Huge expensive 4K UHDTV? That’s so last year. This year, everyone’s scrambling for slightly smaller — but still quite costly — 4K panels. Just ask Sony — but don’t ask them for prices.
Sony launched its 2013 lineup of Smart TVs in Sydney last night, highlighted by new entries to its 4K TV range. The new 55″ and 65″ models join the existing 84″ 4K Panel, albeit at prices that are likely to be a little lower than the 84″ model’s wallet-busting $24,999 price point.
That having been said, Sony representatives were coy about actual pricing, stating that they wouldn’t be announcing that until next month, “around a month before they go on sale”. They’re due to hit stores at some point in July, but all that Sony Australia’s Marketing Manager for Home Entertainment, Hass Mahdi would say to Fat Duck Tech was that “It’s not going to be too dissimilar to where premium TVs are at this time”.
Sony will bundle 8 remastered Blu-Ray titles with the new TVs. Specifically, you’ll get Angels & Demons, Battle: Los Angeles, Ghostbusters, The Karate Kid (2010), The Amazing Spider-Man, Spiderman, The Other Guys and Total Recall (2012) with the new TVs. So at least there’s Ghostbusters to watch, I suppose. They’re not actual 4K content, mind you, so it’ll still be up to the panel’s upscaling abilities to make them look their best.
One of the pervasive questions surrounding 4K TVs has been the dearth of available content. Sony remains upbeat about this (but then it does own a movie studio), with Nicholas Barendson, GM, Marketing Sony Australia noting that “The content is coming, there’s no doubt about that. It’s already happening.”
Chatting to Hass Mahdi at the launch, he too was upbeat about the possibilities for 4K content, comparing it to the situation when Full HD TVs first went on sale and there was a lack of available content. At the time, according to Mahdi, Full HD panels were costly affairs, with Sony’s top panel selling for $9,999. You certainly wouldn’t spend that much on a Full HD panel now.
4K panels are still costly critters — and it’s unlikely that the new panels will sell for a great deal less than that kind of price point based on Sony’s comments — so I asked Mahdi about the possibilities for more mid and budget-ranged 4K panels.
He commented that the premium 4K large screen space was addressed last year with the 84″ Bravia, and this year’s models were still premium, but in the more affordable space. Within 18-24 months, though, he figures 4K will be truly mass market. Mind you, while admitting that Sony hadn’t sold “thousands” of the $24,999 84″ Bravia KD84X9000 he said that sales were “healthy, perhaps up into the hundreds”. That’s a lot of Aussies laying down serious cash for 4K screen goodness.
Naturally, the new panels are also “Smart” TVs, although here I’ll give Sony credit; they get that the thing people do with TV is TV-related, and as such their efforts are focused around delivering video content rather than other apps. Sony’s Paul Colley noted that “the reality is that people don’t play with apps on their TV. You might be surprised to know that when people sit in front of TV… they want to watch TV.”
Despite that, Sony reckons that 70 per cent of Australian Bravia buyers have hooked their Smart TVs up online, which suggests that there’s still some sales traction in the Smart TV concept, and they’re not just sitting there with Ethernet ports and Wi-Fi chips gathering dust.
What do I reckon? I had some brief hands-on time looking over Sony’s 4K range, alongside a comparable LG panel that Sony had, and their panels did indeed look very nice, although it’s always a bit difficult to tell exactly what test parameters have been set for each panel in those kinds of tests.
There’s no doubt that 4K can look exceptional with the right content. But we’re a way away from 4K being easily available, and at the moment that means buying a 4K panel means you’re relying on upscaling for almost all of your entertainment. Unlike 3D or Smart TV, there’s at least an obvious visual advantage to a 4K panel that you’d be able to enjoy every time you switch the TV on. Still, I’d suggest holding off (as I’ve suggested before), unless you’ve got more sense than money. And if you do, could I interest you in some magic beans?