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Time for ‘ultrahigh definition’

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This year, TVs are all set to get bigger, better and smarter...

almost realA visual on Sharp’s 8K4K super hi-vision 85-inch LCD TV. It offers viewers an image 16 times clearer than the regular hi-vision.photo: AP
almost realA visual on Sharp’s 8K4K super hi-vision 85-inch LCD TV. It offers viewers an image 16 times clearer than the regular hi-vision.photo: AP

The race to make TVs larger and larger has created a colossal problem for manufacturers — As screens grow, picture quality worsens unless the viewer moves farther away from the screen.

To get the full benefit of a large high-definition screen, viewers must move back from their sets. Because the ideal viewing distance is no closer than three times the height of your screen, or about one and a half times the diagonal length, big TVs have literally forced many families’ backs against the wall.

Letting them breathe

This year, TV makers are doing their best to give huge-screen fanatics more breathing room. New “ultrahigh-definition” sets were shown off Monday by companies such as LG Electronics Inc., Sharp Corp. and Samsung Electronics Co.

With nearly 8.3 million pixels, an ultrahigh definition screen contains four times more pixels than an HD TV.

Ultra-HD sets come as small as LG’s latest model, which stretches 55 inches diagonally. And estimated prices are dropping from the tens of thousands to below $10,000 (Rs 5.46 lakh), bringing these multi-megapixel TVs well within the spending range.

Sony Corp.’s 84-inch (2.1-meter) ultra-HD model, which it unveiled in November, comes with a computer server capable of storing and playing back giant movie files. It’s definitely not affordable for most people, however, and the TV unit with the server thrown in has a price tag of $25,000 (Rs 13.6 lakh).

No standard

There’s also currently no standard way for upgrading Blu-ray players and discs to handle the ultra-HD format, although plans are in the works. Broadcasters are also a few years away from an upgrade. LG said its ultra-HD set will have upscaling technology to make regular HD images look better the way some motion is smoothed out on some TVs using complex computer algorithms but a demo wasn’t immediately available.

The file sizes of ultra-HD movies will only be about 25 percent or 30 percent larger than similar HD files. It’s not four times as much data, despite having four times as many pixels as HD, because of advances in compression technology. Still, ultrahigh definition may not be as far in the future as you might think. According to research group IHS, about 20 per cent of TVs shipped globally in 2017 will measure 50 inches or bigger, up from 9 per cent in 2012. More big screens should create demand for a sharper image and more incentive for TV signal providers to start offering ultra-HD channels.

Could ultra-HD be a passing fad? Possibly. But one advantage it has over other recent innovations is that most people can appreciate increased clarity on giant screens.AP


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