Apr 2, 2014
4K TV is bullshit
[Note from the editor: This article is by prospective staff writer Tony Helms.]
In the late 1980s, a group of people from different companies—General Instrument, Zenith, Sarnoff Labs (RCA), the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), AT&T Labs, and Philips—came together to form the Grand Alliance to develop what would become HDTV. Speaking as someone who didn’t get an HDTV until 2013, the difference was night and day. The picture quality was unlike anything I’d previously seen in my life. But now we live in a world where if your TV is in 720p, it’s considered an ancient relic. Everything now is about 4K, 8K, and even 12K resolutions. Well, news flash, kiddies, 4K (also known as UltraHD, or UHD) is an unnecessary, useless technology for several reasons, but just to name a couple: 1) the human eye has a finite resolution, and 2) you have to sit closer to take advantage of it.
Let’s discuss the first issue: no matter how much the resolution increases, there’s a point where the human eye cannot register it. The human eye is essentially an analog device, and it can only see so much. Technology is now going beyond what the human eye can see.
And then there’s the second issue: distance from the TV. If you sit more than a certain distance away from the screen, you will basically get no benefit from the extra resolution. Let’s take a typical TV size of 32”. To get the full benefit of 720p, you have to sit back no more than 8 feet. For 1080p, you have to sit back no more than 5 feet, and for 4K, you have to sit back no more than 2.5 feet. And who wants to sit that close to their TV set?
This also brings up another issue: Why is 720p so bad? When I grew up, S-Video (commonly known as 480p) was the latest and greatest in television technology. The picture was a vast improvement over RCA or RF picture. People loved it, and were grateful for the advancement. Then the invention of HD happened and it blew people away. The very idea of picture quality being that clear was almost unheard of, and what was the resolution? 720p, the very resolution that people damn near vilify nowadays was seen as the greatest thing ever.
Part of this, I think, has to do with the culture we live in. We’re rarely ever happy with what we have anymore. We’re always on the lookout for the hot, new thing, and we never take the time to appreciate what we have now. This more than anything is what led to the “downfall” of 720p. Even when 1080p became a reality, 720p began to decline in popularity. The sad part now with 4K, 8K, and 12K coming into the picture is that even 1080p is starting to suffer the same fate as 720p.
720p is now regarded as the “poor man’s HD”. As I said earlier, I wasn’t able to purchase an HDTV until 2013. Why? Because it was too expensive. In 2013, they had come down just enough in price that I could purchase one without worrying about bills, rent, or food. Yeah, I realize that I’m a late adopter, but this was more out of necessity than anything else. So I say to all those people who constantly refer to 720p as the “poor man’s HD”, do you not realize how condescending you sound? I know I may sound like an old fogey here, but I ask you one thing: please appreciate what you have. Also, just remember, eventually there may be something better than 4K (and up) one day, and having a 4K television will be seen as “slumming it”.
Another major issue: price. When HDTV first came out, the cheapest available one was just under $8,000, with some priced as high as $50,000. Now you can get one for under $200. 4K, however, is a different beast altogether. When the first 4K TV came out, it was over $11,000, with some as high as $40,000. Nowadays if you’re lucky, you can probably get one for under $1,000, and while I admit the price is going down, it’s still, in my opinion, niche tech. So, in conclusion, 4K TV is bullshit.