CES 2013: 4k UltraHD is whats hot, but its a dead technology already

sony-oled-4kVisiting CES, you would think that UltraHD is right around the corner with the manufacturers all showing off their brilliant 4k Televisions. The problem is that they are never ever coming to your living room. We don’t mean never, like they are 5 years away, we mean never as in in 50 years you will still be watching your 1080p displays.

Why? Well, there are several things wrong with UltraHD the first is that they are right up against the good enough wall that 1080p represents. No one is going to pay the price difference for the UltraHD sets in the next 5 years because in your living room, you really don’t need the extra resolution enough to make it worth even a 50% premium, much less the current premium of 10,000%. The second issue is that there is not now, nor is there ever going to be any available content to speak of.

People just don’t really understand what 4k is. 1080p is 1920×1080 pixels per frame. To store a 1080p feature film in high quality, it requires anywhere between 25 and 50 GB per movie on a Blu-Ray. To store a 4K UltraHD movie would require an astounding resolution of 4096×2160 and would require almost 10 Terrabytes of storage. You think you are getting that on a Blu-Ray? What about a successor to Blu-Ray? Just think about the current cost of data drives. Even if they were going to put movies on drives with spinning discs each drive would cost a grand. Even if you look at 5 years from now, the cost will be down to maybe 4-500 dollars.

That is for one movie. I just don’t think we are suddenly going to start paying that kind of price for our movies. Even if you got crazy and it got down to $100.00 would you even consider that cost per movie for your library?

So, you think maybe we will stream that content? Unless you have a Gigabit connection or actually higher you can forget that, most people cant even get faster than 50Mb connections. At that rate your movie will be ready to start streaming in about twelve hours.

But, these televisions look amazing at CES. I saw them, and they were impressive. That though is the real problem with UHD. I was in a giant room watching a 85 inch display. In my living room that becomes pointless. The average screen size is around 46 inches. Even if you have a really big television its a 55 or 60 inch unit. Houses just dont fit televisions bigger than that very often and that is the real problem with UHD. It is not even the technology, but you cannot tell the difference in resolution until you get over around 80 inches and that’s at around 20 feet. Go right now and measure the distance to your television. If you can get your TV 20 feet from where you can sit, 4k may be for you, but you are in about the top .0005% of consumers.

UHD for the home is just not in the cards anytime in say the next 25 years or so, but there are two different use cases for monitors that can display at that resolution.

The first is glasses free 3D. We saw some great uses at CES where the passive 3D was quite impressive, but there are still the storage and other problems to overcome with that and the other is for cameras. I can see a case where your photos will display brilliantly on an UHD screen, but are you going to pay this kind of a premium for that?

4K UltraHD is dead. Unless Apple does it. Then of course we all need it.  (Just saying.)