It’s a good day when you can go to Best Buy and see a brand new toy from Sony.
Sony is introducing its brand new line of 4K televisions. The one that I saw was the XBR-55X900A. My thoughts? Well, this is their 55-inch model, and it was …
I’m sorry? Oh, what on earth is 4K? OK, let’s take it back a step. This is going to be a little geeky, so feel free to skip this paragraph and jump to the next. Let’s say that you have a flat-screen LCD in your home. LCD televisions and monitors (and plasma, if I’m not mistaken) use a bunch of little “Pixels” make the image. When you got the TV, somewhere on the box or on the set on a sticker, or maybe the salesperson told you that the television was either 720P or 1080P. The “P” stands for Progressive Scan (not pixel), but that’s a conversation for another day. The number before the P represents the Resolution of the television (resolution is the number of lines of pixels on the display), so the resolution on a 1080P television is 1,920 pixels across 1,080 lines (1920 by 1080). For computer monitors, both numbers are used, but generally for televisions it’s just the second number, i.e. 1080 or 720. Essentially, the higher that number, the higher the resolution, and the more detailed the picture.
A 4K televisions resolution is FOUR TIMES the resolution of a standard 1080P television, which means basically 4 times the number of pixels, which means a very, VERY smooth and detailed picture. And it was a very, VERY smooth and detailed picture on the Sony, along with very nice speakers mounted on either side. BUT … there’s a caveat here. What I was watching was a 4K video loop being fed from a PC or hard drive; it was a demonstration on how good a 4K image looks on this television. And there’s the caveat … your standard DVD player, which has the resolution of 720 by 480 (or 480P), isn’t sending your expensive 1080P television a 1080P signal. So the TV does some magic tricks to the image and makes the image 1080P, which is called “Upconversion”. Depending on how well the television (or DVD player or AV receiver) does the upconversion process, the image you see can range from pretty good to downright awful. If you have cable or satellite chances are your current HDTV is upconverting a few of the channels that you watch if they aren’t being broadcast in HD. So you aren’t going to get the detail on your television from a DVD from a standard DVD player that you would if it was coming from, say, a Blu-ray on a Blu-ray player, which is 1080P.
Now … multiply that caveat by a factor of 4, since 4K is 4 times the resolution of 1080P, and currently there aren’t any 4K discs, 4K disc players, no 4K on-line streaming (i.e. Netflix), or any other way to get 4K other than the $700 server Sony will offer that’s preloaded with 10 4K movies, and what you have here is an expensive set with a resolution you more than likely won’t be taking advantage of. They do say, however, that there will be a 4K distribution network planned for this fall. I wasn’t able to see “regular” HD upconverted on this television, but I’m told that it looks very nice. I’m sure eventually I’ll be able to go to a store and play with one (there was a Sony rep there controlling the demo). In the meantime, my advice would be to stick with a 1080P LED or a nice HD plasma for the time being. Again, it was a beautiful set, but in my opinion the lack of 4K things to watch makes it a difficult sell. That’s quite a bit of change to spend on a television that you aren’t able to fully utilize at the moment. That is, of course, unless you just happen to have a spare $5000 laying around, and don’t mind spending it on a television … In that case, invite me over after you have it delivered.
Talk to you soon!