Samsung's new Ultra High Definition TV

Samsung’s new Ultra High Definition TV

I’ve not been a fan of this “4K” revolution for televisions since it was discussed as a mainstream possibility back at CES 2012. Here in Las Vegas for CES 2013, LG, Samsung and Sony all announced brand new televisions with four times the resolution and picture quality of our current High Definition standard. And it’s a problem. A problem at the retail level.

Sony's side by side HD and 4K comparison using the same content upscaled to 4K

Sony’s side by side HD and 4K comparison using the same content upscaled to 4K

My problem with this move to UHD is there’s just no content out there made for viewing on these things. Sure the big cinema movies are filmed in 4K or better, yes there are 4K cameras now coming into the market, and yes there might be a handful of 4K clips on YouTube, but for the most part anyone with a 4K TV is going to be showing their mates the promo videos that will likely come with it. So why on earth would you want a 4K TV?  Wouldn’t HD be enough?  That was what I thought.

However, Sony did a good job at convincing me that I might be wrong.  At the Sony booth at CES they have two TVs side by side. One was running a picture in High Definition, the other the same picture “upscaled” to 4K resolution. The result was excellent. Amazing even. Better colours, and better quality. Of course I have to take it with a little grain of salt given Sony would have chosen the perfect piece of content to show in the demo.

Additionally, Sony put a lot of effort into talking to the assembled media about the range of 4K content that will be available through downloadable movie services, and the efforts they are going to to enable 4K content production.

Over at LG and Samsung executives from both companies were singing the praises of their new Ultra High Definition (UHD) TV’s which will hit stores this year. Amazingly, UHD also has a resolution four times the current HD.

Wait – are we talking about the same thing here? Yep.

Anyone else see the problem here? Samsung and LG are going to spend millions marketing Ultra High Definition. Sony on the other hand already has huge billboards and in-store posters promoting it’s 4K products.

The industry broadly seems to agree. Last year, the industry body in charge of these things decided that the 4K standard would be called Ultra High Definition. But because Sony already had a large amount of time and effort invested in the “4K” brand, it opted to ignore the rest of the industry to stick with 4K.

If you think that’s a bit confusing, you’re not alone.

Seriously, how can the average Joe have a chance of understanding all this when it hits the brochures.

Sony demonstrated a lot of quality applications for 4K including good upscale examples

Sony demonstrated a lot of quality applications for 4K including good upscale examples

I spend my days talking about the latest in technology on the radio. Radio is a challenge because I have to try and make sense of things and explain them as simply as possible to a vast audience with a wide range of technical knowledge. Try explaining 4K and UHD to people without putting them to sleep.

It’s not going to be easy. Sony are invested in the 4K brand already, they put it on the side of their cameras and as I’ve said they have signs up already with that as the consumer branding for the product.

Samsung and LG have got it right with a name that makes some sense and could at least be explained.

It’s pretty simple in my view: Sony will fall behind if they dont jump on board the UHD bandwagon. My advice to Sony is to keep the 4K branding for the prosumer and production markets. The money to be made here in TV sets will be made by the companies who make it easy to understand. Sony – get on board.