After sitting through the five-hour Ultra HD 4K Summit held during CE Week 2013, it's clear that the format has some major obstacles to overcome. That doesn't even include the lack of content, standards, playback devices, or a genuine timeline for an optical format that consumers will be able to purchase at Costco or from Amazon.
Chinese OEM Seiki doesn't have much of a track record, but one thing that did impress us at CE Week was their $1500 50-inch Ultra HD 4K TV. Their $800 39-inch model didn't hit the same high note, but we know that the competition wasn't overjoyed to see this model light on features at such a low price. Without directly mentioning the name, more than one industry marketing executive took a shot at this company during the Ultra HD Summit pointing out that "not all 4K is created equal" and that the real test would be how good the upscaling was.
Format fatigue has set in for many consumers and coming out of a four-year recession that decimated the housing market and ultimately crushed dedicated home theater sales, price is a major issue for almost everyone. LG and Samsung seem to be convinced that consumers will open their wallets and spend $20,000 to $40,000 for an 84-inch Ultra HD 4K TV. While that might be true in Dubai or Moscow, it's not the reality for the vast majority who are interested in Ultra HD 4K, but are limited to under $1500.
Consumers got burned by 3D and we think it's wishful thinking on the part of some manufacturers that Ultra HD 4K is going to steady the ship and convince the public that they need to give the format a second chance because 4K 3D is "real HD 3D" with passive glasses. We always thought that 1080p Blu-ray 3D via active glasses was real HD 3D, but apparently we were deceived. Huh?
Aside from the price, what makes the Seiki 50-inch SE50UY04 Ultra HD 4K TV so appealing is the lack of support for 3D, which most consumers don't seem to care about. In fact, it doesn't have any sort of slick set of features that make the premium models from the competition so expensive. Looking for a Smart TV platform offering all of your favorite streaming apps? Not here. Buy a Roku 3 for $100 and you're done.
The SE50UY04 comes with three HDMI 1.4 inputs and while the company has said nothing about future upgradability (HDMI 2.0?), we're not holding our breath that this set will be compatible.
So why are we so excited about a 50-inch Ultra HD 4K with a 30Hz refresh rate when using a PC as a 4K source from a Chinese manufacturer with zero track record? Picture quality.
While it's no giant killer when it comes to upscaling 1080p/1080i/720p/480i content to 3840-by-2160, the Seiki looks rather spectacular with native 4K content as long as you don't sit too far away. Black levels on this panel are above average and color accuracy isn't too shabby, but it more than impressed us with some outstanding looking shots of Tokyo at night and with some animated content.
Seiki plans on releasing a 65-inch Ultra HD 4K TV this summer and while there is no pricing yet, we suspect it will be $3,000 to $4,000 cheaper than any competing models. Hopefully, it will also motivate the folks at LG, Samsung, Toshiba, and Sony to move pricing on their models to more affordable levels so that Ultra HD 4K doesn't end up like the Betamax.
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