NEW YORK – Usually known for its heat waves and thunderstorms, July 2013 will be known for a deluge of 4K TV introductions.
Both LG Electronics and Samsung used this month to announce retail launches of new 65- and 55-inch 4K Ultra High-Definition TV models, beefing up their 4K assortments with screen sizes and price points that are a little more palatable to mainstream early adopters than those 84- and 85-inch models previously introduced by the CE rivals.
Both Korean manufacturers followed by several weeks 65- and 55-inch 4K Ultra HD models from Sony Electronics, which also had an 84-inch Ultra HD TV in the market since late last year.
Other manufacturers began getting into the act as well, as Panasonic prepared the release of its first Ultra HD LCD TV sets for the European and Japanese markets, according to a Nikkei report.
Panasonic is reportedly planning fall deliveries of 50-inch and larger screen sizes in the two markets. No word as yet on any U.S. plans. Panasonic’s reported launch was said to have been timed to take advantage of the start of 4K TV broadcasts in Japan in 2014.
In the U.S. the only plans for native 4K content include special hard-drive-based servers from Sony and a startup called Redray.
Sony’s unit, model FMP-X1 ($699 suggested retail), went on sale the week of July 15 carrying 10 preloaded 4K movies on its 2TB hard drive.
It will eventually begin receiving additional titles via Internet download through the Video Unlimited 4K service via the Sony Entertainment Network. The content will able for rental or can be purchased. Prices will range from $7.99 to $29.99.
Purchasers of either the Sony XBR55X900A or XBR65X900A 4K Ultra HD TVs were given the opportunity to purchase the FMP-X1 at a $200 discount for a limited time. Purchasers of the 84-inch set are having a previous server loaned to them for native 4K movie playback replaced by the new FMP-X1 unit.
Sony’s server and Video Unlimited 4K service are restricted to use only with Sony’s TVs.
For others, Red, the manufacturer of professional quality video cameras, is working on a 4K movie server for owners of multiple brands of 4K Ultra HD TVs. The company has announced a $1,450 suggested retail player/server with a 1TB hard drive.
The server, which is suitable for retail demos, will have the ability to display 4K images on two Ultra HD displays, or up to four 1080p images on four HDTV displays simultaneously.
Red plans to eventually offer an Odemax cloud-based movie download service to provide additional 4K content for the Redray player.
In the meantime, most of the new sets announced or shipped in recent weeks feature advanced up-conversion technologies that will take standard- and high-definition video content and make it appear onscreen in close-to-native 4K Ultra HD quality.
LG used a retail sendoff event at Video & Audio Center in Santa Monica, Calif. July 11 to show its LA9700 Ultra HD TV sets in the 65- ($7,999) and 55-inch ($5,999) screen sizes.
The new models marked the first 4K Nano Full Array backlit LED LCD TVs in the market, which are said to offer deeper black levels and richer colors. LG also supplies its Tru-Ultra HD engine for image clarity and up-scaling of SD and HD content to near-native 4K Ultra HD quality.
The sets include compatibility with forthcoming H.265 video-compression technology, and include USB 3.0 ports capable of supporting 4K Ultra HD video material.
The LA9700 models also support LG’s passive-glasses-based Cinema 3D system, and smart TV system, and audio is supported with an onboard 4.1-channel, 50-watt sound system that includes a “sliding speaker” – a motorized soundbar that appears below the screen.
Not to be outdone, Samsung announced it would begin taking pre-orders July 21 of its 65- and 55-inch Ultra HD models that are due to arrive in stores in early August.
Samsung’s F9000-series models are LED edge-lit LCD TVs that carry suggested retails of $5,500 and $7,500, respectively.
The new Samsung sets employ the company’s proprietary Quadmatic Picture Engine, a 4K up-conversion system featuring a four-step process of signal analysis, noise minimization, Ultra HD up-scaling and detail enhancement.
Additionally, both the TV and its software can be upgraded for compatibility with future Ultra HD standards by swapping out an Evolution Kit module.
The new models have Samsung’s smart-TV technology, including the new Smart Hub interface that organizes entertainment and content into five panels: On TV, Movies and TV Shows, Social, Apps and Photos, and Videos and Music.
Also included is Samsung’s S Recommendation feature that helps customers discover new programs to watch. Additionally, a Smart Interaction feature allows the TVs to be controlled using hand gestures or voice.
Other features include Samsung’s Precision Black Local Dimming technology that delivers increased contrast and black levels by dimming LEDs in dark areas of the picture, making blacks darker without affecting brighter elements of the picture.
The Micro Dimming Ultimate system combines a special algorithm and scanning technology for sharper images and enhanced contrast.
The new sets will present 3D pictures, have built-in Wi-Fi and ship with an embedded camera for video calls.
The system is powered by a quad-core processor that enables multitasking capabilities between content and apps.
Sound is powered by 70 watts into 2.2 channels, including two-way left and right speakers.
The sets also include Samsung’s ultra- slim bezel design, providing a virtually edgeless picture.