Are Sony's 'Cheap' Ultra-HD TVs Worth the Price?
The pictures on Sony's 65- and 55-inch 4K TVs really are incredibly smooth and colorful.
CREDIT: Sean Captain
Las Vegas is full of surprises, and this week's broadcasting industry tradeshow started with a big one. Sony announced pricing for its new ultra-high-definition "4K" TVs — televisions with four times the regular Full HD resolution — that will be available on April 21. Prices were about a quarter of what other manufacturers had estimated for their own 4K TVs at CES earlier this year.
But $5,000 is a lot to spend on a 55-inch TV ($7,000 for 65-inch TV), especially considering Sony will launch a regular 55-inch LED TV for $2,000 just two days after its 4K launch. And a name-brand HDTV can be had from Best Buy for a lot less (for example, an LG LED for $1,200).
Maybe you got a fat tax refund and are looking for ways to spend it or you're part of the 1 percent to whom money is no object. Even then, buying Sony's 4K Ultra HDTV will leave you with little to watch. No broadcasters or streaming companies offer shows in the new higher resolution of 3840 by 2160 pixels, and it will likely be more than a year until they do.
To help complete the 4K chain, Sony also announced its $700 4K media player, the FMP-X1, which will come preloaded with 10 Sony movies that have been converted to the 4K format. Titles include classic “The Bridge on the River Kwai," as well as "Bad Teacher," "Battle: Los Angeles," "The Amazing Spider-Man" and "The Other Guys." By the end of this summer, 4K media player owners will also be able to subcribe to a Sony streaming service. Sony has not yet said how much the service will cost each month. [Read more: 4K TV Caught in Standards War ]
The 4K movement reminds us a lot of 3D, but without the "wow" factor. James Cameron's "Avatar" was the impetus for 3D TV at home, and even with a blockbuster behind it, the technology has not really caught on with home viewers. Without a Cameron, Sony has turned to the Tribeca Film Festival organization. Beginning April 17, Sony will kick off a yearlong partnership to promote 4K video production and distribution among filmmakers.
Ultra HD is one of those techy things that look good on paper, but the difference between it and Full HD may not be enough to command such high prices. You best bet may be to wait. If Sony can cut prices by 75 percent today, it's reasonable to expect 4K to cost about the same as a good HDTV by the time there's enough to watch.
Take this quiz and find out.