Almost feel embarassed sat on the train watching Peaky Blinders on my Note II
The dust may have settled on the latest International CES, but we’ll be suffering aftershocks from the show for years to come. As an event, this year’s trade show was about the next and the new, rather than the here and the now – and there was plenty of consternation to be heard amid the bluster. CES 1980: telly it like it is …
All these 4 and 8k TVs look great, but where's the content? Can I get a 4K Blu-ray movie? I assume that 4K on normal broadcast channels is out of the question, but on cable or satellite?
I'm not being rhetorical here, I'm genuinely curious as to how much, if any, content there is out there for these super duper tellies...
Well, it is theoretically possible to broadcast 4K over terrestrial, using DVB-T2 and the HEVC codec; the BBC have run tests of that. But longterm, it's extremely unlikely to happen because of the bandwidth squeeze. It's going to be hard enough to maintain the current level of service as the mobile providers snaffle up more of the space as it is...
On satellite, all the major platforms have plans for 4K and there are already some test streams on Astra. Of course, you're going to need 4K receivers for that too, which I expect we'll see more of over the coming year or so - especially once the DVB group has firmed up specs.
Astra for has quite a few new satellites coming on stream, so there should be a reasonable amount of capacity for 4K transmissions.
As ever, you can probably expect that the majority of these will be premium services from subscription companies like Sky, with maybe the odd "Oh wow look at the Olympics in 4K" type of thing from some PSBs.
The focus is largely on streaming. Of course, by that I mean that the focus is largely on how no-one will actually be able to stream it because broadband in the UK is too shit. So to answer the question - no, aside from the occasional bit of "Look, we're totally offering 4K" gimickery, you can't actually get any 4K content yet. Give it 5 years or so and maybe there will be enough to justify having a TV that can display it, but at the moment there's really no point at all. Hell, most broadcast stuff still isn't even 1080p so even a regular HD TV is overkill if you're not streaming to it.
Honestly with the proliferation of HD TVs into the majority (75% in the US allegedly) I'm starting to wonder why we still have so many non-hd channels. They really should consider increasing the number of HD channels and 'gasp' start doing HD as standard.
Then again I don't watch TV so I don't much care,
Some continental operators, like Belgium's Telenet, have dropped support for older receivers using MPEG2 - and it caused a fair bit of angst among some of their customers. And that's an inevitable side-effect of making HD the default, at least for distribution, which I presume is what you mean.
To drop SD distribution means everyone's going to need an HD receiver; and while 75% of sets may well have HD in the US, that still leaves 25% that don't. Those will be second sets, portables, perhaps things like hotel rooms, and of course the poor and elderly will likely be quite widely represented amongst them as well.
You would potentially be imposing costs on a lot of people who may not be able to afford the move - even if you do provide low cost adaptors; 25% is still a lot in a country so large.
Such a move will come - or if not a move to all-HD, certainly to HD technologies, like H.264 and (outside the US) DVB-T2 - in order to save bandwidth, but it will be slower than you think.
Telenet's pissed off a lot of their customers; I doubt other operators are in a rush to follow suit, and governments won't be keen to tell people - espeically the old ones who vote - that the box they bought for switchover just a few years ago is going to be useless very soon, and they'll have to buy another one.
Operators that supply equipment with their subscription services are best placed to do this; the could upscale all SD material and use HEVC or H.264 to save bandwidth, and many are only dishing out HD-capable kit anyway. I suspect even those will wait a while, gradually swapping out SD-only receivers as they fail, before embarking on anything as radical as a mass replacement scheme.
You might think, but right now, that's not quite so simple, at least in the UK, for the BBC.
BBC HD is not yet fully regionalised, while the SD channels are. There would need to be a fair bit of rejigging to be done to make that work, and in the meantime people would lose their (in some cases, much loved) regional news programmes.
This, incidentally, is one of the reasons why the forthcoming BBC 1+1 will be accompanied by an extra hour of kids programmes. Those currently finish at 7pm. So if, when BBC 3 vacates the stream it's handed over to BBC 1+1, if it were to start at the same time, what would be the first programme of the day on the timeshift channel?
The six o'clock news sequence. Which contains the lengthy regional opt-outs, which aren't provided for on that stream. So if the kids programmes continued to stop at 7, for a bit chunk of the first hour on the +1 channel, you'd have swimming hippos and the "we can't show you regional programmes" message appearing.
The solution that requires the least re-engineering, then, is to extend the cut-off time for the kids' programming to 8pm. The Corporation gets to look like its being fluffy to the kids, and the timeshifted BBC 1 + 1 doesn't suffer the embarassment of kicking off the day with huge gaps in its content.
will there be any 'content' that's worth watching?
I think there's plenty, personally; more, in fact, than I'll ever get around to watching. Though since I almost never watch alone - I find television's really only interesting as a social exercise - I typically only watch two or three hours a day at most.
But at that rate, there are plenty of well-written, well-acted dramas and the occasional comedy or documentary. Even if they stop producing decent content today there's enough of a back catalog to last the rest of my life.
That said, I don't give a rat's ass for 4K or 8K or super-contrasty-shiny. I don't know that I can really tell the difference, with my vision, and it's certain that my mind doesn't care. I watch for the narrative, not the pictures. I'll buy a 4K set when they don't sell anything else and my current set dies.
But hey, to each his own.
Streaming of 4k content is going to be a real challenge for content providers until multicast is in mainstream use, and consumer network kit will recognise its routing protocols. Even with that, real-time may be a struggle. Given the prevalence of recording devices, increasingly with terabit hard disks (or SSDs soon?), I would think that offline download would become more attractive as a distribution method.
"Hell, most broadcast stuff still isn't even 1080p"
Yes, that becomes blindingly obvious when something like the latest David Attenborough programme, Conquest of the Skies appears and even my wife, who has little interest in video or sound quality, actually says "wow, that looks good".
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Just looked at what 4K TVs are available. Some of them are 85" diagonal - a bargain at £13K! Who the flip needs an 85" TV? Try getting a 40" and sitting closer to it.
What I can't see are any 20" 4K TVs for £250, which is what I'd want, if and when present, perfectly adequate, TV dies.
And would Corrie, X Factor or even those wonderful historical documentaries with Lucy Worsley be seriously any better in 4K?
"You would need to be pretty much touching the screen with your nose to resolve detail at the pixel level."
You missed the point, the whole point of higher definition is so you DON'T see the pixels! You only want to see the superbly smooth and distinct curves they make - nudge, nudge, wink, wink.
True, but you don't need 4K on a 20" set to do that, you'd have to be sat way too close to the set to start having pixel issues on a screen that big.
You'd likely not even need 1080p at a normal viewing distances on a 20" set, at least not unless you have well above average vision.
If you were also using the 20" set as a monitor, then you'd warrant 1080p, perhaps even 1440p, as your sat much closer to the set then, but even then 4K would still be a waste.
Given that 4K is the new hotness but it's essentially useless without broadcast sources, and 1080p sets are being pushed down in price because, could now be the time to rate all the best 1080p tellies on the market and see what the very best HD screen of today is?
My "HD Ready" 720p set is looking very long in the tooth, and I can't help but think now's the best time to buy a 1080p panel. The price is being reduced, but 4K isn't a standard yet, so there must be bargains to be had.
I finally bought in a year ago when some name brand Chinese set, 50", came in at $350. Nothing wrong the picture, and I can connect my "smart" devices with no lack of capability. The jury is still out on durability, but I can see myself with this TV for many years to come. The only issue I have seen is the down-scaling to legacy resolutions. It's a challenge for some Standard-Definition sources to fill the screen, thank goodness for digital resizing.
"so there must be bargains to be had."
There are. I got my LG 1080p 42" screen last Christmas at a knock down price. It's passive 3D (not much content, but some of it is eminently watchable, especially wildlife stuff), isn't "smart", but does play DivX etc from USB and has a net connection for playback/streaming from uPnP devices. The main reason it was cheap was the lack of "smart" features, which I don't have much use for having a VM Tivo box and XBMC (previously on a PC, now on a RaspPi. And anyway, I've since replaced the DVD with an LG BluRay and that's got "smart" features (not that I use them either)
have a sense of deja vu ?
I've just briefly daydreamed back to the 70s/80s, when VCRs (Phillips, VHS, Betamax) were over a grand a pop, and no one knew anyone who owned one - you usually saw them in TV documentaries with famous people. Not everyone had a colour TV (and it wasn't unheard of to know families that had *no* TV). Generally nice TVs were rented (Granada, Radio Rentals, Reddifusion, Laskys ?) since the average family could never afford the £400+ price tag (when cars could be bought for £1,500.
Maybe 2015 could see an El Reg Icon review - I call for an "I remember the days" icon. Perhaps a ZX80 ?
I think I might have had a sense of deja vu - but VCR wasn't quite the same situation as 4K (and HD). There was the format war over recorders, but generally people found them to be quite handy once they had one, they added useful functionality - allowing time-shifting, recording films to watch again, renting movies - but 4K really doesn't add anything substantial. And I have to admit that I haven't had my VHS recorder plugged in to the telly to record anything for years, and I've not bothered getting a DVR, cos there's very little on that's worth watching again. Now that they show the same film 19 times within a month, who needs to record?
> TV technology was obvious a big talking point
.. is the world saying "Meh!".
Nobody cares about TV tech. Nobody, that is, apart from individuals who use the size of their equipment as a measure of, well, the size of their equipment and those locked in development labs producing ever-denser, more responsive, brighter, bigger, bendier displays - that will still be showing the same repeats (some in B&W, witness True Ents screening The Avengers, right back from 1965) that were not even new a generation ago.
Let's face it: we have enough TV. There's such a large back catalog that there is little need for anyone to make any more telly (apart from filling the gap left by expunging 1970's "non-persons" from ToTP repeats, and updating the few true science documentaries as better information becomes available) - as all the channels of 100% repeats show us, all too successfully with their ability to compete with the big-4 channels for audience share.
So if there's no need for more content, and we can easily satisfy the current generation and ones to come with the existing, already paid-for, known to be popular programmes - why would anyone need a bigger, better, bendier telly to watch it. It's not as if the medium has any affect on the message.
Not only that; TVs are increasingly being used as "output display for gaming console" and thus all that fancy-schmancy tech is useless. Hell, even 4k is ignored, as the new gen can't do 4K at all!
So for people like me, who mostly use their TVs for gaming, all these Smart TV thingies are only uberexpensive monitors. It's bad for TV vendors, as the gaming community is usually the one that pushes for higher-res stuff, but we're already OK with 1080p. Hell, we don't even need 120Hz! So no mad gaming push like there was for 1080p when the PS3 came out.
And casual TV users care even less about their TV sets. I've seen far too many people watching shows in Stretch-O-Vision (when you forcibly show 4:3 content as 16:9), I doubt they even care about 1080p. 4k? Not a chance. 4k is the new "3D".
"as the gaming community is usually the one that pushes for higher-res stuff, but we're already OK " --- Daniel B.
You forgot the word 'console' :-) The main reason I'm cheering 4k is I can see the horrible drawn out "1080p is good enough" era coming to an end.
The best thing about 4K TV is that it will mean that 4K LCD panels become a lot cheaper and computer monitors and laptop screens will hopefully gain a welcome resolution boost (or, rather, decent resolution screens will fall in price).
As you say, a welcome end to "1080p is good enough". Because it isn't.
@ Daniel B.
1080p (or there abouts) was an acceptable resolution for gaming around 10-15 years ago when a 17" CRT was the norm.
Consoles were always a huge step backwards for gaming fidelity, as they assumed TV low resolutions were acceptable.
Even current gen consoles, which now tout full HD!! Have only just caught up with a 10 year old PC.
1080p is entry level, has been for years.
@ John H Woods
Amen to that. 1080p has been a massive road block in the progression of high res displays, probably set things back by at least 10 years.
Hopefully things have started to move again now.
My ideal monitor would be something like this:
An ultra-wide curved monitor, say 7,680 x 2160, (i.e. 2 x 4K) or even 11,520 x 2160 (i.e. 3 x 4K).
That way it would wrap around, say 140-160 deg, field of vision, and so be more immersive (especially with head tracking).
PS: I think curved TVs are pointless, as you're to far away for it to make any real difference, but for gaming, that's different....
You forgot the word 'console' :-) The main reason I'm cheering 4k is I can see the horrible drawn out "1080p is good enough" era coming to an end.
Point taken. I've been annoyed by that as well, but for other reasons: PCs not only have better resolution capabilities, the freaking monitors were perfectly OK with a 4:3 format! 16:9 is horrible for daily work; fortunately some laptop vendors do 16:10 which is at least bearable.
I will usually crank up resolution on whatever monitor I'm using, up to the maximum limit. I remember my jump from Windows XP to Windows 7 being very annoying because the whole UI would no longer scale along with the resolution, instead keeping its big, fat arse the same as if I were using 800x600, all icons would also look gigantic compared to Windows XP. Yeech!
Still, I can't really find a use for a 4k TV. A 4k monitor, however, would be awesome. :)
"And casual TV users care even less about their TV sets. I've seen far too many people watching shows in Stretch-O-Vision"
...and still have the colour saturation boosted up full for "showroom" mode giving onscreen people red/orange faces. Those viewers will just love HDR :-)
Maybe the PR drones simply didn't understand that showing sRGB contents on a wide-gamut display still will just show sRGB gamut.... moreover, what color space are going to cover thos wide gamut screens? Contents will need to be adjusted for it, or colorspace conversion will need to be performed on the fly.
Wide gamut monitors are already available for those image professionals needing to work in larger spaces than sRGB, and the difference is noticeable when wide-gamut images are used.
Still makes me wonder at what point they're going to need to start offering free upgrades to the oldest and weakest links in the chain, namely the pair of mark 1 sensors just above and on either side of your nose...
Or is that the point where they cut out the middle-man (so to speak) and just route the media directly to the mind?
Progress is wonderful and all but it seems with TVs we're rapidly hitting that plateu for mass consumption, a bit like computers have in over the last decade. The hardware is massively more capable the software and services that drive them.
Features like 3D, 4K, curved screens - it all seems a little meh to me. Maybe I'm just getting old and I no longer get it.
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Sony will give you a big HD full of 4K movies and you can sort yourself out with Netflix that is releasing some of it's IP in 4K (eg House of Cards - worth a watch).
I've got a 50" TV which IMHO is the biggest 1080p can go.. bigger really demands a 4K screen.
1080p can look gobsmacking - the BBC "pets" show has some great slo-mo vivid shots of cats'n'dogs doing their thing, truly impressive. 4K on a bigger screen would be gorgeous too.
A lot of the picture quality is down to the cinematography and post-production - how much data they squeeze out the picture before sending it to your house. A great example was a recent live footy match on the beeb. It looked so crisp and clear compared to watching a live match on Sky's HD Sports channel. I'll take a guess that it's the same OB tech but Sky squeezes a lot of the quality out by compression because it's got 500 channels of rubbish to fit into its pipe.
Of course you might not care a jot about telly image - lucky you. Your local car-boot probably has a fantastic set that's just up your street for about a tenner.
Ah, a TV, that's the big overpriced monitor that sits in the lounge right? They work ok plugged into a computer but the pixel density is usually woeful.
Still, maybe this year we'll get some monitors with more than 1080 resolution at sensible prices. Sure, there is monitors with resolutions other than 1080, but you'd be hard pushed to find any of them in a shop, 1920x1080 seems to be the only resolution available.
I bought a 1920 x 1200 monitor, just before all the 1080p hupla came to town. And of course it was basically the same wide as 1080p, but more pixels down. So played HD content with any scaling being required.
A couple of years later a friend of mine was looking for something similar, and struggled to find anything that was above 1080p, without paying stupid sums of money!
I'm using on 1440p now, but look forward to seeing what the 2160p monitors are like for cost in a year or two from now (i.e 4K).
The biggest advantage I can see in having an Android based UI - assuming it works this way - it that I do not need be be tied to the media sources that the TV manufacturer wants to give me and give long term support to.
Want ITV player - get it from the Playstore, want Plex again go to the store etc.
Need that latest version, no need to wait for a manufacturer supported version simply update it from the "standard" Playstore version.
If it really does work this way, then I for one, will be making my TV choice based on whether it has Android or not.
Note to the manufacture: locking me out of PlayStore and not letting me use Standard android media player apps will mean I will vote with my wallet!
Nice in theory. Just how well in practise remains to be seen.
I have my old Nexus 7/2012 and a Moto X 2014; the latter is on Lollipop, and the former was but the experience sucked so much I've gone to the CM version of 4.4.4.
Blinkbox works on the phone, but entirely arbitrarily, doesn't support downloading of movies onto phones.
It works on the tablet too, but even though the most recent update was flagged as fixing downloads to tablet, it still doesn't actually support tablet downloads on 4.4.4 or 4.4.3. It apparently would if I went back to Lollipop, but then it's so sluggish I almost killed it with my hammer.
So yes, while on the face of it Android should make everything happy and charming and lovely, I'd say there's still going to be a good chance that you'll still suffer from that kind of issue, unless Google is really working hard to ensure that everyone a) has a decent hardware spec in their TVs to cope with future updates and b) makes an effort to port those updates to whatever their TV built on, asap.
Android on TV could turn out to be a great idea. But it's way too early to say so yet.
1. Will it keep my kids quiet?
Nah, that's it. I'm sure I'll enjoy all the bells, whistles, blacks, whites and dots but honestly, I could give a crap about them. They manufacturers are trying to create a marketplace out of thin air if you ask me. It really isn't that long ago that we were on CRT sets with PAL that lasted 7 - 10 years typically.
The way they are going now we need to buy a new set every three years or they go out of business. It's stupidity.
Okay for public displays and events and stuff like that I can see a market but again unless it is an event selling new technology features in other visual technology who even really notices this stuff unless someone is pointing it out to them.
Well they're going to go out of business, because I'm not working to keep them in business.
I watched all this HD hoopla with disinterest because I have a very good TV set that works fine and I don't care that it may be getting old, it works.
Then the 3D craze came and I got fed up with it all.
Now they're talking 4K ? Tell you what, when I need a new TV, I'll choose something. Meantime, just leave me out of it.
I was recently thinking about a full HD TV and went to a few shops. They all had very thin bezels and none of them had forward-facing speakers. The salesman couldn't understand why my wife asked about the speakers facing the wall rather than the viewer. Aparently you now need to buy a 'soundbar' (which costs as much as the TV) if you actually want to hear what's going on. And most of them have a remote control that's separate to the TV for the volume. Is this progress?
when I stopped watching TV and started playing games on a high end gaming PC. Currently on 2560 x 1440 (1440p), which is good enough for now. All the modern games that I buy will render at that resolution. The rig is capable of driving 4K VR if it eventuates, so that's a possibility. If I want to watch a movie I'll rent it on Blu-ray.
Having tried out a few smart TVs I am very happy to go back to my el-cheapo Android TV dongle.
Why can't I just stream from my phone (without needing an Apple TV box)? Why can't I just plug a DVD into the power and stream it to my TV without a bazillion wires? Why do I have to wait for Netflix etc. apps to be updated when they are available for Android?
The smart TV features could really use improvement, rather than 4K or 3D.
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