Quite literally, some of the biggest attention-getters at the IFA consumer electronics show in Berlin last August were the 84-in. 3840 x 2160-pixel resolution television sets from both Sony and LG. Sony's unit, the XBR-84X900, features an LED-edgelit LCD with built-in speakers, full network capability, and passive-glasses-based 3-D (Fig. 1). LG's 84LM9600 is also an LCD with LED edge-lighting. It comes with net-work capability and 2.2 Sound speakers with two subwoofers, as well as passive-glasses 3-D.
Fig. 1: Sony's XBR-84X900 features an LED-edgelit LCD with built-in speakers, full network capability, and passive-glasses-based 3-D.
There are larger TVs – Panasonic makes a 103-in. plasma unit (as well as specialty TVs in even larger sizes) and Sharp is now offering a 90-in. LCD – but not many. And there are smaller TVs with 4K resolution from several manufacturers. What stands out about these 84-in. TVs is their size in combination with their resolution – 4 times that of HD. CNET reporter Geoffrey Morrison is just one of many experts who believe that 4K alone is not a selling point. "…at the sizes most people buy and at the distances most people sit from a TV, 1080p is largely unnecessary, making 4K ridiculous overkill," he wrote recently, adding that 84 in. is not a "normal" size and would probably make the added resolution from 4K content more discernible.1
The availability of said 4K content is an issue. At this time, virtually none exists for home TVs and so the 4K set you buy today may likely show upconverted 1080p content for the foreseeable future. A small yet clearly visible disclaimer appears on the same Web page on which LG's new set is touted: "No 'ultra definition' or '4K' content is currently available. No broadcast or other standard currently exists for '4K' or 'ultra definition' television and the unit may not be compatible with such standards if and when developed." 2
It's a chicken and egg situation somewhat similar to the early days of HD or 3-D – does the content or the platform come first? (In the case of both HD and 3-D, content development was even farther along than is 4K right now.) That the platform has led the march in the case of 4K is driven in part by set makers' desire to have a hot feature with which to sell more TVs. (For more about this, see this issue's Display Marketplace by Paul Semenza, who describes the current environment for both 4K and OLED TVs.)
In the meantime, these sets from Sony and LG will still provide a big, beautiful picture, if you have the kind of home and wallet that can handle them. At a price tag of $24,999 for the Sony and $19,999 for the LG, they won't be in every home. As technology writer Richard Lawler observed in a review of the Sony for Engadget, for about the same money, one could buy "a decently equipped 2013 Ford Focus." 3 The LG unit has been shipping in Korea and should be available in North America in October 2012. Sony is currently taking preorders for its unit, which will also be available in Q4 '12.