (native resolution) 4096 × 2160 1.90:1 8,847,360 DCI 4K (CinemaScope cropped) 4096 × 1714 2.39:1 7,020,544 DCI 4K (flat cropped) 3996 × 2160 1.85:1 8,631,360 Academy 4K (storage format) 3656 × 2664 1.37:1 9,739,584 Full aperture 4K (storage format) 4096 × 3112 1.32:1 12,746,752

Russell Vonthien

Sony engineers are currently developing a converter box able to accept native Ultra HD via a bank of four HDMI inputs. This converter would then output the Ultra HD signal via a single HDMI to the projector.

Think about this for a second. If we are talking about using a bank of HDMI cables to transfer one channel over 5 feet how hard do you think it will be to deliver multiple UHD sources over cable, satellite, and Internet?

To add some perspective, if I were to download the timescapes video with my phone, at $15/GB for overage charges it would cost me about $4,920 for the single download.



I assumed 3840x2160 "Ultra High Definition". This would make upscaling 1080 content without interpolation. Honestly had no idea the other formats even existed!



Simple, don't continually stream 100 channels in parallel, but only the 1 channel I want to watch.


Perhaps a standard Thunderbolt port option can be considered as a wider wired standard. There is no need to keep computer peripheral and media content equipment separated.

Thunderbolt is good for 3m and 10Gbps. Small convenient plug. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thunderbolt_%28interface%29 Future revisions may extend this to beyond 5m to cater for the average home theatre, so there is no technical reason multiple 4k streams can't be pushed through one cable.

As an aside, we've just purchased an Epson projector with wireless HD (1080p, full 3D, Epson EH-TW9100W) because we needed something for work that was quiet and able to display large spreadsheets. Probably never use the 3D feature. But it works really well over 5-10m in the same room. This technology is capable of scaling to 4k. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WirelessHD

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