4K TVs steal the show at CES

Big tablets, wearable tech and Android PCs also made waves at the electronics tradeshow.

By InvestorPlace Jan 8, 2014 1:52PM
Credit: © Steve Marcus/Reuters

Caption: A Sony 85-inch Bravia XBR-X950B 4K television unveiled at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), in Las Vegas, Nev. January 6, 2014
By Brad Moon

So-called "4K" televisions dominated the headlines on CES' first day as manufacturers and content partners press full steam ahead to convince us to upgrade to super high-definition.

The press for 4K TVs -- the Ultra HD sets with more than 8 million pixels -- picks up where it left off from CES 2013.

Samsung (SSNLF), Sony (SNE), LG and the rest were pushing the 4K TV hard. Sony alone has nine new 4K TV sets coming to market. But in response to the growing threat of cheaper Chinese competition, that lineup includes smaller models with fewer frills and lighter price tags.

Samsung and LG, on the other hand, not only trotted out massive 4K TVs (we're talking 105 inches), but they're also pushing curved sets that help to eliminate reflections and provide viewers with a more immersive experience. Samsung's 105-inch curved monster, for example, is an Ultra HD flatscreen with edges that curve inward at the touch of a button.

Of course, 4K TV content was one of the problems at last year's CES and throughout 2013. The good news: CES 2014 was where the solutions began to materialize. It looks like the Ultra HD content savior is going to be streaming.

Netflix (NFLX) will be launching 4K streaming content in 2014. Comcast (CMCSA) is promoting 4K content through its Xfinity TV 4K streaming app. And Amazon (AMZN) announced a partnership with Samsung and studios to "pioneer 4K Ultra HD experience for customers."

Besides Amazon's commitment to facilitate 4K video streaming through Amazon Instant Video, it has also committed to shooting all of its original video programming for 2014 in native 4K Ultra HD.

While 4K TV solutions ramped up to help the technology go mainstream, a few TV technologies appear to be falling by the wayside. If you had any doubts that 3D TV is dead, look no further than CES 2014 for confirmation. Vizio -- one of the biggest flatscreen TV manufacturers -- dropped support for 3D altogether in this year's models.

When a leading manufacturer stops treating 3D as an afterthought and removes it completely from its line-up, that technology has flatlined.

The other technology facing a questionable future is the media streamer. Roku announced it is releasing its own line of TVs (with its streaming player built-in) and more TVs are appearing with Android support.

To be clear, there were still plenty of new streaming add-ons announced at CES 2014, including a Netgear (NTGR) NeoMediacast dongle aimed at Google's (GOOG) popular Chromecast. But as more TVs pack streaming technology inside and the 4K TV (with that built-in streaming capability) inches closer to mainstream, some analysts are casting doubt on the future of plug-in and set-top streamers like the Apple (AAPL) TV.

More From InvestorPlace

As of this writing, Brad Moon did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.

Jan 8, 2014 2:48PM

This is really cool and glad to see 4K becoming a reality now. Biggest thing is that there seems to actually be some content that will be available that takes advantage of it. The only issue at the moment will be cost and getting the content to catch up. I would say its a couple years or more before this really makes it mainstream.

Otherwise people need to keep in mind that 4K matters only on really large TV's. 4K on anything at minimum 55" and under, my guess, you won't be able to perceive the difference. Hell even 1080p on smaller sets like 32" and under gets to where you can't tell a difference between that and 720p. It has a place but its not for everyone and for most people 1080p will be more than enough for the TV they have. So again this makes a difference for large TV's. Anyone with a smaller TV who has 1080p, you are at the end of what your eyes can tell and buying a 4K set would be similar to paying $70 for "premium" hdmi cables. Won't do anything but make your wallet lighter.

But good job and look forward to see more of what the future has in store.

I think its time

Jan 8, 2014 6:08PM

OK, so I make my living in the AV industry as a designer. And I have to say that 4K resolution on "smaller" class displays, say 50" or less (The argument can actually be made for larger than that, but I'll start with the most ridiculous examples) is simply marketing to sell TV's. The human eye has nowhere near the acuity to meaningfully discern the pixel field of a 50" 1080 monitor from 10 feet away, much less the pixel field of a 4K TV, with upwards of 4 times the resolution. 

Even assuming that the content has anywhere near that type of resolution, of course.  

My concern is that in being caught up in the "I must have the latest and greatest" technology, there are actually people getting rid of completely viable high resolution monitors, adding wildly unnecessary and sometimes dangerous waste to our landfills, and all in order to obtain an upgrade that the human eye can't resolve in a reasonable viewing space.

There is an application for 4K, but it is on a big screen.  Think about it, if you have been going to the movies in the last few years in a digital cinema, you were probably watching 2K (roughly half of 4K) resolution on a 40 foot wide screen. Could you see pixilation? I would be highly surprised if you did, and I would further say you were sitting too close and probably breaking your neck to see the whole image.

What possible real advantage would there be to double that resolution on a 50" screen? Our eyes simply can't see it. So, please, realize that the manufacturers have to come up with something new to sell screens. That doesn't mean that we all have to buy it. Maybe there are other reasons to invest, such as energy efficiency or sometimes more extreme refresh rates associated with (groan) 3D, but I'd think hard before replacing an existing quality 1080 display with 4K. All you will get is a higher price tag and the need to dispose of something that probably has many good years of use left.

Of course, just an opinion, but one based on many years in the AV industry.

Jan 8, 2014 6:01PM

105 " 4K HD TV, wooo hooo !!

I'm gonna need a bigger house !!

Jan 8, 2014 2:21PM
It is the 4K "OLED" TV's that are stealing the show. Plasma and LCD will join 3-D in the very near future.
Jan 8, 2014 3:37PM
Big electronic industry seems to be in a conundrum. How do you sell Television sets like computers or other devices? Most Americans purchase a TV as a durable good item. It's kind of like an investment. Most will keep these sets for 10+ years depending on the size. Smaller sets may get moved to bedrooms or college dorm rooms or wherever. Somehow I don't think "upgrading" to a new set every 2 years like a cell phone is on the horizon for HDTV. Just look at the flop HD3D turned out to be. Can't give those sets away. 
Jan 8, 2014 3:05PM
We're happy with our 65 inch Sony 4K TV purchased last year. One thing not mentioned here in regard to 3D is that the quality of the 3D on a 4K TV is as close as you can get in your home to Real 3D in the movie theaters. If you like that, you should love these.
Jan 8, 2014 3:58PM
I love the 4k. I will buy as soon as the price drops!
Jan 8, 2014 5:29PM
Worse than HD rollout, nothing to watch, no broadcasts, so yeah go spend a small fortune for a TV that won't do you any good for until the broadcasters start putting out 4k quality broadcasts at 10$ a channel more per month. The ONLY thing that 4k benefits now is you computer if you are lucky enough to have a top end Nvidia card installed
Jan 8, 2014 5:07PM
Sorry Moe, your just a tech nerd having his nerdgasm over 4K.  Do the research before spouting off at the mouth.  4K will not benefit anyone with a TV around 60 inches or less.  No sir, I am not blind.  I can tell the differecne between 720P and 1080P on my 60 inch Samsung.  It is very difficult to see the difference between 720/1080P on a 40 inch or 32 inch TV.  I will not detect a noticeable difference between my 1080P set and 4K.  Not enough for me to have a 4K set.  That sir has been the point made by those whom you deemed funny.   

The TV industry has been shoving 1080P down our throats for years in order to get people to buy new TV's. And now they wish to shove 4K down my throat?  Don't think so.  My 1080P 60" Samsung ES8000 has one amazing picture.  There isn't even a thought of upgrading.  I am not the only person who wont consider upgrading after just purchasing a 1080P set.
Jan 8, 2014 6:21PM
I'm holding out for 100kHD, no wait, 1000kHD no, 1,000,000kHD.
Jan 8, 2014 6:00PM
Its very nice. Ive seen it up close and personal. I will have one in the future, just when the price is negotiable.
Jan 8, 2014 6:21PM
Streaming 4K content?  Internet speed is going to have to increase 10X the current "high speed" internet to stream that much data.
Jan 8, 2014 2:34PM
You're eyes can't even see the 4k resolutions. So it should be a bust, but because of idiotic bragging rights and others "Keeping up with the Jones's", they will sell a few. I'm still all good with my 28" 1080 tv, and I have no need in keeping up with anyone. Everything I own has a purpose, including my TV Tuner in my desktop tv (Because I don't need too pay someone for the right too record what I want too watch).
Jan 8, 2014 6:12PM
I find this article rather humorous lol. Keepin up with the Jones's. There was just an article on MSN by a Dr or eye specialist noting that the human eye does not have the capability to take in all those bragging rights pixels. The human eye & the brain can only process so much. They can tout this as the "newest & greatest thing since sliced bread" but it still doesn't do you any good at all if you can't utilize it. BUT I know all this hype will sell them anyway. I'll pass, my TV works just fine lol.
If you don't think there much of a noticeable difference from 1080 to 4K than stand real close to a 45 inch 1080 HDTV.  You can see the pixels.  1080 on smaller screen sizes is much harder to notice the pixels, even close up.  Apparently 4K HDTVs would only be appreciated on screen sizes 45 + while standing real close to the screen.
However, 4K will make 3D more impressive regardless of the screen size.

Jan 8, 2014 4:00PM

I rather have 2 or  3 x 1080p projectors with an total image way more than the 100 inch tv for a fraction of the price.


4k resolution is only good pass a certain screen size.  4k on a 32 inch monitor would maybe increase your viewing pleasure by 5%?

Jan 8, 2014 6:19PM
Think I rather go outside and enjoy the Big 3D of fresh air and open space. You can keep your couch potato lifestyles. I rather be outside doing something.  
Jan 8, 2014 6:50PM
Will I need to buy a 4K player and 4K movies?
Jan 8, 2014 6:14PM
Interesting? Yes, practical? No. I understand the need for better quality, sound, picture etc. My concern has to do with affordability. With the economy STILL in a mudslide, so to speak, how many of us can afford these marvels of electronic convenience and brilliance? Renting an apartment in New York City has left me with nothing but a bed and a wall unit. My computer is old, and so is my TV, and there's no money for take out, I can't afford the tip. I'd like a scientist to figure out how I can live in an alternate space without paying a dime, maybe then I can afford this TV.
Jan 8, 2014 6:46PM
Your eyes can't tell the difference on a reasonable TV to Room Size.  This is only for those individuals who have rooms dedicated to a very large screen home theater.  Sorry, the human eye can only see so much detail. 
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