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What’s Happening Now In HDTV Technology – OLED and 4K

… or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Just Buy Another Plasma.

In the beginning there was the CRT (Cathode Ray Tube) Television.  CRT was the technology of television sets from the 1930′s into the 2000′s.

I had purchased a Sony CRT Television in 2001.  That television had a 40 inch screen (small by current flat-panel standards) and yet weighed an unbelievable 325 pounds.  Now, besides being heavy as a lead anchor what I did not know at the time of purchase was that the CRT was about to be replaced as a television technology.  Buying into obsolete technology is something to be avoided.

In the early early 2000′s the Plasma and the LCD televisions became ascendant and would replace the CRT.  These two new television technologies allowed bigger, lighter screens.  However, early adopters of these new displays, while avoiding the trap of the obsolete CRT, still got bit by the next technology revolution – High Definition.  Early LCD and Plasma screens were often Enhanced Definition (480p) and so the advance to 720p – 1080p images found in High Definition (Blu-Ray) were lost to them.  So, early adopters in this case also bought into obsolete technology.

Now, the competing High Definition displays on the market, Plasma and LCD, have been duking it out for the last several years.  Both have their pros and cons.  In general, Plasma seems to be favored by videophiles due to the inky blacks which increase image quality and the excellent presentation of action and motion scenes.  But Plasma has disadvantages too – one being that it makes a poor display for brightly lit rooms where LCD is superior.  Besides the advent of 3-D technology in these displays (which may or not be of value to you depending on your preference for it) there was not a looming danger of buying into obsolete technology.  But that is now changing.

Enter the OLED (organic light-emitting diode) display and the 4K (also known as Ultra HDTV) display.  These are both coming onto the market now

The OLED display is said to have a display that surpasses either Plasma or LCD in its luminous, beautiful quality.  It is reported to be the best picture seen on a television.  Ever.  Period.

There are a couple of OLED models on the market at the moment: the Samsung 55-inch KN55S9C OLED ($9,000 dollars) and the LG 55-inch 55EA9800 OLED ($10,000 dollars).  If you treasure the quality of your television, there is a lot to be excited about here – and this is the future.  However, just looking at the opening price of these displays there is a very high premium to be paid to have one right now.  Further, they come no bigger than 55-inches.  One could easily have a much larger display for a lot less cash if one goes Plasma or LCD at this time.  Those prices will come down, but how much and when is anyone’s guess.  OLED displays are reportedly very difficult to manufacture and that could leave prices high for years to come.  One other odd thing about the OLED is that they are curved screen displays which limits off-axis viewing – and if that puts you off, there is no flat-panel OLED alternative for you yet.  Here is a Face-Off review on the two OLED models.

The other display technology coming into widespread play is the 4K TV (also known as Ultra HDTV or UHDTV).  UHDTV has four times the pixels (resolution) of high definition television.  Manufacturers began releasing 4K displays a few months back with the opening models priced around $7,000 dollars.  Those prices are dropping already and will certainly drop off much faster than OLED technology.  Here’s one going for under $3,000 dollars.  Is 4K something you care about?  At this point the correct stance might be to take a wait and see attitude and this article lays down all the reasons why you should be both  cautious and skeptical about early adopting.  Read that and decide for yourself.

While OLED is a completely new display technology unto itself, 4K is simply more pixels and a higher resolution.  That is, in the future there may well be 4K OLED displays (and probably will).

There is yet another curve-ball coming down the pike and that is HDMI 2.0.  One may wish to ensure any television purchased has an upgrade path to HDMI 2.0 if that is a concern – which it may not be.  Very likely any TV purchased right now is locked into the HDMI 1.4 standard.

Of course, with the rate technology is changing it is difficult to “future-proof” any TV purchase.  Given the price of these new displays, though, and the perils of early adoption a fine plasma such as the 65-inch Panasonic TC-P65VT60 at a fraction of the price is still looking like a good bet.