To those who are in the know, Ultra HD, or 4K, TVs are not a new concept.  CES 2013 back in January saw most major manufacturers, and many lower-tier brands, showcasing their own versions of the new technology.  But it’s amazing how many people still don’t know what Ultra HD means, and what’s so special about it.

In the simplest terms, Ultra HDTVs cram four times as many pixels into the same surface area as a regular TV, producing images that are sharper and display more detail than ever before.  Instead of the 1920 x 1080 pixels used in the best HDTVs, Ultra HD doubles the number of pixels horizontally and vertically, resulting in a screen resolution of 3840 x 2160 pixels, or four times the previous number!  You would have to sit unusually close to your Ultra HDTV in order to see any pixilation!

  HD_vs_UHD_20131004

What this means for viewers is a picture that is crisper than any you’re used to seeing.  The clarity approaches that of the real world around you, resulting in a much more immersive experience.  Below is an example of the resolution difference between HD and UHDTVs.

HD_Comparison_20131004

It sure makes the TV currently hanging on your wall look shabby, no?

Ultra HDTVs first began appearing in retail last December, when LG and Sony trotted out their gigantic 84-inch versions.  The LG model is currently available for $16,999, while the 84-inch Sony TV goes for $24,999.  Not to be outdone, Samsung launched an 85-inch Ultra HDTV this past June, which commands a whopping $39,999 price tag to bring home.

Not all 4K TV prices are that unreasonably priced though.  In fact, manufacturers have been releasing smaller sizes and dropping prices dramatically over the past month, enabling you to get a 55-inch UHDTV from LG, Samsung, or Sony for only $3,499, or a 65-inch version from the same manufacturers for $4,999.

While those prices may still be out of range for many people, let’s remember that new technologies always enter the market with drastically inflated prices, which always come down as production margins improve, the tech becomes more widely available, and demand increases past early adopters.  Given that a high-end 55-inch HDTV can cost as much as $2,700, shelling out an extra $800 for the massively-improved picture of an Ultra HDTV seems like a small difference to pay.

UHD_Retail_Placements_20131004There are currently 18 Ultra HDTV retail placements, with more expected before the end of the year.  I highly recommend heading out to your local Best Buy, Fry’s Electronics, or hhgregg to take a peek at the new TVs for yourself, and then keep them in mind for your next TV purchase.  The average TV replacement cycle in the US is below seven years, meaning that if you plan to purchase a new TV in the next couple of years, 4K may be a bit out of your price range.  But if you wait long enough, 8K TVs will eventually emerge (they’re already working on them), and you may be able to nab a 4K Ultra HDTV of your own when prices drop farther.  Is 4K the TV of the future?  Sure!  Until 8K takes over, and a new technology wave starts up again.