Promising more than four times the resolution of “Full HD” 1080p televisions found in stores, 4K contains the same or higher resolution than the digital projectors found in modern movie theaters. But with price tags of large-screen TVs costing upward of $25,000, 4K or Ultra HD technology is still far from accessible by most consumers' standards.
Problems faced by 4K television buyers are the same as those faced by early adopters of full 1080p HD resolution: pricing, and a lack of available content that makes the most of the resolution. The Sony 4K Ultra HD Media Player aims to solve that, shipping in the U.S. tomorrow from Sony Electronics. The $700 device will supply 4K-capable Sony televisions (there are two models) with 10 films from Sony Pictures in full 4K Ultra HD, as well as a few short films. Sony customers are also given $200 off the price of the device (FMP-X1).
When Sony releases its Video Unlimited 4K subscription network later this year, the 4K Ultra Media Player will give the company's television customers access to an expanded library of content. Sony has been criticized for the pricing scheme, offering an 84-inch television for $25,000 and later adding 65-inch and 55-inch models, at retail prices of $5,000 and $7,000, respectively. Gizmodo wrote in April that they were more “intrigued” in a 50-inch 4K television (made by a company called Seiko Digital) that was priced at $1,500.
One thing potential 4K TV buyers should beware of, at any price, is the optimal viewing distance for high-resolution screens, which is 5 feet or less for 4K displays smaller than 70 inches. Anything smaller than that, and 4K becomes a lot harder to differentiate from lower standards, such as 1080p, at a distance of more than five feet. Therefore, viewers with anything other than 20/20 vision will need to sit about 4 feet away from the $1,500 Seiko to see the detail that 4K offers, and even then, Seiko owners currently have nothing to watch in 4K resolution.
The FMP-X1 contains 2TB of storage built in to store content, and contains two different HDMI outputs, as well as an SD card reader for digital photo viewing. It also has front and rear USB ports to connect additional storage. Owners of the new 55-inch and 65-inch Sony 4K Ultra HD televisions are able to use the device, while owners of the 84-inch model from last November will be able to upgrade the media server that shipped with their televisions, according to Sony.
Sony 4K TVs currently utilize LED-LCD technology, where a string of LED lights illuminate an LCD screen. Competitor Samsung is making headlines with its organic light emitting diode, or OLED, technology. Reuters reports that Samsung and other manufacturers are still working out the manufacturing kinks, as seven out of every 10 OLED screens coming off of the production line are defective.