While I was at CES in Las Vegas I saw all kinds of fancy gadgets...and I was largely unimpressed. Then I went to look at first prototype OLED 4K TVs from Panasonic and Sony. Oh my! These are sweet!
I hadn't expected to be blown away by them. I love my 1080p HDTVs. How much better could 3,840×2,160 pixel, aka Quad Full High Definition (QFHD), resolution really be? The answer: Amazingly better.
I got a chance to take a close look at both the Sony and Panasonic engineering sample 4K organic light-emitting diode (OLED) TVs. They have the best color reproduction I've ever seen on a television. As far as picture quality is concerned, they're running neck and neck. That's not too surprising. You see, Sony and Panasonic have been working together on making OLED screens affordable since June 2012.
Of course, there's also the "other" 4K technology: Edge-lit LED LCDs. I saw some of those at CES too, and they're nice, but... they have all the usual LCD problems. That is to say they're hard to watch unless you're pretty much facing the TV straight on and the contrast ratios aren't anything to write home about.
OLED, on the other hand, is far better to watch no matter what your angle is to the screen and the contrasts are the best thing I've seen since high-end, picture-tube TV start disappearing from the marketplace. In a word, it's gorgeous.
There's just three little problems with it. Well, not so little, really.
First, is availability. They're really not available yet. Sony will let you register to buy one, but Panasonic won't even let you do that. If you really, really want one, you'll almost certainly have to wait until March.
Then, there's price. Sony's top-of-the-line OLED 4K is going to go for, brace yourself, $24,999. OK, so you're probably not going to get one anytime soon. The Consumer Electronics Association thinks you'll see OLED 4K TVs drop below five-figure prices by year's end and in 2014 you'll see in the high-end HDTV price range of mid-four figures.
Finally, there's content. Or, rather, a lackthereof. There isn't much 4K content available out there... yet. 4K content is coming, though. Even so, I have to say that even ordinary Blu-ray, thanks to OLED's great dynamic contrast, look great.
Getting that content to your TV, come the day it is available, is also going to be a problem. For 4K Internet TV, you're going to need a minimum of a 30Mbps connection, and it had better be a darn good one with little jitter or latency.
I know this all sounds like way too much money for way too little. Trust me, this isn't like 3D TV, where the reality hasn't lived up to the hype. Like HDTV before it, OLED 4K TV is the real deal and you are going to want it.