altSony has used CES to unveil smaller TVs that deliver the quadrupled resolution of 4K. It unveiled 55- and 65-inch 4K screen sizes (the XBR-65X900A and the XBR-55X900A) to be introduced in the US in the second quarter of 2013 in the US (and hopefully here, though this is as yet unconfirmed, as is all pricing).

The early 4K televisions from Sony and LG were all giant-sized sets (well, 84 inches), purportedly because it was easier and/or cheaper to maintain current pixel sizes and grow the TV rather than to shrink the pixels to squeeze in the extra resolution on existing screen sizes.

But it is becoming clear that consumers appreciate (or at least understand) the advantages of higher resolution more easily than many other recent technologies, including 3D, smart TV, and certainly OLED.

4K content
altHence the new sizes. But aside from upscaling full-HD content, what to watch on the new TVs? Sony has announced plans to introduce the first 4K content distribution service in the middle of 2013, via a dedicated 4K media player which will be delivered with 10 full 4K movies from Sony Pictures  Entertainment plus assorted short films in 4K native. The 10 movies are:

  • - The Amazing Spiderman
  • - Total Recall (2012)
  • - The Karate Kid (2010)
  • - Salt
  • - Battle Los Angeles
  • - The Other Guys
  • - Bad Teacher
  • - That’s My Boy
  • - Taxi Driver
  • - The Bridge on the River Kwai

With a PlayStation 4 also rumoured to be gearing up for a big reveal at E3 later in the year and a possible pre-Christmas 2013 release (Sony recently stopped producing the PS2, perhaps to free up production capacity), this adds to the possibility of 4K playback from a PS4.

Sony also exhibited a prototype of a 4K consumer camcorder. Good luck editing those files!

Not really 4K
Rather more confusing was Sony Pictures Home Entertainment’s announcement of a range of “Mastered in 4K” Blu-ray titles. The same ten titles as supplied with the media player will be “sourced from pristine 4K masters and presented at high-bitrate 1080p resolution”. So aside from an interest reference to “expanded colour” (xvYCC material at last?), this appears no different to many existing Blu-rays produced from 4K scans of films... it’s the equivalent to putting “Mastered in 24-bit/96kHz” on a CD. We’d suggest that anything labelled “4K” should be 4K, not 1080p.

In a final tease, Sony has a 56-inch OLED 4K screen working at CES, but as prototype only. Last year’s ‘Crystal LED’ concept was apparently nowhere to be seen, so that the company would seem to be returning to OLED development over that diversionary sideline.  

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