For those of you who keep track, 2014 should be an interesting year in entertainment electronics. We are seeing the onset of 4K TV. We are seeing larger LED based screens, curved screens and a very strong move toward streaming video. These exciting changes, along with new Surround receivers, which have built-in streaming and greater abilities to play music from your own devices, make them both easier and more fun to use.
Let’s examine these items one by one. 4K TV is a new HD format (currently not being used) which promises higher quality pictures. I wish they would make the current (1080p) TV’s play to their full potential instead of offering a new system which requires more processing.
Larger LED-based displays are being led by Sharp, who was instrumental in the development of the LCD panel some 20 plus years ago. They went from building 60 inch to 70 inch to 80 to now 90 inch panels. Having installed quite a few 80 inch panels, both residential and commercial, my hope would be that they would improve on the motion artifacts (lag). I do like their panels in terms of static pictures and reliability.
Curved Screen TV: This takes me back to when I entered the business some 30 years ago, when the Advent and Mitsubishi then Kloss Novabeam 2 piece projectors came with a fixed, curved screen which you placed against the wall and sat a coffee table like projector out 8 feet or so away and were able to see a 60-80 inch picture with a decent resolution (for the time). The purpose of the curved screen was to reject ambient light in the room and make for a higher contrast picture. Today’s curved screen LED based screens are curved very much for the same reason; to deliver higher contrast by reducing the reflected light the viewer sees. The problem is that it also reduces the watchable off-axis (side viewing) ability of the TV. It seems that the great push to make modern TV incredibly thin (depth), which is a worthwhile feature, is in question. I do not expect to see a great acceptance of this product.
Streaming Video: The list gets longer by the week but let’s name the big players: Netflix Amazon, Apple TV, Google Play. These subscription-based providers are proving to be a power house in terms of acceptance in the market. At a price of less than $10 per month, they are becoming a big headache to cable and SAT TV companies.
Surround receivers from the big players, Yamaha, Sony, Onkyo and Denon, are all building very good sounding, reliable units which now employ 4k pass or processing (prematurely). They have read, and continue to read, each other’s play books as you will see offerings starting at about $250 which have on-screen graphics, HDMI switching, CEC compliance, and smart phone inputs. You can buy an excellent unit in the $400-$700 price range from any of these manufacturers.