back to article 4K vs OLED: and the winner is...

How will television makers persuade punters to buy a new set now we all - well, most of us - have 1080p sets with internet access? We’ve already seen that 3D isn’t going to do it, but now two new alternative upgrade-driving technology are emerging - OLED and 4K - and they two are re-establishing an old battle line between …


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  1. Steve Foster

    4k Monitors

    Offering computer users some sensibly-sized (perhaps 27"-30") 4k monitors at reasonable prices would probably be a decent way to gain volume shipments.

    1. JDX Gold badge

      Re: 4k Monitors

      The new MBP monitors are close to 4k so that's some definition of mass-market already. But since monitors always support a whole slew of resolutions I don't see them all moving to 4k en masse.

      1. Christian Berger

        Re: 4k Monitors

        Well the problem with the MBP is that they pixels are to small, and the software "scales" everything up.

        For CAD a display, roughly A3-A2 in size at a resolution of perhaps around 100-300 dpi would be great. You could stop looking at your design through a peekhole and just have the whole design on the screen.

    2. leeeeeb

      Re: 4k Monitors

      Considering the direction of the PC industry, that's not really going to lead to high volume. None the less, I want one!

    3. Tom 38

      Re: 4k Monitors

      4k aint there yet, but there are plenty of cheap 2560x1440 panels around, and for not much more, 2560x1600.

      Eg, DGM IPS-2701 is £300, Hazro HZ27WB £315, Dell UltraSharp U2713HM £480, Samsung S27A850D £475, yadda yadda. (all +VAT)

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: 4k Monitors

      Graphics cards... this is the problem. My £200 graphics card from last year can barely play modern titles at 1920x1080 at full graphics. If you're wanting this silly-high DPI for anything other than nice rendering of images / fonts then the cost of the graphics card is going to go through the roof.

      Personally I can't notice the pixels on my 22" monitor and I'm sat about a foot away from it. I don't understand this drive for high-DPI devices, it increases GPU demand which increases power requirements for very little benefit.

      I'd love to see how long an S3/iPhone battery lasts with a normal DPI screen instead (100-160dpi instead of 200-330 odd).

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: 4k Monitors

        Strange, my 4 year old graphics card plays everything I throw at it on my 38" 1920 x 1200 monitor without any apparent problems and for the price - 19Euro second hand - I'm not complaining.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: 4k Monitors

          "Strange, my 4 year old graphics card plays everything I throw at it on my 38" 1920 x 1200 monitor without any apparent problems and for the price - 19Euro second hand - I'm not complaining."

          Care to share what graphics card this is and exactly what you're throwing at it at max settings?

  2. Charles 9

    Yeah. Right.

    1080p already pushes the envelope of video bandwidth, and to much further you'll need both an increase in bandwidth and probably an increase in compression efficiency (for a minimal increase in artifacts--as the resolution goes up the perception of artifacts becomes easier). And while video upscaling is OK for passive content, what about TVs hooked up to consoles or computers playing games where even the slight lag caused by image processing can affect twitch gaming.

    In addition, the current push for video content has been towards making it more portable with better wireless tech. Even Apple's latest iPad with "retina" resolutions is only about 75% the 4K resolution, for a 9-10 inch display, and I don't think too many are complaining that it's not detailed enough a display. Resolution has diminishing returns as the form factor shrinks.

    So I'm calling "not ready for prime time". Probably need a few more years at least.

    1. Lee Dowling Silver badge

      Re: Yeah. Right.

      Sorry, but 1080p is nowhere near the envelope edge. It barely touchs the stamp.

      We've have 1920 x 1080 monitors for decades now, and large and more powerful setups are easily cobbled together. Even today's HDMI standards beat that into the ground (even doing stereo at that resolution / refresh) quite easily with room to manoeuvre.

      And even if you then take it to logical extremes and equate display data to just any other data (which it is), then Gigabit Ethernet and 10Ge have been doing those sorts of bandwidths, with even less latency, with digital data over 40-100m (not the poxy 1-2m of an HDMI cable without a repeater) runs for many years now.

      That said - 4K is a waste of time and OLED has been "coming" for years now. Sure, they'll both sell units of both technologies and, eventually, one with both. But you won't see the mass scale of the recent CRT -> LCD, huge box -> convenient wall-mounted panel, Analogue -> Digital, SD -> HD upgrades that everyone has done (usually in one single leap rather than piecemeal). In fact, it'll probably be a while before you see anything like that again, as much as the manufacturers would like to fabricate glossy things that we "must have" even if we can't see them - like the Emporer's New Clothes.

      And upscaling is a waste of time - it amounts to "let me blur that image slightly so you don't see the edges of the pixels from the original source".

      There's nothing stopping the data getting to the displays at all. There's nothing stopping the resolutions increasing and the colours getting brighter. But there is a huge barrier to actually selling this to people - which is that most won't be able to see it and hype dies off quickly. My dad's 53" TV? You'll be lucky if he's watched anything HD on it in the last 2 years, because he doesn't have HD kit or HD subscriptions. But it was a nice big telly to replace the horrible huge CRT box he had before.

      It's not "not ready for prime time" - it's more "technology will work, nobody will buy it".

      1. JDX Gold badge

        Re: Yeah. Right.

        What's ethernet got to do with it? We don't have ethernet connections to our ISPs and it's clear online streaming is where the people at the top want things to go.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Yeah. Right.

      I'm waiting for a nice 4k projector with something like Thunderbolt, which is essentially gigabit ethernet, built in. Then I can get my whole flat wired up for one networking standard that's reasonably futureproof. I'm still stuck with a load of stuff including my 1080p projector and surround sound amp operating HDMI 1.3a rather than the more recent 1.4 capable of 3D. This stuff is a real pain in the arse. I want a standardised data transport system that'll do me up to super hi def(8k), which is rather nice and a demonstration of which I saw at the Beeb this summer. I fear that the consumer electronics manufacturers, though, will want to sell us several more useless, intermediate systems before we get there to provide built-in obsolescence and the need to upgrade expensively.

      Well, I'm quite happy with my lcd projector and blu-ray for the time being and they won't get any more cash out of me until I see system that'll do me for at least a decade.

      1. Lusty

        Re: Yeah. Right.

        " Thunderbolt, which is essentially gigabit ethernet"

        No, it's more like a 4 lane PCIe bus with 40Gbps rather than 1Gbps. When I say more like, I mean that's what it actually is :)

  3. Anonymous Coward

    Here at Luddite Towers ...

    I haven't got round to HD yet. I'm waiting for the previous technology, 16:9 CRT to breakdown before sending it to landfill. But I think a new pair of glasses (£200) will improve my viewing rather than a new 4K TV. I'm assuming 4K is the price rather than the resolution?

    1. Paratrooping Parrot

      Re: Here at Luddite Towers ...

      I'm in the same boat as you. Also with a CRT widescreen telly. It works, so why bother dumping it? My motto is to have the same thing until it breaks, not when the new thing is out.

    2. CADmonkey

      Re: Here at Luddite Towers ...

      my goodness I thought I was the only one.

  4. Paul M 1

    First question

    There is always a need to improve things like display tech - colour reproduction, contrast, geometry etc. And then the actual package itself - slimness, surround, power etc. So in this case I can see the value in OLED today although whether it's enough to get people to pay for it another question.

    But how many domestic situations need 4K TV? How long will it be before we can broadcast it? I guess Blu-ray could handle it to some extent but what percentage of homes are capable of having a TV of the size that it makes any perceivable difference to show 4K rather than 1080P?

    I can see it being used in commercial venues but there's never going to be enough of a home market for it. IMHO

    1. Dr. Mouse

      Re: First question

      "But how many domestic situations need 4K TV?"

      I agree. However, I also said the same about HD. In most situations can't tell a difference between HD & SD unless I am looking for it. My brain doesn't notice a slight increase in detail when it is engrossed in a film.

      It will be content which determines the success of 4K. Once Sky start pushing it and we have it on Bluray etc. for most titles, it will start to take off. Until then, it will be a toy, just like HDTVs were when they first appeared.

      1. Tom 38

        Re: First question

        In most situations can't tell a difference between HD & SD unless I am looking for it.

        Really really? Its as obvious as the nose on my face when I'm watching SD and when I'm watching HD..

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          @Tom 38

          Maybe you are using different eyes to the OP?

          Just a thought.

        2. Dr. Mouse

          Re: First question

          "Its as obvious as the nose on my face"

          I can easily tell if I look, but if I am just channel flipping and come across something I want to watch, I wouldn't be able to tell you afterwards if it was on the HD channel.

          There are some things which make it more obvious. For example, the score shown on sports broadcasts is obviously sharper on HD. I also believe that Sky deliberately degrade the quality on SD channels to make the difference stand out (subjective opinion based on flipping between Sky and Freeview, Freeview looked clearer, although this was quite a while ago). But for most films and series on TV (ones which aren't just upsampled from older recordings) I don't notice.

  5. badmonkey


    How about some technical reporting that considers the relative benefits?

    Resolutions above 1080p are not really necessary at conventional field-of-view angles, the "home theater" standard being ~ 30 degrees (formed from sensible living room arrangements of distance and screen size). At this angle the eye's visual acuity is 'maxed out' at 1920 x 1080 px and further increases in resolution are pointless. This threatens to become another megapixel race.

    Widening the viewing angle a la IMAX is all very well and good but as with IMAX it would only apply to very large screens and would necessitate drastic changes in the photography and content.

    Unless you plan on upgrading your eyes as well.

    On the other hand, upping the screen quality, as OLED promises, is always going to be beneficial.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Ummn

      OLED is better than other technologies, but then it's also like Plasma and CRT in that it wears out and suffers burn in.

    2. John Latham

      Re: Ummn

      "Widening the viewing angle a la IMAX is all very well and good but as with IMAX it would only apply to very large screens and would necessitate drastic changes in the photography and content."

      Given that most broadcast TV requires using about 25% of one's brain, the obvious application is to display four streams of video at once on the same screen. The viewer would be monitoring all streams but only focusing on one at a time, each of which would be 1080p.

      The remaining problem is for the listener to become accustomed to following four concurrent audio streams without going insane.

      ADD for everyone!

      1. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

        Re: Ummn

        25% of brain power? 25% of the brain power of an amoeba suffices for a dreadful number of shows on the tele (X-factor, anyone?). Sometimes I feel the only way to enjoy shows is to switch all higher brain functions off completely.

        1. MJI Silver badge

          You are allowed to watch other shows

          You do know Xcraptor is not compulsary.

          My wife says she can keep fully up to date if she wanted in 5 minutes of daytime TV.

          There are other programmes.

          OK I will admit I do watch Doctor Who.

        2. Dr. Mouse

          Re: Ummn

          "Sometimes I feel the only way to enjoy shows is to switch all higher brain functions off completely."

          That's exactly what I use TV for: to switch my brain off. If I want cerebral stimulation, I have books and other material which does the job better than TV ever could.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "How about some technical reporting"

      You've forgotten where you are, you big silly

  6. Thomas 4


    It's odd that the Koreans are pushing OLED technology when it was a Japanese company that first started shipping a commerical OLED device about 10 years ago. The first time I became aware of it was with Sony's line of Palm OS handhelds. The very last one they produced, which sadly only reached the Japanese market featured an OLED display. It looked rather spiffy and was hellishly expensive.

  7. Alan Brown Silver badge

    Bugger 4k or OLED

    How about actually selling 1080p TVs which actually support FreeviewHD without needing an external tuner?

    Looking at what's available in uk shops, most don't.

    1. Lee Dowling Silver badge

      Re: Bugger 4k or OLED

      They do, they just don't say they do.

      I have one of the cheapest 32" Samsung affairs from Amazon (after testing it's suitability it in my local product demonstration store, I mean Dixons). It only mentions Freeview on the box, says it's "HD" (proper, not "HD Ready") but never together with FreeView. But yet it does do Freeview HD perfectly.

      This is it if you'd like to see:

      The fact that I never use HD channels on it is neither here nor there, but it certainly does FreeViewHD. The magic incantation to Google is "DVB-T2".

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Room Size

    It's lovely that manufacturers are increasing pixel density to provide larger screens, but the size of my lounge is fixed, and regardless of the pixel density I'm not going to shove an enormous vulgar TV into my moderate living room.

    Perhaps the market is more geared towards Americans?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Room Size

      "I'm not going to shove an enormous vulgar TV into my moderate living room."

      How very Radio 4-esque of you.

  9. Hardcastle the ancient


    I havn't heard any of the grunting masses watching footy in pubs complaining it is still in 625.

    On a domestic front there has been nothing I want to watch all week. OK, if the old 'Sharpe' stories could be done in 4K I might invest. But as things stand I ain't going HD let alone 4K. A pigs arse is still a pigs arse seen with more pixels, and I ain't interested.

    Talking of Sharpe, I really miss John Tams.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Down

      Re: content

      It sounds very much as if you are commenting on the wrong thread.

      "grunting masses" is that the same as a large group of "plebs"?

      1. Hardcastle the ancient
        Black Helicopters

        Re: content


        Working class me. Part rime coder, part time carer

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Instead of 4x2k wouldn't it be better to ditch lossy compression for 1080p video first before creating another output resolution that will require lossy compression (and thus, create artifacts).

    1. TaabuTheCat


      Give us 4K TV and the cable companies will just find a way to compress the hell out of it like they do the 1080p stuff, to the point where all you'll be able to see with more clarity are the artifacts.

      I wonder how many people have seen uncompressed 1080p content (other than by viewing a Blu-Ray) on a decent set? Bet they'd really be surprised just how good the quality can be when you don't screw with it so you can offer more shopping channels.

      1. slightly-pedantic

        Re: Exactly

        erm I'm pretty sure that Blu-ray is compressed with H264 too but it can be at quite a high bit rate c.f. terrestrial dvb

  11. pear

    Rumour has it that Sony's Crystal LED could undercut OLED costs so we could be in for a surprise here.

    Personally think that plasma still rules the roost.

  12. Andy 102


    "How will television makers persuade punters to buy a new set now we all - well, most of us - have 1080p sets with internet access?"

    Not me...yet. Still running my trusty Panasonic TX32PD30 :)

    1. probedb

      Re: 1080p?

      Precisely, most people don't have 1080p sets with net access, a fraction of the people I know have full 1080p sets and a fraction of those have one with net access.

      1. Charles 9

        Re: 1080p?

        Many people have 1080p sets, just not ones with Internet access. Indeed, I'm rather leery of the term since "Internet access" usually means access to things like YouTube, not things like DLNA home media networks (apart from the WD TV, I've yet to find one that can do the job reasonably--Sorry, Sony, but your box fails the test--and the interface is like crap--and you wonder why there's a clamor for XBMC on a Raspberry Pi).

        1. slightly-pedantic

          Re: 1080p?

          I seem to remember reading that only 25% of internet-capable TV's are ever actually connected to the internet!

  13. Gordon Pryra

    CRT or 4k?

    CRT is still better for watching tv than 90% of the crappy flatscreens with their HD ready stickers.

    BBC1, BBC2, ITV and channel 4 are what we watch and they look crap on anything not LED, unless you have your old CRT working still.

    How many people actually have nice LED TV's?

  14. DrXym

    I don't understand the comparison

    Comparing OLED to 4K is like comparing carbon fibre to bicycles. Bicycles can be made out of carbon fibre and 4K can be implemented using OLED. It may that it's horribly expensive and unpractical to do, but it's not impossible that it will appear shortly.

    Personally I don't see much reason to choose a 4K TV set. It's very unlikely that much content aside from video games is going to use it any time soon. I suppose it's possible that the next gen of MS / Sony consoles will output at 2160p but every game will be compelled to support 1080p and 720p anyway and I doubt it would make a massive difference.

    By the time 4K is mainstream which might be 7 years or more down the line the chances are a TV sold now would be obsolete any way because the format will use some protocol or display format that it doesn't support correctly.

    1. Steve Knox

      Re: I don't understand the comparison

      Comparing OLED to 4K is like comparing carbon fibre to bicycles.

      No, it's more like comparing a high-end engine to a 0-60 rating. The first is the technology, the second is the capability.

      To see how the comparison works, you need to think like a marketer's image of a stereotypical buyer (i.e, not at all.) Forget what the OLED and 4K are or do or mean, and just think of them as buzzwords. Then you can formulate the proper shyster marketer's question: will enough marks consumers pay an obscene premium for something labeled "4K" over the year or two to make it a de facto standard before the "OLED"-sellers can get a "Full HD" system out the door, thus precluding them from gaining enough market share to make "OLED" the de-facto standard, which would foreclose on "4K" sales?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @"TV set"???

      Really? See the radio 4 jibe above

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'd like to buy a reasonably priced 1080p OLED telly for watching Freeview HD. This will be televisual nirvana I reckon. Sounds like I'll be waiting a while though but I'll wait. I'm perfectly happy with the image quality of my 5 year old Samsung LCD for the time being. I won't be giving 4k house room until I can buy a decent 4K projector for watching movies and the means to stream a high enough bit rate, cinema quality stream to it. I suspect the affordable OLED telly will arrive before the 4K movies in the home although I'm prepared to be surprised.

    I'm actually wondering if this process will take so long I'll end up skipping 4K altogether and go straight to Super Hi Def sometime between 2020 and 2025. 8-13 years is a long time in tech and I wouldn't be surprised if even higher resolutions will arrive in that time frame to make Super High Def look like crayon.

  16. 1Rafayal

    I have been looking at a new Toshiba TV recently, mainly due to its ability to show 3D without glasses. As it happens, it is also a 4K TV.

    For me, the definition of a set would be driven by whatever the latest video games console is. If the Wii U supported 4K, or either of the new consoles from Microsoft or Sony, then I would go get a 4K TV. But thats just me.

    Wouldnt mind getting a 4K monitor though, that would be a nice replacement for my HD monitor.

  17. Mephesto

    My Geeky Side

    Anyone else read that headline and think they where referring to a CounterStrike match ... 4K vs OLED. God its been a long day.

    1. Charles 9

      Re: My Geeky Side

      No....but it would make a good gag clip, especially on Global Offensive: Team 4K vs. Team OLED.

  18. Anonymous Coward

    Only works as long as TV remains the national fireplace

    Big TVs make sense when the whole family gathers round to watch together. But if they don't, say, if Mr and Mrs Smith and little Johnny consume their TV individually on tablets, what's the point?

    As far as OLED and 4K goes, expect to see some legal pressure from the movie studios. At that sort of resolution there is going to be less and less point to showing up at the movie theater.

  19. lgb2000

    The premise for this whole article is flawed - "Koreans with their OLEDs fighting the Japanese with their 4K". The Japanese are not the main leaders with 4K LCD panels - the Koreans are. Proved very easily by the fact that of the two 84" 4K sets to hit the UK before year end - KD-84X9005 by Sony and 84LM960V by LG - LG are making their own 84" panel and Sony are licensing that same panel to put into their 84" set. I'd say the Koreans are ahead with both technologies - wouldn't you?!

    4K vs OLED as the 'next big thing' is valid as an article/discussion, but not also pairing the technologies to particular regions when it's simply not the case.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    That's just the lcd p anel, it's the display technology behind that counts., which japan leads as it is pushed by NHK along with the usual suspects, Sony etc. Since Sony sold its joint venture panel wholly to samsung, it is free to buy current generation panels.from the open market. Whilst sony in the meantime is it self developing their new crystal lcd etc.. for next generation panels.

    So you see, the Japanese are ahead really.

  21. Sporkinum

    Bleeding edge

    I'll let others take the hit first. I could have waited with my 27" crt to die, but I got a Philips 60" 3 crt rear projector for free a few years ago. It was not HD, but did do progressive scan. Just recently I picked up a Mitsubishi 52" DLP for $100 (£61) and it does 720p/1080i. I gave away the 60" to a neighbor. The 27" went to a friend for her kids to play video games on.

    I figure in a few years, I'll replace the Mitsubishi with a big 1080p set and I won't spend more than $200 for that.

  22. PTR

    Nobody in the UK even broadcasts in 1080p yet. Why on earth would I want a 4K TV?

    OLED seemed like a good idea, 3 years ago - but it seems like its not going to be the cheap-but-better alternative to LCD/Plasma that it was originally touted to be.

    3D with glasses is gimmick.

    Still see no reason to start saving to replace my Panny Plasma.

  23. JaitcH

    "4K set’s higher pixel density makes it harder for the eye to detect individual pixels"

    Either system will highlight a damaged pixel, be it dead or one colour lost - especially for the myopic (short-sighted) viewer.

    A dead pixel is preferable to a missing colour version as the latter advertise their presence by being standouts with differing colours.

    I use a wide screen on my PCB layout system and I have one pixel dead and damn annoying it is, too! Finally, I gave it to my daughter and I bought myself a new unit!

  24. doveman

    Still, haven't found, what I'm looking for

    After doing endless amounts of research, I was going to buy a Panny Plasma until I found out it didn't support RGB 4:4:4, which is needed for sharp PC text and as I like to play PC games with a lot of text, was important for me. Stupid if you ask me, as it's not hard to implement.

    I really don't want to buy an LCD rather than Plasma but I haven't tracked down a decent LCD with this feature anyway. The top-of-the-line 2012 Panny plasma has this now but that's way out of my price range at the moment so I guess I'll just have to wait until they come down to a price I can afford (like £400-500).

    So until then (or if I have to move, in which case I'll have to dump it as it's so heavy) I'll have to stick with my 36" Sony XBR800, which isn't any good for text either and only does 720p/1080i but only cost me £80 s/h. If I'm going to spend £500 it's going to be on something that does what I need!

  25. Oddb0d

    Surely the k in 4k should be lower case or will these sets only operate correctly at temps approaching absolute zero?

    Personally I don't believe either tech presents a compelling pitch to consumers, 4k res and higher will inevitably trickle down from digital theatre projectors to satisfy people who want enormous screens. OLED seems to have suffered from the problem of too many promises with not enough product, I wouldn't be surprised if yet another new display technology displaces it before manufacturers can sell screens at a profit, especially at larger sizes.

  26. Mikko

    I expect to see 4k TVs in all the most popular form factors, eventually even down to 32". It doesn't matter if there is a detectable difference at 32" between upscaled 4k and Full HD, some shills and fools will always find some freeze-frame, zoomed-in picture where things looks "sharper". Before you know it, the common wisdom of the Internet has shifted to recommending a 4k TV.

    I guess this is just the way marketing works nowadays.

    In hindsight, the Full HD label was very successful for the TV makers, but the 3D didn't get so much traction. There was very limited native content in either 1080p or 3D, but perhaps the difference was this: nobody believes the autoconversion from 2D to 3D really improves the picture or even produces a watchable result, while people are willing to be persuaded that upscaling to a higher resolution improves picture quality.

    No wonder they are going back to the "improved resolution" marketing. OLED might prove to be surprisingly hard to sell to mainstream TV buyers, even if the real PQ improvement potential going from LED LCD to OLED is far higher than going from 1080p to 4k.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Another 4k thread........

    I want 4k I want 4k I want 4k.... fuck it...I want 8k too.... NOW!

    Seriously, I want 4k.

    I can work more effectively on 4k.

    I can game on 4k. (HD7970 can)

    I can upscale HD to 4k. I have the money waiting.... BUT I will not be paying 4k!

    Waiting for this to be available in 30-40" screens, 10bit colour, not the common crappy 6/8 bit rubbish most of you have. Then I will adorn my home with a couple.


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