Fast Forward to 4K!

14th June 2015
Fast Forward to 4K!

Special Focus: 4K/ UHD
Prices of 4K TVs  in India, are crashing  to  match  HD Tv prices. Here's a reality check for buyers
By Anand Parthasarathy

Bangalore, June 15 2015: That ancient latin warning:  Caveat emptor: let the buyer beware,  has suddenly  become meaningful, particularly  if you are shopping for a new TV set. Throughout June  the price of "4K" or  Ultra High Definition (UHD) TV has been crashing . On some online sites  it matches the cost of a HD LED TV of the same size. Makers companies  like VU and Micromax, are leading the race to cut prices   on 4K TVs around  42 inches to  between Rs 35,000 to Rs 40,000. Their aggressive prices are forcing other brands to drop their own prices if not to the same level.   Buyers needs to know what they are  getting at these
I can  vouch from personal experience that the jump from full HD to UHD (otherwise known as 4K) is just as stunning -- thanks to a four-fold increase in the number of pixels within a given space -- as was the change  from  standard definition to  HD.   
So if you are able to buy a  4K LED TV    -- that  is also a Smart TV with built-in Internet -- for  just 3000 - 4000 rupees  more than a HD LED TV,  why not?   But here's a reality check:

  • Having invested in a 4K TV what is there to see in 4K?  Hardly anything.  Unlike Bluray disks which  give you movies in HD, there are,  as yet,  no  UHD disks.   Today, there are  two  DTH operators -- TataSky and Videocon d2h -- who offer 4K Set Top Boxes for between Rs 5000 and Rs 6000  and at least one permanent channel -- mostly documentary clips  -- of 4K quality.   Both of them  broadcast a few matches of the Cricket World Cup  in 4K to  let subscribers see the difference. The next big sports event where one can expect to see  in 4K is the Olympics in Rio -- and that's 450 days away.       Other Indian satellite and Cable TV operators can be expected to launch their own 4K services by then.
  • For the fast action of sport to be captured at 4K, they have to shoot at higher  frame rates   -- 60 - 100 frames per second -- compared with 30 fps of  HD.  This means your 4K TV must also be  capable of this frame rate.  TV makers rarely publicize their frame rate in the advertised specs  and when they do, they use  misleading jargon like Clear Motion Rate  which could end up being double the actual frame rate. So if you see a great deal online, you have to do your own homework on the  maker's website to ensure that your 4K TV   can actually display the 4K content that your TV service provider will offer.   Otherwise  your 4K experience will be four-fold  frustration, when the Games  begin! 
  • If 4K content is scarce, you can always create your own! Quite a few smartphones,      like the Samsung Galaxy range , the Sony Xperia range, select HTC, LG, Xiaomi and Lenovo   handsets   shoot video in  UHD/4K at 60 fps.  You can then connect the phone to your 4K  TV to view the content.  You need an MHL cable to this.
  • Vipin Sawhney,   India Country Manager of Silicon Image, the company that has brought MHL to India, cautions that  earlier models of 4K TVs might not be   MHL-ready, in which case the UHD video will get down scaled  to HD quality.  And how do I know if the 4K TV I am about to buy is MHL-ready?  Peer at the back of the set.  You should find the MHL symbol alongside the HDMI port.    

So,  you may well  get a 4K TV tomorrow for  the price of a HD set,  but to ensure  if you are really ready for the future, you have a to do  a bit of undercover work!   
Tech Note:
Standard Definition means   480 x 720 pixels
High Definition: 720 by 1280 pixels
Full High Definition (2K):  1080 by 1920 pixels
Ultra High Definition (4K): 2160 by 3840 pixels
Ultra High Definition ( 8K) 4320 by 7680 pixels

Other parts of our special focus on 4K/UHD this week: