First there was tube-TV. Then came flat-screen, followed by high-def.
Now comes the latest — Ultra HD.
Will it be a hit, or flop like 3-D?
On Thursday, LG will begin selling an 84-inch Ultra HD TV at the Video & Audio Center in Lawndale, the first time that the next-generation TV technology will go on sale in the U.S.
Ultra HD is the branding term for TV sets with roughly four times the resolution of 1080p HD TVs. Ultra HD TVs promise to bring the clarity you see on 40-inch HD TVs to sets with screens larger than 60 inches.
That’s good news because the average size of TV screens has been steadily climbing. But as big-screen TV viewers know, picture quality diminishes as the screen gets larger.
Not surprisingly, LG’s 84-inch Ultra HD TV is an expensive piece of technology. It retails for $19,999.99.
Sony too has an Ultra HD set on the way next month, the 84-inch XBR Ultra HD 4K TV, and it’s even more expensive — going for $24,999.99.
As with all new TV technology, prices are expected to come down quickly as time passes, but the question remains whether consumers will flock to Ultra HD technology or treat it like another novelty the way they have with the 3-D TV.
I got a chance to check out both sets, and although it will take time for Ultra HD to go mainstream, it may have a higher chance at widespread adoption than 3-D.
For starters, you don't need glasses to appreciate Ultra HD TVs.
Ultra HD content looks perfect whether you're 2 feet or 20 feet away from the screen. The more than 8 million pixels these TVs have take advantage of the screens' real estate and deliver an image that is particularly impressive with landscapes.
A view of Paris at night seemed as though I was there as I discerned lights from each building's windows. A video of a coastline from atop a cliff made me feel as if I were on the bluff looking down watching the waves hit the beach.
One drawback to Ultra HD TVs at the moment is lack of content that can truly take advantage of the super high resolution. But fortunately, Ultra HD sets are capable of converting what you already watch.
That means Blu-ray movies, Netflix, cable TV shows and video games will work with the new-age TVs with no problem, albeit they will look grainier than so-called native Ultra HD content shot at Ultra HD resolutions.
The LG and the Sony Ultra HD sets benefit from having smart TV apps and having the capability to display images in 3-D.
Both come with passive, lightweight 3-D glasses that enable you to watch content from many viewing angles without losing quality. They can also convert two-dimensional content to 3-D.
Additionally, the sets are Internet connected. On the LG, I was able to test out YouTube, which worked quickly and with no snags.
For now, Ultra HD TV is mainly reserved for the affluent and the hard-core technophile who likes to be first with the latest gadget.
But two years from now, when it's time for the 2014 World Cup and Winter Olympics, you might want to consider getting one.
By then, prices should have come down and smaller Ultra HD sets that will more realistically fit in your living room might be on sale. Additionally, Ultra HD content should be more widely available by then.