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4K, Ultra HD television is the next big thing, but not right away

| Wednesday, March 27, 2013, 9:02 p.m.

The 2013 Consumer Electronics Show has come and gone.

Perhaps I'm jaded, or simply numb to gadgetry paraded out year after year, but I wasn't all that attentive. After all, a good deal of the amazing stuff that comes out of these shows is either so high-end that the average consumer won't see anything like it until three or four years down the road or ends up never really making a dent in the marketplace.

Take 3D television: when it debuted at CES 2010, it was heralded as the biggest thing since the plasma screen. Now in 2013, nobody cares.

I think this is because the tech just didn't appeal to as broad an audience as expected. The need for most to have clunky and expensive glasses didn't help, and neither did the lousy picture quality. While 3D TV's are still out there, they have fallen into the “expensive-minimally-useful-gadget-I-use-to-impress people” category.

However, the future isn't 3D, it's 4K.

If you haven't heard of 4K televisions, you will. This tech is more of an evolutionary move than the “revolutionary” move of 3D, and chances are that it will be more widely adopted. Oh, and they were the darling of CES ‘13.

The “4K” refers to the resolution that these televisions are able to produce, namely horizontal resolutions of about 4,000 pixels (3,840 pixels to be precise). That's more than three times as high as the current HD standard, 1,080 pixels.

On small screens — if you consider anything less than 60 inches small — you won't notice much of a difference.

However 60 inches is the smallest that 4K TVs will be. Sizes of more than 100 inches are possible and, with these high resolutions, they will still be razor sharp.

These televisions are available now at about the price of a new Honda Fit, but consider that the first HDTV's cost about that much at first and they can now be had easily for less than $500.

These new Ultra HD TVs will also be able to produce 3D content, likely at a much higher quality than available now.

The rub here is that 3D capability is not the major selling feature. It's really more of an add-on.

The consumer market right now isn't that favorable for 4K sets, given that most consumers opt for set sizes of 60 inches or less and that the current technology is really good and cheap as well.

But corporations looking to project a high-tech and cutting edge image will surely eat these up, as will advertising agencies looking for large digital billboards, sports teams, airports, sports bars, maybe even schools and universities who need ultra-large screens for big classes.

So if anyone would like to send me one to review please let me know, as I'm finishing the basement and need to know where to hang it.

Samuel Blair specializes in new technology at is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at scblair@aya.yale.edu.

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