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Smart Review | 4K TV Buying Guide 2014-2015 | Ultra HD HDTVs

January 24, 2015 by  
Filed under HDTV, HDTV Articles

Samsung's 88-inch 4K TV at CES 2015

4K TV Buying Guide (2014-2015) – The 4K revolution is upon us. A 4K UHD TV has four times the resolution of Full HD 1080p TVs. Regular HDTVs have 2 million pixels (1920 X 1080), while a 4K TV has 8 million pixels (3,840 X 2,160). This is the same resolution as a movie theater. Most theaters have Sony 4K Projectors installed. 4K can also be described as Quad HD, or 2160p. We have seen a growing number of manufacturers committing themselves to 4K TVs at the 2014 and 2015 Consumer Electronics Show (CES).

4K TVs have been quite expensive to start, but prices have dropped sharply as can be seen with Sony’s entries in 2014. In 2012 you could not buy a 4K TV below $10,000. Today a top tier 4K 55-inch TV is under $2,500.00. There are cheap Chinese 4K UHD TVs entering the market as well, under $1500.00, but they currently do not have the same quality of upscaling capabilities of the mainstream manufacturers like Sony, Samsung, Sharp, and LG. See our 4K TV Comparison to compare models.

Top Picks Best Rated 4K Ultra HD TVs – Below are Smart Review’s Top picks for 4K Ultra HD TVs. We believe that 2014-2015 will see the adoption of 4K as the high end standard in TVs. In time, 4K will be as common as Full HD sets are now. 4K is now shown at movie theaters as many now have 4K resolution projectors. Now you can get the movie theater resolution in your home. Top Picks in 4K TVs:

Related Article: 4K Ultra HD TV Roundup and Comparison

Sharp's new Quattron+ TVs with the new Revelation™ 4K Upscaler Engine

4K Ready TVs: Not ready for a 4K TV? Sharp has produced the only 4K Ready Full HD 1080p TV Currently on the market. It has 10 million more subpixels than regular HDTVs, and allows it to upconvert HD to near 4K quality as well as being able to display native 4K Ultra HD content on its display. It uses the Revelation™ 4K upscaler Engine and Quattron+ Technology to achieve these results. These sell at substantial discount to true 4K TVs, but future proofs your TV to display 4K content as it becomes available. It also does a great job of upconverting regular HD and is the highest resolution Full HD 1080p TV available. We previewed this subpixel technology at CES 2014 and it was extremely impressive. Top Picks in 4K Ready 1080p TVs:

4K Ultra HD TVs Why would I want a 4K TV? A 4K TV is the next evolutionary step in HDTVs. 4K has four times the resolution of Full HD 1080p (which only has 2 million pixels). With a resolution of 8 million pixels, the 4K TV will give you a much clearer picture than regular Full HD. Its almost like looking through a window. You can sit much closer to the TV and get a movie theater experience. The beauty of the 4K UHD TV is that even Blu-rays that are in 1080p can be upconverted to take advantage of the higher resolution and look much better than on a 1080p HDTV. Newer Blu-rays are now being mastered in 4K for even better image quality. The image processor is the most important part of these 4K TVs for upscaling HD to Ultra HD. Sony’s upscaling technology is called X-Reality, Sharp’s is called Revelation™, and both are very impressive as we have previewed them at CES 2014 and CES 2015.

Netflix ink Will there be any native 4K content available? Currently Youtube has 4K Ultra HD content, Netflix is now showing streaming Ultra HD 4K content (such as House of Cards and Breaking Bad). ESPN, XFinity (Comcast), and DirecTV will also follow in 2014-2015 with Ultra HD Content. 4K blu-ray discs are coming in 2015, as Panasonic had a prototype 4K Player at CES 2015. Amazon Prime 4K is streaming 4K content now. Sony has a 4K player pre-loaded with 4K movies, and the ability to download more. Cable TV access to 4K will come later, but a new Cable service called Google Fiber is starting to build a Gigabit network throughout the country. This will be up to 200 times faster than regular cable and cable TV. This speed will be able to support native 4K content, and fast downloads of 4K movies. We believe that Verizon and Comcast will have to follow suit and build their own gigabit network to survive. To help with 4K streaming video, a new video codec, called HEVC h.265 will replace the current h.264 mpeg 4 video codec, with the ability to stream video at twice the quality for the same bandwidth. 4K Camcorders were introduced at CES 2015 for under $1000. All of these factors will make 4K TV a reality, sooner than later.

What 4K TVs are on sale and available now? All major manufacturers now have 4K TVs that are available to purchase now. Prices have started out very high, but are starting to come down dramatically. Sony was the first mainstream manufacturer to sell 4K TVs under $10,000.00, and now 65-inch models are under $2,500.00. More are scheduled to come in 2015. The prices of the largest 84-inch models and larger models are still high, but dropping fast. We saw all makers of TVs at CES 2015 with many new 4K models. Chinese manufacturers will introduce much cheaper 4K UHD TVs in 2015 which we hope will have better upscalers more comparable to the first tier brands, as we were disappointed by the quality of the 1st generation Chinese 4K TVs.

Related Article: 4K Ultra HD TV Roundup and Comparison

Sony 4K X-Reality Pro Chip

Sony's 4K image processor

What is a 4K Upscaler? All 4K TVs look great when viewing native 4K content. But what about current 1080p and 720p HD content from cable TV, satellite TV, and Blu-ray discs? These must be upscaled to 4K so that they will look great on your 4K TV. The picture on your 4K TV should look better than viewing this same content on a regular HDTV. Mainstream TV makers have better upscalers than cheaper brands. Brands such as Samsung, Sony, Sharp, LG, and Panasonic have excellent upscalers. This is one of the most important features on a 4K TV.

Sony’s 4K X-Reality Pro Chip – The 2014 Sony XBR X900B and the Sony XBR X850B Series 4K TVs use this image processor to upscale video that is lower than 4K, and view it with a clarity not possible without this Chip technology. The 4K X-Reality chip enhances HD or lower resolution and refines it for the extra resolution of the Full 4K screen. Cheaper 4K TVs will not have the image processing power of this technology. Sony is a leader in 4K technology and pioneered this technology for movie theaters. The majority of 4K Projectors in movie theaters are made by Sony.

How close can you sit to a 4K TV? When viewing 4K content with a 55-inch or 65-inch 4K TV, you can sit as close as 3-4 feet, and 5-6 feet as the most optimal immersive experience. The pixels are so small you will not be able to see them from those viewing distances. Sitting closer will give you a movie theater type experience not possible with lower resolution HDTVs.

HEVC H.265 Compression

HEVC/H.265 decoding Most of the newest 2014 4K TVs now have a new decoder HEVC/H.265 (High Efficiency Video Coding) which can send double the video resolution in the same bandwidth signal, or uses 50% of the bandwidth for the same resolution. This will allow existing cable and internet providers to send us 4K content. Netflix, Comcast, and possibly Blu-ray discs will be using this new compression for 4K content. The Comcast Xfinity X1 platform cable TV boxes will be equipped with HEVC, which will allow it to decode native 4K signals. This will allow content providers to send 4K over existing cable and internet cables. Dish Network announced their 4K Joey Set Top Box at CES 2015

2014-2015 4K UHD TVs with a Built-in HEVC (H.265) Decoder:

Panasonic's 4K Blu-ray prototype presented at CES 2015

4K Blu-ray Discs coming in 2015 – The 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray disc will finally be introduced in 2015. It will use the new HEVC (h.265) compression, give 4k at up to 60fps, increase the color pallette from 8 to 10 bit color, and increase the dynamic range of the picture. So, not only are you getting 4x more pixels, but a better overall picture. The first disks will use the standard 50 gigabyte two layer discs now used for standard blu-ray, and increase capacity up to 100gb later. Panasonic showcased their 4K Blu-ray Player at CES 2015.

What is 3D like on a 4K TV? There’s 3D, then there is 3D with 4K Ultra HD. If you have active 3D Glasses, you will see life-like 3D images with a realism not seen before. The level of detail is stunning, as its the closest thing to being in a Movie Theater. If you have a passive 3D 4K TV, you will see a minimum of Full HD 1080p in each eye. We have seen demonstrations of 3D on a 4K TV and it is the best we have ever seen on a TV. The 4K TV truly brings out the potential of 3D.

4K Projectors at your movie theater

Movie Theater 4K Projectors – Without knowing it, we all have been watching 4K at the movie theater. The 4K projector pictured above is an actual Sony 4K projector that was on display at CES 2015. Sony has over 15,000 4K projectors in theaters worldwide and has a decade of experience in 4K. Your 4K TV will give you movie theater resolution at home. Sony 4K TVs have this advanced technology built into them.

What is HDMI 2.0? HDMI 2.0 is a new standard that is made for 4K TVs. It will allow you to see much higher frame rates than now possible. This will be important when new content and games that require high frame rates are used. New consumer 4K UHD camcorders will be available shortly that will allow you to record your friends and family at the same resolution as what is shown at movie theaters. These 4K camcorders will eventually be able to do higher framerates. Thats where HDMI 2.0 kicks in. Almost all 2014 and 2015 4K TVs have HDMI 2.0 standard on their TVs. HDMI 2.0 has a higher bandwidth which will make possible full-resolution 4K 3D, which is a real treat to see.

2014-2015 4K UHD TVs with HDMI 2.0 connectivity:

Sharp Aquos THX 4K Certified

What is THX 4K Certification? To try for THX Certification, manufacturers ship their TVs to the THX Testing Lab in Northern California. A team of expert technicians report on their findings, and only the best TVs get THX certification. Currently the Sharp UD27 UHD 4K Ultra HD LED 3D TV Series (2014-15 model) is the only THX 4K Certified TV available. Sharp in earning the world’s first THX 4K certification, had to pass over 400 rigorous tests, ensuring that it met the highest standards in picture performance.

Related Article: 4K Ultra HD TV Roundup and Comparison

Related Article: HDTV Buying Guide 2014-2015

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