David Papp Blog

Holiday shoppers welcome 4K TVs but save your money

The numbers are in: 4K TVs are a hit this holiday season. Sales have been steadily picking up over the last few months, but the great deals offered on Black Friday and Cyber Monday pushed them to new record highs. But should you run out and buy one?

4K TVs: An Overview
These ultra-high-definition TVs (Ultra-HD) aren’t just for early adopters and tech risk-takers anymore. These days, many units are starting to take up space in homes all over the world. So why get a 4K TV?

The 4K’s main draw is its resolution, which is four times sharper than that of current 1080p HD TVs. It is twice the resolution in height and twice as wide (3840 x 2160), many more pixels defining the image. If you don’t have media in 4K though and you don’t want to make the switch yet, then you may want to hold off for now. There will definitely be more content coming in the future though – content providers are already adapting and we will be seeing their libraries of movies and TV shows available in this new format. The lack of content is one of the main reasons demand has been slow until recently, and another reason high on consumers’ lists is price.

Are 4K TVs Worth The Cost?
If this were 2012, then the answer would be a firm no. Just two years ago, 4K TV prices were 85% higher than today’s, with unit prices at around US $7,850. The cost is now sitting at a more pocket-friendly average of US $1,120 this year. 2014 has seen great progress in the pricing of Ultra High-Def/4K TVs. Sales at this time of the year are around nine times higher than they were in 2013 (when 4K was still a newcomer to the market), which is a testament to the high quality it brings consumers. They claim watching something in 4K is an immersive experience. As an interesting side note, Apple’s new iMac jumped straight to 5K.

Buyers have been going for larger screen sizes as well, with more than 70% of 4K TVs sold this year having either 55″ or 65″ screens. These sales show us that more and more consumers believe that 4K TVs are welcome additions to their increasingly high-tech homes.

Should you run out and buy one?
My opinion is no. I don’t feel the content is there yet. Hollywood is just starting to produce in Ultra-HD (4K) and Netflix has “some” shows available in 4K. But it isn’t enough to justify running out and buying a new TV yet. Also by nature of technology, it keeps getting bigger, better, and cheaper with time. So save your money for now.

Besides issues with a lack of 4K content, the next problem is the increased bandwidth required to stream 4K. People are already experiencing issues with 1080p HD streaming, it getting slow, using up a lot of their monthly bandwidth plans, and chewing up the majority of their Internet pipes when in use. The Ultra-HD 4K content is going to be even more demanding on our Internet connections. Some people are ready for it, but I don’t think it is the norm yet.

14 thoughts on “Holiday shoppers welcome 4K TVs but save your money”

  1. The first thing that came to mind when I saw the article title was about the content out there that is actually 4k as I know thus far its pretty lackluster, but I find the drop in price from just a few years ago insane. Still doesn’t warrant getting one, I think the people buying them see 4k and equate it with making everything run better.

    • It’s the exact same thing that happened when high definition first came out. They used choice words like clarity, easy to see, and other things that make the average consumer gawk and instantly want one.

      In my opinion 4k is absolutely not worth the price it’s currently at.

    • About when do you think that the available content will warrant getting a 4K TV? Currently there is not enough content -> no good reason to buy a 4K TV -> no good reason for content providers to push out much more expensive and larger 4K content.

  2. The other problem I find with 4K is having to upgrade GPUs in devices like laptops, gaming consoles, TV streaming devices like Apple TV and Chromecast, etc. 4K video takes a lot of power to display, and also playing content at that resolution, rendering each frame really, would take even more power. It probably won’t be that backwards compatible with most laptops that use Intel HD Graphics, unless you go down to 1080p, maybe another higher 16:9 resolution, but they definitely cannot display 4K IIRC. I tried streaming a YouTube video above 1080p on my VAIO laptop, barely worked, skipped frames, and my computer was pumping out heat like crazy.

    • In Greece, where I live, most – nay, ALL – TV stations still broadcast at 720p (at best)! So, we don’t actually have a reason to upgrade to even 1080p, since the only content we’d be able to find in this resolution would be:

      a. Rented movies on blu-rays

      b. Some satellite channels we’d have to pay for, and they’d not be “in Greek” (so most Greeks don’t bother).

      c. Streamed content (and many of us still have connections that, to put it plainly, and please mind the word, suck).

      d. Pirated content (meaning “download pirated movies from torrents” and stuff like that), which also needs a fast connection AND is illegal, so most also don’t bother. Not with the “illegal” bit (oh, they DO download), but the “HD” and “4K” bit (“if it’s viewable as a 700MB DVD Rip, why fill up our HDDs with more stuff”).

      So, 4k? Nah, not yet. Not “here”.

  3. Can’t say I’m much of a TV buff, but I am curious about 4K in respect to computer monitors. As I’m building a new computer currently, I’m trying to be future-ready. However, you made a great point in terms of internet bandwidth limitations and how that may complicate things like streaming. Overall, sounds like you’re pretty bang on with your assessment and waiting it out a bit until there is not only more content, but more overall encompassing services that are capable of providing the means necessary to utilize it.

  4. I’m definitely not an early adopter with these kind of things. Even if I was impressed by the quality of the picture resolution, I wouldn’t be getting something that has limited content for it. The perfect scenario will be for prices to crash and content to soar. But that’s me with technology generally – run with the pack rather than be the outlier.

  5. In other news, I just read that TV and monitor manufacturers have already started showing more and more… 8K panels!

    We’re not even at 4K yet, and it’s obsolete! I guess that’s technology, but, damn, are we running faster than our legs can manage or what?!

  6. At the moment there is no point in getting a 4K tv, there is very little that can actually use it. There are some PC games that use it but you will need a $5000 pc in order to do that effectively. There aren’t films in 4k, tv is still 1080p at best. So keep the money until it is mainstream.. the tvs will be cheaper by then too.

  7. I often ask myself how do these entertainment providers get their content to match the technology that we are using. At least have Netflix available in more countries first. Things are moving really fast, aren’t they?

  8. Currently, very few channels broadcast in 4K, so it is not worth it and the format they do use in the future may not be futureproof. Games consoles too, largely don’t use 4K either, and so the prices for 4K are rarely worth it. They are just a gimmick by manufacturers to show off their new technology.

  9. I agree, 4K is great but it is still on the expensive side. We sell them where I work and even with Black Friday discounts they were sitting around $850 for a 50″. Just like Plasma’s and LCD/LEDs, 4Ks are destined to follow a downward curve in terms of pricing. I predict within 2 years they will be competitively priced vs LEDs.

  10. I haven’t personally found a desire to get a 4k screen just yet. Like this article says, Hollywood and a lot of streaming services haven’t even started to produce videos that support 4k resolution.

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