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Why HDTV Will Soon Be a Thing of the Past

Why HDTV Will Soon Be a Thing of the Past: ILLUSTRATIONS BY HARRY CAMPBEL

ILLUSTRATIONS BY HARRY CAMPBEL

The future of TV doesn’t end with high definition. The latest innovations are Ultra HD and 4K TVs, which deliver the clearest, crispest picture imaginable. (UHD refers to the device and 4K to the resolution, but the terms are often conflated.) With 4K you see 8 million pixels rather than the current 2 million on a 1080p TV. It’s these dots of color that make UHDTV so compelling. Sit in a room with the $4,000, 65-inch curved Samsung HU9000 and you’ll get the same wow feeling you first got from HDTV, except UHD is four times clearer. It’s jaw-dropping, but the curve is a gimmick, and pricewise you can do better: Vizio offers a flat 50-inch UHDTV with fewer bells and whistles for $1,000.

Buy now and you’ll still be an early adopter. Most broadcast and cable networks don’t yet film or broadcast in 4K. Netflix used the technology to shoot Kevin Spacey’s House of Cards, as well as the new series Marco Polo, which is even more impressive, with vistas of snow-swept mountains. More is on the way. NanoTech is remastering 35-millimeter films for 4K viewing via its UltraFlix app on Vizio TVs. And Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 800 series chip lets you view UHD on your tablet and cell phone. But bandwidth is a problem. To stream UHD media, you need a faster home broadband connection. To get UHD on phones, 5G is 1,000 times faster than 4G, but right now it’s available in only a few places, including South Korea.

For video games you can rig a PC with souped-up graphics cards to play in 4K. However, not many offerings are truly ready for the format. UHDTVs try to make up for that with something called upscaling. It looks better, but it’s not the same as true UHD. Still, give the graphically intense console version of The Witcher 3 a try on your new UHDTV. You’ll be impressed.

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