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Field of Ultra HD TVs Continues To Grow

Anyone buying an Ultra High-Definition TV in the U.S. in 2013 is getting either a projector or an LED-lit LCD set with a panel supporting the 3,840 by 2,160 resolution.

But the field is about to open up with the promised emergence of Ultra HD OLED TVs in both curved- and flat-screen varieties.

The following is a glance at Ultra HD TVs that are available or pending imminent U.S. market introductions:

Hisense has shown Ultra HD LED LCD TVs in the 65-inch, 84-inch and 110-inch screen sizes, but currently no market shipping plans have been announced.

LG offers three Ultra HD LCD TVs in the 55-, 65- and 84-inch screen sizes.

The company recently slashed retail prices in line with competitors. The 55LA9700 55-inch Ultra HD LED LCD TV has been reduced to $4,499 while the 65-inch is now $6,499.

LG’s 84-inch Ultra HD (model 84LA9800) set now sells for a $19,999 unilateral pricing policy (UPP).

LG also recently showed more affordable 55- and 65-inch Ultra HD TVs in the LA9650 series, currently pending U.S. market introductions. Those sets would have a scaled-down onboard sound system.

A leading manufacturer of 4K LCD panels, LG has differentiated its offering, among other things, by using passive-glasses-based 3D capability. With the benefit of Ultra HD, the passive 3D system delivers FullHD 1080p resolution to each eye, while allowing viewers the comfort of wearing inexpensive, lightweight glasses.

LG is also hard at work on expanding its line of flat-panel TVs based on OLED technology. The company announced at the recent IFA 2013 in Berlin that it plans  to have a curved-screen 77-inch Ultra HD OLED TV on the U.S. market next year.

Panasonic was a little later to the Ultra HD market than some of its traditional competitors, but it revealed its plans at the recent IFA 2013 show with the unveiling of its 65-inch L65WT600 model, which will include HDMI 2.0 and Display Port 1.2a jacks, allowing up to Ultra HD 50/60p (2160p) input connectivity. The set also includes 2,000 Hz (BLS) Motion Clarity, has received THX 4K certification, and will feature an HTML5 web browser. While no price was announced, the Ultra HD TV is ready to go on sale shortly.

Samsung was an early Ultra HD TV contender, offering models in the 55-, 65- and 85-inch screen sizes. Samsung recently kept step with Sony by chopping prices on its TV line to $4,499 for the UN55F9000 and $5,999 for the UN65F9000 models. The 85-inch S9 model offers a radically different easel-like floor stand and a $40,000 suggested retail. All of Samsung’s models come packed with wireless smartphone connectivity solutions, onboard smart-TV functionality, advanced up-scaling and the availability of an Evolution Kit that will help the sets stay current with technology changes.

Samsung also gave a hint of what is coming, showing at IFA a pair of OLED Ultra HD TVs with 55-inch screen sizes in both flat- and curved-screen varieties. The company said that either or both could hit the market within the next few months.

Samsung also took the wraps off the first curved LED LCD Ultra HD TV in a 65-inch screen size at the European trade fair. Samsung then showed the next iteration of the S9 series of Ultra HD TVs in a 98-inch model, which could go on sale in a few weeks. No pricing was announced. Similarly, a 110-inch Ultra HD model was on display at IFA, but no marketing details were available.

Seiki offers some of the industry’s smallest Ultra HD TV screen sizes, at 39 and 50 inches, and some of the lowest price points, at $699 and $1,299, respectively. The 39-inch SE39UY04 is billed as a TV and a PC monitor, offering the advantage of increased resolution to assist in lean-forward near-screen applications. The bare-bones 50-inch SE50UY04 Ultra HD TV rocked the industry at the lowest price point for an UHD set until rival TCL undercut it.

Sharp last June introduced its 70-inch Aquos Ultra HD TV LC-70UD1 (now at a $5,999 UPP), which is the industry’s first THX-certified model. The set includes Sharp’s SmartCentral smart-TV platform and flash-enabled web browser, wireless connectivity to smartphones, and two Bluetooth-based active-shutter 3D glasses.

Sony offers one of the largest Ultra HD TV portfolios in the industry, including five LED-edge-lit LCD TV models. These include the 55-inch (XBR- 55X900A ($3,999) and 65-inch XBR-65X900A ($5,499).

Sony recently added a pair of scaled-down Ultra HD versions in the 55-inch XBR-55X850A ($3,499) and 65-inch XBR-65X850A ($4,999) models, which offer much of the same capabilities of the X900-series models but without an elaborate onboard sound system. The new sets also swap passive 3D-glasses support in the X900 series for active-shutter 3D versions.

All of Sony’s Ultra HD LCD TVs include smart-TV functionality, advanced up-conversion circuitry, and Sony’s Triluminous LED technology.

Sony was the first manufacturer to offer an Ultra HD LCD TV in the U.S. market when it delivered its 84-inch ($25,000) set. It also offers its VPLVW1000 4 projector (introduced at a $25,000 suggested retail). Sony is setting the bar in the delivery of 4K content by offering a 4K Ultra HD Media Player, with an integrated Internet-delivered movie and TV show service that downloads content to the tiny server. Sony is also now introducing consumer-level Ultra HD camcorders.

TCL broke onto the Ultra HD scene by breaking Seiki’s price threshold last spring with the LE50UHDE5691 50-inch model carrying a $999 suggested retail. Like Seiki, TCL offers few bells or whistles on the set, outside of a 120Hz Ultra HD picture with up-scaling, as the company seeks to establish itself as an Ultra HD brand.

Toshiba offers three Ultra HD LED LCD TVs in the 58-inch 58L9300U ($3,999 minimum advertised price), 65-inch 65L9300U ($5,499) and 84- inch 84L9300U ($16,999). All the sets incorporate Toshiba’s Cevo 4K Quad-Dual Core Processor, a 240Hz screen and Cloud media streaming capability built-in.

The 55- and 84-inch models offer passive 3D capability while the 58-inch model offers active-shutter- based 3D glasses.

Vizio showed 4K LED models at International CES last January, but indicated nothing would be available until native 4K connectivity standards had been established. The company did not comment on its current Ultra HD plans.

Westinghouse Digital will ship in the fourth quarter three Ultra HD sets in the 55-, 58- and 65- inch screen sizes at suggested retails of $2,999, $3,499 and $4,499, respectively. All offer native 4K passthrough and interpolated up-scaling of lower-resolution sources.

The company, which said it plans to set the bar for Ultra HD sales as it did earlier with 1080p, will also offer by special order a 110-inch Ultra HD LCD set.

The sets are bare-bones and include no smart-TV functionality or 3D support.