It's no secret that there is virtually nothing to watch in native 4K resolution on a 4K TV. (No, upscaled 1080p content doesn't count.) But that's expected to change this year. The jump to 4K TV is going to happen this year faster than the leap from 2D to 3D was supposed to happen a few years ago because 2014 is the year we will finally see affordable hardware and content converge.
Last year, Seiki, a budget-conscious TV brand owned by the Chinese, released two 4K TVs at what was then considered aggressive and affordable prices: 39-inch ($700) and 50-inch ($1,500). They're no $25,000 Samsung or Sony, but they worked as advertised: good 4K picture quality for those low prices Today, you can find both Seiki 4K TVs for $500 and $770 on Amazon, respectively.
And the prices for 4K TVs are dropping — quickly.
Polaroid is joining in on all of the price undercutting fun. The company announced yesterday that it will be showing off a 50-inch 4K TV (I'm still not used to calling it a UHD TV or Ultra High Definition TV) with "stunning color contrast, fluidity of motion and exceptional clarity with more than 8 million pixels" and three HDMI ports at next week's CES for $999. That's $1,000 for a 4K TV, without all of the junky "smart" features that never work right. Just a good 4K picture (we hope) for $1,000.
But, as we've said over and over again, a new TV format is worthless (we're talking about you, 3D TV), if there isn't enough good (and great) content to watch. While the old dogs (movie studios) and the Blu Ray Association figure out how exactly they want to deliver 4K movies — streaming or on some kind of ultra-high capacity optical disc — Netflix, the scrappy little video streaming treasure chest is going to start streaming season two of House of Cards in glorious 4K resolution to compatible 4K TVs.
Furthermore, YouTube will reportedly announce a new low-latency 4K streaming codec called VP9 at CES next week, according to GigaOm. The tech website reports the new codec will allow for faster 4K video streaming with lower bitrates. VP9 will also cut the amount of data that HD videos need to stream in half, which should "improve video delivery and do away with buffering."
Add all of this to the fact that there are already millions of users with 4K-video-shooting Galaxy Note 3 smartphones and 2014 looks like an even better year for 4K to explode in popularity. If movie studios won't give the people native 4K content, the people will give themselves native 4K content in the form of user-generated videos from the likes of YouTube.
Look, we're not psychics and we can't say for sure that 4K TV will be a success this year, but if we look at the trends, it's clear that falling 4K TV prices are finally aligning with some much-needed content. To that, we say bring it on! We're ready to see Kevin Spacey's face in Ultra HD.