Just got back from the alphabet soup of DIMA / PMA / CES.
The big buzz at CES of course was “Ultra HD“ aka 4K or 4KTV.
Like HDTV before it, a 4K television takes sharpness to a new level. There are about 4 times as many horizontal lines of resolution in a 4K TV image, than in a normal (maxed out, 1080p) HDTV image. And the 4K TV has about 8 times the resolution of a “Regular Def” TV.
We saw 4K TVs in:
- Normal mode – really sharp
- 3D mode – quality varied by brand
- Double frame rate – OMG, see below
Normal 4K TV:
OK, yes, much sharper than a 1080p image. But honestly not the same wow-factor as the first time I saw a true 1080p image with a good demo video.
Just standing in front of the normal-mode 4K TVs, it seemed that the variation in the video itself mattered more to the experience than the display. These videos varied by content obviously (snazzy sexy images catch attention, subtle images actually better for evaluation), but also by tech specs.
Would I turn down a free one? No. But would I pony up to replace my 720p Plasma in our house right now? No, I would not.
Here, we saw quite a difference in experience between LG & Samsung.
LG has an amazing entrance to their “booth” (more like a “planet”) where staffers hand you 3D glasses, and walk under a wall of 3D displays. They achieved the desired effect, we were all wowed.
Visiting Planet LG, we got to see lots of variations on the theme of 3D. In all cases, the 3D effect was smooth, clean, convincing, and without noticeable eyestrain for me or my colleague Lee Varis.
A friend who’s an expert in things Home Theater has always advised us to avoid LG. I had a bad time with an LG Blu-Ray burner, and was surprised that their site had not even the barest instructions or support, much less access to someone who could help.
But with that said, the LG 3D performance appeared clearly superior to both me ‘n Lee.
Now Samsung has come on like a juggernaut in the world of electronics. They are now a serious threat to the once invincible Apple in hand-held devices, and have left once-legendary names like Sony in the dust.
Lee & I both assumed Samsung would be worlds ahead of LG. But… when we put the Samsung glasses on for the first time, we both immediately felt the eye strain. OK, let’s try a different TV. Same experience. OK, let’s try a third Samsung display. Same thing for both of us. I don’t know what difference, if any, there is in the LG vs. Samsung 3D technology. And having compiled plenty of statistics in my time, it’s possible these observations were aberrations.
But I doubt it.
Regarding 3D realism, here again LG seemed the clear winner. Making this assertion is tougher, since we were not viewing the same video on two competing TVs.
But still…we know the vendors would be putting their best foot forward.
And I’m always suspicious of “slow moving” subjects. It’s a lot easier to make a video with slo-mo subjects look great, than fast-moving subjects. Samsung’s 3D demos used slower moving subjects than LG’s.
Incidentally, that’s why Plasma-type HDTVs have always been such winners: they refreshes many time faster than even the fastest LCD displays. They just don’t “shine as bright” at the store, so we’re not drawn to them. But very few of us watch TV in brightly lit rooms. Much more likely the TV will be viewed in some form of “modern cave” environment.
Double Frame Rate aka 60p aka 60 Frames Per Second
OK, this was my biggest wow moment of CES, by a lot.
Tucked against a back wall, in Planet LG, my eye caught a little sign over one of the hundreds of 4K TV panels. The sign said “60P”.
Yes, I was a member of the A/V club as a kid. So I suspected this might be a TV playing a video with twice as many frames as a normal 30 frames per second video. My little Kodak waterproof camera has a 720p 60p setting. The difference has always been dramatic, especially for action subjects.
So I asked the young geek demo dude if the 60p sign meant 60 FPS. “Yes!” He seemed excited that someone noticed. Then, in something resembling a hushed tone, he said “This is only experimental, you cannot buy these!” And so I felt like a cool old geek getting to share this moment with a cool young geek.
Listen folks, when I put those glasses on, and watched the 3D 4K 60p video, chills happened. In fact, as I’m writing this, no joke, still gives me chills.
Yes, the video was the classic “slow” video. The subject, an old Asian man walking among sheets of beautiful fabric, gently blowing on a set of clothes lines.
But I was standing there with him, with the gorgeous laundry. My instincts told me I could call him, and he’d turn around. Never in my life have I had more sense of “being there.”
The above video is NOT 3D. But if you view at “original quality” on a fast computer, you should see the smoothness & detail of 4K 60fps. Caveat: download may take a while.
It’s harder and harder to get a wow reaction with any new tech. Years ago, we all just began to expect to be blown away every few years by something amazing & new from the gadget world.
So to feel such an effect seemed special.
Can’t wait for these 4K 3D 60p TVs to go on sale, and for matching video content to watch.
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