The 4K TV Dilemma: What the Sales Clerk Won't Tell You About 4K TVs



4K televisions, also known as Ultra TVs, are the latest and greatest in television technology. They're extremely high-end televisions, capable of putting out a resolution of 3,840 X 2,160 pixels. The 4K moniker describes the 4,000 horizontal pixels the television puts into use. For those new to the world of high-resolution TVs, more pixels equates to a higher resolution, which equates to a better picture. Theoretically, the more pixels a TV is capable of putting out, the better the picture will be.

How Much Do 4K TVs Cost?

Right now, a good 4K TV will cost anywhere between $3K and $10K. Notice I said a good 4K TV. You can get them for less money, but you'll end up buying an off-brand and the quality of the TV will suffer. When it comes to high-end televisions, you pretty much get what you pay for, so you don't want to buy something just because it's cheaper than the other TVs on the market.

Before you run out and drop $5K on a new television, there's something you need to know. That $5,000 TV is going to significantly drop in price over the next year or two. A funny thing tends to happen with televisions. When TV technology first hits the market, manufacturers take advantage of the fact that they've got new and exciting technology and they charge a premium for this technology. They know there's a large group of tech junkies frothing at the mouth, just waiting for the opportunity to buy the latest and greatest in TV technology.

The TVs usually hit the market at around the $10K price point and then fairly rapidly drop in price until they reach the $1K to $2K price range. It happened with DLP TVs, LCD TVs, plasma TVs and it's happening right now with Ultra HD TVs. If you really want a 4K TV, wait a year or two and you'll be able to get a good TV for less than $2,000. 

There Isn't a Lot of 4K Video Available

Another reason to hold off on purchasing a 4K TV is the fact that there isn't much 4K content currently available. Sure, 4K TVs are capable of scaling HD content up, but they do so at the expense of the picture. Stand close to an upscaled video and the picture looks grainy because of the guesswork involved with upscaling.

In order to truly appreciate 4K TVs, one must have a 4K video source. To date, 4K video isn't available from local television providers and there are no camcorders capable of recording 4K video. There are a handful of 4K media players on the market, but they tend to be expensive and there isn't a whole lot of content for them, as is the case with the FMP-X1 4K Ultra HD Media Player from Sony.

All signs point to this technology catching on and it's being pushed hard by the heavy hitters in the industry, but by the time there's a lot of content available, there will be much better deals on TVs. Wait a little while and you might just end up saving a lot of money.

What About Netflix?

Netflix recently announced plans to start streaming 4K Ultra HD video via their video-on-demand service. This sounds like a great deal, as anyone with an Ultra TV and a Netflix account will have instant access to a variety of Ultra HD programming. Ultra TV owners everywhere are chomping at the bit in anticipation of being able to access Ultra HD content via Netflix.

Amazon has made a similar announcement and is shooting all of its original series' in 4K.

There's only one problem, and it's a big one. Those pesky broadband data caps. Internet service providers aren't as excited about the huge videos that will soon be streaming across their networks as the rest of us are. These videos suck up a huge amount of data and could potentially start to tax existing networks if the technology catches on. A typical 1080p movie streamed across Netflix uses up nearly 5 GB of data an hour. A typical movie uses around 7 GB of data. On the flip side of the coin, a 4K movie sucks up nearly 20 GB of data per hour, or a whopping 30 GB of data to watch a single hour-and-a-half long movie.

When you consider Comcast caps data at 300 GB per month, a person could hit the data cap after watching only 10 Ultra HD movies. U-Verse caps data at 250 GB, so you'll get even less bang for your buck. Forget about those Breaking Bad Marathons you're so fond of. You'll hit the data cap long before you finish the season in Ultra HD.

When you consider the extra charges you might  incur after passing the data cap, streaming 4K content to your new television could get very expensive.

What Should You Do?

The transition to 4K isn't something that's going to go away. It isn't a passing fad and it'll eventually be the go-to standard in televisions. If you're in the market for a new TV, you may want to consider a 4K television, but if at all possible, you should wait a year or two to buy. You'll get a much better deal and hopefully Internet service providers will have to come up with larger data packages in response to customer demand. Until then, you aren't going to get much bang for your buck out of your 4K television.