USA Today Tests 4k/UHD TV

The USA Today has tested a 4k/UHD TV and reported the results in its article “Cutting the Cord: Smart TVs can be the ticket to 4K”. The article summarizes the overall positive results of the author, Mike Snider, following a test drive of Samsung’s 78″ curved smart UHD set. (I don’t know too many 313 who would have any complaints about a $7,000 TV in their living room.)

There are several interesting aspects to this article. First of all, USA Today is not a technology publication, but a mainstream nationwide newspaper and by reporting test results of a UHD TV it is making clear that at least USA Today believes that this UHD TV thing is definitely coming.

The next aspect is the use of the term 4k in the title of the article. The publisher tested a UHD TV and not a 4K display. In mainstream news the term 4k is catching on much more rapidly than the UHD TV terminology, which is a lesson to be learned by all of the CE industry. Catchy phrases go viral very easily, even though the term is used incorrectly. Throughout the article the use of the terms makes them appear interchangeable.

USA Today sees a connection between smart TVs and UHD TVs. While I do not know of any UHD TV that is not also a smart TV at the same time, it sees this connection not because of the supplier’s model policy, but because of the available streaming of UHD content via OTT providers. It praises the image quality of native UHD content as the ultimate viewing experience. While also stating that the jump from 1080p to UHD is not as dramatic as from analog TV to 1080p (I wouldn’t argue with that statement), the journal still sees a difference to up-converted content. While up-converted content already exceeds the image quality of a 1080p TV, it sees the full potential of UHD only in original UHD content. When talking about content USA Today compared all forms of input, such as live TV, DVR’d shows, Blu-ray discs and DVDs.

Based on this enhanced viewing pleasure USA Today sees that smart TVs and OTT services will drive UHD adoption. This is a very interesting statement if we consider that, for example, Netflix UHD streaming requires a broadband connection of 25 Mbps. The average broadband connection speed in the USA was around 10 Mbps at the beginning of 2014 according to the “State of the Internet Report” from Akamai. This report has South Korea leading the pack with an average broadband speed of 23.6 Mbps to the consumer. In the USA, no provider offers 25 Mbps in the basic level, instead you will need a premium package for a little extra money. With my provider this is only about $5 per month, though this will differ substantially depending on the location and provider.

The article also quoted Joel Espelien of the Diffusion Group and a recent 4k/UHD forecast as seeing “widespread viewing of 4k content arriving in 2019 and growing quickly beyond”. While this may be true for viewing native UHD content, I doubt that it will take that long for the hardware side to take off. As a matter of fact I believe that 2014/2015 will be the years that we see as the start of mass adoption for UHD TVs in coming years, thanks in part to articles like the one published by USA Today. – Norbert Hildebrand