Ultra HD at International CES 2014

2014 International CES

Massive Ultra HD TV (or 4K) sets were the new new thing at the last International CES, and we will see incredible advances in the technology at the upcoming show. 4K picture quality is amazing, the color space is magnificent and, to be as non-technical as I can be – the moment you see a 4K video displayed on a 4K screen that’s as wide as an NBA player is tall, you will want one!

Why? Let’s geek out for a second… HDTV or 2K (1080p) is what the industry is selling most of today. The best sets from Samsung, LG, Sony and other top manufacturers, display content with a resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels with a 240 Hz refresh rate.

(AUTHOR’S NOTE: On Black Friday, Walmart offered a 32″ HDTV for $98. It’s was not a 2K (1080p) set – it was a Funai, 720p HD set with a 60 Hz refresh rate. Sure, it will play HD content, but it is the lowest resolution, slowest possible refresh rate device that can still be called HD. Was it worth $98?  This set normally sells for $149. All things being equal, would you purchase it for $50 more? Were you sitting up nights waiting for Walmart to discount your dream set by 33%?  I rest my case.)

Ultra HD (aka UHDTV or 4K) sets have a minimum resolution of 3,840 × 2,160 pixels – that’s 8.3 megapixels, or four times the number of pixels of a top-of-the-line 2K HDTV (1920 × 1080 or 2.1 megapixels). These sets are often referred to as 2160p (the “p” is for progressive scan) sets.

Geek Alert: 8K sets are on the way!

What’s better than 4K? 8K, of course. 8K UHDTV (4320p) will tout screens that are 7680 pixels wide by 4320 pixels tall, that’s 33.2 megapixels which is sixteen times more pixels than a current 1080p HDTV. Forget home theater; we’re talking home IMAX®.

Will 8K sets replace 4K sets before there is enough 4K content to help sell 4K sets?

We know that the pace of technological change is faster than it has ever been, and is accelerating. Moore’s Law (The density of transistors on silicon will double approximately every 18 months), posited by Intel co-founder Gordon Moore in 1965, has been compressed to 8 to 12 months. So, will the technology advance so far ahead of the content industry that consumers will ignore 4K? It just might.

A 110" Ultra HD TV from Hisense

In the mean time, when you see LG’s 77″ curved OLED 4K set, you are going to want one immediately. You will not ask about content; you’ll be happy to watch “Discovery Sunrise.”

You don’t remember the show? When HDTV was in its infancy, there was nothing to watch and very few networks were broadcasting HD content. If you had an HD set and an HD cable box, your 500 channel universe instantly became an 8 channel universe. But… HD was such a powerful experience that people (me included) would prefer to “literally” watch the sun rise in HD (“Discovery Sunrise”) than watch the news in SD. Dear Mr. Zaslav, this is a formal request for an all new series: “Discovery Sunrise 4K,” but be sure to shoot it in 8K, because the 4K version may never need to air.


Thankfully, 3D is officially over.

3D and Smart TV

Smart TV

CES will show us the latest and greatest Smart TV functionality from every manufacturer. This is a fragmented and confused universe. If you want to be schooled in the possibilities of Smart TV, hook up an Xbox One to your cable box and a big HD flat screen. The experience is instructive and it will blow you away.

That said, Smart TV is here to stay. But, and it’s a big but… TVs last for eight to 10 years or longer; computers last for one to three years. Is there a reason to pay extra for a computer built into your TV set that will be obsolete before the screen wears out?

A $35 Chromecast dongle turns anything with an HDMI socket into a Smart TV. Then there’s Apple TV, Roku and a hundred other boxes that offer the same or better functionality.

Smart TV may be here to stay, but competition for the way you consume media is accelerating to a frenzied pace. There will be winners and losers, but it may be tough to decide who is who at first glance.

Much, Much More

The upcoming International CES will be super-exciting. There’s much, much more to see and do than ever before – and many more questions than answers. If you want help sorting it out, please visit www.cesfloortours.com; there, you’ll find information about some of the best ways to navigate the 3,000 exhibitors, 2 million square feet of exhibit space and 20,000 new product announcements at the 2014 International CES (January 7-11, 2014, Las Vegas, NV).

About Shelly Palmer

Shelly Palmer is the Professor of Advanced Media in Residence at Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications and CEO of The Palmer Group, a consulting practice that helps Fortune 500 companies with technology, media and marketing. Named LinkedIn’s “Top Voice in Technology,” he covers tech and business for Good Day New York, is a regular commentator on CNN and writes a popular daily business blog. He's a bestselling author, and the creator of the popular, free online course, Generative AI for Execs. Follow @shellypalmer or visit shellypalmer.com.



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