LG Blasts Through $2,000 UHD TV Price Barrier with $1,499 Set

– 49-Inch Set with All the Latest UHD & Smart TV Features
– Voice & Motion Control, Skype, 3D, LG’s WebOS-Based Smart TV, Recommen- dations, Universal Remote & Casting

LG has quietly introduced a 49-inch $1,499 UHD (4K) TV. LG is the first of the big 4 US set makers – Sony, Samsung, Vizio, LG — to break the $2,000 price barrier. Vizio is expected to join the sub-$1,500 crowd with one for $999 by the end of summer. Sony and Samsung won’t be able to hold back with their $2,000 plus pricing except for their high-end models. By the holiday shopping season there’ll be radical downward changes in prices for UHD sets. In addition to LG and Vizio, a new force of Chinese set makers — Haier, Hisense, TCL — will put downward pressure on prices of UHD sets as will Walmart and Tesco at the retail end.

US retailers are now stocking and selling LG’s 49-inch HHD set for $1,499, a new low for the industry’s big three set makers — the other two being Sony and the front running Samsung, neither of which offers a UHD set for under $2,000. LG’s recommended retail price is $1,499, so retailers are not taking anything off the top.

The full specs are at: http://www.lg.com/us/tvs/lg-49UB8500-led-tv

LG’s $1,499 49-inch UHD TV

LG said the set delivers full UHD resolution. Its exclusive Tru-ULTRA HD Engine converts standard def and high def videos to near-4K standards. Its smart TV functions use LG’s WebOS operating system, which coupled with the set’s “Magic Remote” makes it easy to search and select premium entertainment like Netflix, YouTube and Hulu Plus streamed directly to the TV.

LG is particularly proud of the set’s In-Plane Switching (IPS) display panel, which LG makes. The unit seems to have all the features of the newest TVs, both UHD and non-UHD, that were shown at CES such as voice and motion control, Skype telephony with an optional camera, 3D, LG’s very own WebOS, recommendation engine, remote control of other connected devices and displaying images that are on tablets or smartphones.

There are a few other UHD sets under the $2,000 price:
Seiki has a new 50-inch 120 Hz UHD set that’s selling at retail for $699.99, the model SE50UY04
Phillips has a 50-inch 240Hz UHD set that’s selling at retail for $899.99, the model 50PFL5907
-Vizio has promised to start shipping a 50-inch UHD set that’ll retail for under $1,000.

NPD Research said that through the end of March the US market shares for UHD sets were:
Samsung 35.4%
Sony 34.5%
Seiki 23.1%
Others 7%

The UHD set market has hardly taken off. NPD said only 100,000 of them had been sold in the States in the 12 months ending March 31, 2014. Second, most consumers don’t know Seiki and so are not quite sure about whether to buy a Seiki or wait for a better-known brand to start shipping. Third, the Samsung and Sony sets are priced way beyond most consumers’ budgets.

The Importance of Upconversion
If what UHD set makers are saying about upconversion is true, then consumers will start seeing it at the neighbor’s and want one. That’s more likely to start happening in late summer/early fall in the States because of the start of the NFL and college football seasons and baseball’s World Series. What set makers are saying is that their proprietary upconversion technology, also called upscaling, makes existing 1080p HD (2K) videos look as good as, or almost as good as, videos shot in UHD.

LG Set Upgraded SD/HD to Near UHD

Sales reps in Best Buy and HH Gregg have told us that Sony does the best job of unconverting. Up conversion is an important attribute because almost all the content that’ll be available for several years will be the existing 1080p HD, regardless of how it’s delivered, whether pay TV, wireline or by satellite, broadband or DVD/Blu-ray. However, there is not an industry standard for upconverting, so each set maker develops its own proprietary technology.

Here’s what Sony has to say about its upconversion technology: “Suddenly, everything looks better. All of your existing HD sports, TV shows and movies are up-scaled to super clear 4K quality. The new 4K X-Reality PRO chip enhances HD (or lower-resolution) images by analyzing and refining images with beautifully natural detail and astounding color. The latest Reality Creation database and Super Resolution processing breathes new life into everything you see with phenomenal 4K (3,840 x 2,160) resolution.”

Here’s what LG has to say about the say about its upconversion technology. “Enjoy the benefits of 4K resolution today. LG’s Tru-Ultra HD Engine upscales the picture through a 4-step process that enhances the details of broadcasts, movies, sports and games, giving you the viewing experience you expect from an Ultra HD 4K TV.”

Seiki says, “With Ultra HD, you’ll be able to enjoy your favorite shows and movies in the best resolution possible — whether it’s SD or HD, DVD or Blu-Ray.”

Samsung says, “UHD Upscaling delivers the complete UHD picture experience with a proprietary process including signal analysis, noise reduction, UHD upscaling and detail enhancement to seamlessly upconvert SD, HD or full HD content to UHD-level picture quality.”

Other Important Features
There are many other differences between the different brands of UHD sets so each consumer will have to decide which ones are important for them. One about which to make sure is the Netflix app that allows access to Netflix’s UHD videos, one of which — “House of Cards” — is available now and more coming such as reruns of “Breaking Bad” and new episodes of “Orange Is the New Black” that’s coming in June.

Also essential is the 2.0 version of HDMI, which is necessary for showing UHD videos that are filmed at the highest frame rate.

UHD experts say that UHD is about more than just more pixels. It’s also about enhancing those pixels, which is also done by set makers’ proprietary technology. LG says its 10-bit color depth displays over one billion colors. The result, it says, is “a picture that is more detailed and natural.”

All of the UHD sets we’ve seen have an HEVC decoder (High Efficiency Video Coding), which is essential for decompressing UHD videos when delivered by a pay TV service. The LG set has HEVC.

LG’s Smart TV Uses LG’s WebOS

They also all have 3D, a technology that has faded primarily because it requires a special set of glasses to watch.

Amazon.com has a comparison of UHD sets, but the Samsung UN48H8000 curved 48-inch set that’s shown is not a UHD set, See:


On the Retail Front
Visits to the local Best Buy and HH Gregg stores turned up some interesting items.

The HH Gregg sales rep we talked to said the store had received the new sets but had not set them up yet. He said they use the same technology as the prior LG UHD sets, which on a prior visit he had said were the best UHD pictures. When we asked to see upconverting, he could not show us. The LG set would not stay connected to the pay TV service when he tried to switch the TV’s inputs. He thought it was a problem with the HDMI cable. He was also unable to switch a Samsung UHD set to 1080p because, he said, the DirecTV connection was not working.

All of this was despite HH Gregg having featured the $1,400 LG UHD set in its four-color multi-page insert in the Sunday papers.

The HH Gregg sales rep said the store was doing well selling UHD sets and had sold four of them the day before (Memorial Day Monday). He also said curved TVs were selling well.

Best Buy was behind the curve on the LG $1,499 set. The set was not on display and neither the sales rep we talked to or the store manager knew anything about them — even though the set is on Best Buy’s Web site. Both said the set may have been in the store’s inventory but did not know.

It’s best to take what a store’s sales rep says with a grain of salt. One of them said Samsung was offering a Blu-ray player that played UHD videos. On closer inspection with the sales rep, it turned out that Samsung has a Blu-ray player that upscales Blu-ray videos to near UHD quality.

LG has a challenge ahead in alerting retailers and consumers to the set’s price and availability. There’s some urgency because Vizio will soon start shipping its $999 UHD set. That’ll hurt sales for the LG set even if the LG has many more useful features. Besides, Vizio has been upgrading the functionality and performance of its TV sets while keeping prices low.

Walmart did not have the LG $1,499 set in inventory. Yet! You better believe it’ll be the first to get the low-cost Vizio UHD set.

On the Home Front
On the home front, because most of the initial UHD content will be streamed over the Net the residence will require a broadband connection that’s more than 15-20 Mbps and either a wireline Ethernet connection from the router to the TV or a Wi-Fi router that supports more than 50Mbps. Most homes that are likely to buy…

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