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Does 4K x 2K Offer Lasting Value To Consumers?

It’s clear from discussions across the supply chain that the industry is considering launching 4K x 2K (3840×2160) resolution TVs, which have four times the information content of current 1080p products.

This increase in resolution is a sign of the growing maturity in the TV market, and the price erosion that continues to damage the business. Set and panel makers are seeking the next innovation that can boost pricing.

So why 4K x 2K? From a broadcast or packaged media point of view, any increase in content format is still a long way off, with many markets still to make the move even to HD (we estimate that less than a third of homes in Western Europe watch HD, for example). It is also hard to justify in terms of image quality. If you watch TV from further away than 3m (10 ft.) you would need a screen size of at least 55” to notice the difference. Any smaller, and it would be beyond the resolution of the human eye.

There are other reasons to introduce higher resolution, even where it is not viewable. The most obvious is for passive 3D glasses. Doubling the number of lines is necessary to restore 1080 lines to each eye, and would overcome the main objection to passive 3D. However, the ability to produce a retarder film with such fine resolution has yet to be proven.

Achieving such a product would not be cheap either. Implanting a 4K x 2K video pipe requires four times the signal bandwidth and memory, and it will require significant post-processing if the up-scaling is going to be worth viewing. As with real-time 2D to 3D conversion, concerns about the quality could result in a negative view of the new format.

Our upcoming TV forecast includes 4K x 2K LCD sets for the first time. We anticipate seeing the first product release by the end of 2011, with very small volumes in 2012. The key concern I have is the marketing and timing of the 4K x 2K introduction. 2010 saw a surge in new features (3D, LED backlighting, and connected TV). In fact, there were so many mixed messages that consumers became completely confused.

In this case, format confusion could ensue—720, 1080, cinema (21:9), 4K x 2K. Careful examination of real needs will be required to ensure that 4K x 2K has lasting value to consumers and thus rewards for the industry. Forcing another supposed innovation into the marketplace will merely provoke another round of price erosion as costly innovations are discounted to win over consumers.


  • Griff Resor

    Long term I see delivery of information that arrives today as print on paper will need this resolution in desktop monitors to replace paper. But avid gamers may be an earlier market. The 3D challenge is not just making a fine polarizer, but aligning this with the internal display pixel structure. In typical Japanese style marketing, some display company will run the experiment for a while to see what kind of demand shows up. This will be fun to watch.

  • Bob O’Brien

    I think 4k x 2k makes sense for very large screen sizes, as you say Paul >55″. A few years ago Sharp showed a video wall (it may have been their 108″ display, made into a video wall) with multiple screens running at the same time.

  • Darren Ivey

    Customer base would be fairly limited to early adopter until sufficient 4k x 2k content becomes available which is probably many years off. Your concerns of marketing and introduction timing is warranted, as it should be done carefully. The concern is without content to clearly demonstrate the “value” to the consumer, they may become more confused and it could end-up like the 3D hype seen at the beginning of 2010. Personally, I would like to see it happen, but don’t think the content providers are not going to be thrilled to give up bandwidth not to mention the additional investments in new equipment, etc. but it will be interesting to follow.

  • http://www.displaysearch.com Paul Gray

    Interesting comments!
    @Griff: I am mystified that monitor resolutions have not crept up – I guess that it’s the old mantra that ‘software sells hardware’ and there hasn’t been enough software to exploit it. Personally I cannot imagine working without two monitors these days, so definitely I use and value those extra pixels.
    @Bob: I agree – one of my first impressions of one of those big Panasonic PDPs was that it needed a finer pixel structure to achieve that video wall effect. If or when consumers move to a video wall in-home, then over 60″ would be necessary – but such a product is a complete game-changer compared to conventional TV screens…a kind of Imax@home proposition. For the meantime the competition is projection setups in home theater rooms I suspect.
    @Darren: You have probably seen the NHK super resolution demonstrations, and even NHK says that another resolution leap is a generation away – but work has to start now. HD was first shown by NHK in 1979. We have arrived in a situation where the industry is moving faster than the infrastructure, and my fear is that you can only stretch the lead so far before consumers smell a rat. That said, I could do with a digital photo frame that comes somewhat closer to the resolution of my digital camera….

  • http://www.bizwitz.com David Barnes

    Thank you, Paul and others who commented. This is indeed important news. As I presented at last year’s SID (brand-X) seminar, pixels are one of the few features for which panel makers can command a premium. The price for more pixels always declines over time, but increasing optical resolution for a given display size is a sure winner for the leaders. Given the diverse ways we can use “the largest screen in the house,” consumers may jump at the chance to buy more pixels. As Corning explains well in its presentations, faster replacement of TV sets (or moving older sets into other rooms) means faster growth for all suppliers in the value chain.

    By the way, the announcement of new store concepts by Best Buy correlates with this trend toward more interactive/social use of TV in the home.

  • http://orlandobarrozo.blog.br/?p=9913 TV 4K, para quê? – orlandobarrozo.blog.br

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