This is a year of transition, for technology. This year will see major companies like Sony and Samsung attempting to push the release of 4k and Ultra-HD products.
Products including 4k Ultra-HD TV’s, 4k Ultra-HD blu-ray players as well as blu-ray discs, new HDMI cables and consoles such as the rumoured Playstation Neo (4.5) and the next XBOX.
This means that for many people (myself included), in order to view films and TV shows and even some games in 4k, we have to spend a lot of money.
But what is 4k? 4k is the next big thing. That’s the basic answer. That’s also the answer the likes of Sony will want us to believe. Basically, there are currently two standards of viewing:
- Standard Definition – 480p or less
- High Definition – 1080p (sometimes 720p and 1080i are considered HD too, but they kinda aren’t.)
4k is the next step up. The numbers reflect the amount of lines displayed on a screen at any given time. So, for example, when viewing something in 480p, there are 640×480 lines. The more lines you have, the better the image. So when 1080p has 1080 lines, that means 4k has four thousand lines and is as such, a big leap in quality.
The problem with all of this is the cost and the value. In order to view something in 4k, you need a new 4k UHD TV. Some of these are going relatively cheap these days. But, when it comes to buying TV’s, you pay for what you get. That means that the more expensive TV’s are better. These more expensive TV’s are currently costing more than a thousand British pounds. That’s a lot of money.
And that’s not enough. You actually need a piece of hardware to stream and play the 4k content. So, you’d need to upgrade to Sky Q (which doesn’t show 4k content yet), you’d need to upgrade your Netflix subscription to the top tier or you’d need to buy a new UHD blu-ray player. These blu-ray players are relatively brand new too, that means they’re very expensive. You’re talking a few hundred British pounds (for a cheap one!).
Not only that, once you have the device and the TV, you need HDMI cables. These cables can also be expensive. They can range from £10 to over a hundred. Now, I’m no expert on these cables and I’ve heard mixed reports. Some say the cheap ones are just as good as the expensive ones. But that makes me wonder why the expensive ones are so expensive. There must be some sort of difference. Yes?
In terms of streaming on Netflix or Amazon. You don’t necessarily need a HDMI cable or a UHD blu-ray player or a 4k UHD TV. You do however need a good computer monitor or display and a good internet provider with plenty of bandwidth.
You also have to consider the amount of 4k UHD content out there. As of writing, no UHD blu-rays have yet to be sold in the UK. That means that the only providers currently in the UK are via Amazon and Netflix. Amazon’s UHD collection is very slim at the moment. Netlfix meanwhile can stream in 4k but the only shows and films that are actually made with the ability to be shown in 4k are Netflix’s exclusives.
A mention also has to be made of 4k UHD HDR technology. HDR refers to High Dynamic Range and it basically allows for a higher range of colours on screen. Netflix has announced plans to begin streaming HDR content and there are now newer and even more expensive TV’s with HDR capabilities. Like UHD content, HDR content is yet to exist. In order to make something HDR compatible, a lot of work is required. And that work costs money which means HDR content will probably be expensive.
Another mention also has to be made of gaming content. There are many rumours circulating about the Playstation NEO, also known as the Playstation 4.5/4k. This console will supposedly allow for video games to display 4k images and it may also help VR headsets such as the Playstation VR, do their job.There isn’t much to say on this subject yet because they’re just rumours and nothing has been confirmed.
Ultimately, this means that an investment into 4k technology may not be necessary just yet. If you do invest in such technology, you better have plenty of cash saved up. 4k Ultra-HD has not become the revolution manufacturers such as Sony and Samsung want it to be. It will, very likely, become such a thing though.
You also have to consider another thing. As streaming sites such as Netflix and Amazon advance. (Which they’re doing pretty quickly). Will the UHD blu-rays kick off and become a success? I don’t think so. At this point, with DVD’s and blu-rays, you also have to consider shelf space for new UHD blu-rays. As it is, I’m already buying and renting films digitally in order to save space I don’t have.
Personally, I have mixed feelings about this. I’m the sort of person who likes to have the latest gadget and technology. I’ll probably buy the Playstation NEO when it comes out if it’s got a reasonable price and good specs. I’ll probably end up getting a UHD blu-ray player at some point and I’m already on the lookout for a new TV. What’s concerning me is the price and where does it end? If i buy all of these items and get to watch films and TV shows in UHD, what happens when the next big thing happens? What will the next big thing be? I certainly don’t have the room or money to keep upgrading my equipment. That makes me think that the next big thing is Amazon and Netflix. So, with the exception of the TV’s and the necessary cables. the other stuff might not be needed.