Upconversion: New UltraHD Premium 4K TV Marketers are Missing a Trick

How Good Are the New UltraHD Premium TV Sets?
– Revolutionary or Evolutionary?

There is no way to evaluate any TV set line, much less 4K and UltraHD Premium sets, except by taking one home for a couple of weeks and trying it out by watching the shows you normally watch.


UHD Premium logo 1

UltraHD Premium logo


It’s too early to do that, so first some general impression about the 2016 4K TVs that were announced at CES 2016.

– Upconversion. None of the announcements, including Vizio’s pre-CES announcement, dealt with what The Online Reporter considers the most important function, upconversion from 1080p and lesser resolutions to 4K.

Upconversion will remain the single most important function, at least for the next two to four years when native 4K and UHD Premium content account for more than 50% of what consumers watch.

– The Industry’s Big Mistake. Setmakers and retailers are making a big mistake by only showing native 4K and UHDP content at trade shows and showrooms. Yes, it looks great but it’s not the real world – not at all what consumers will see when they get their shiny new, super thin and much hyped 4K/UHDP sets home and connected. Less than 5% of what consumers will watch in 2016 will be native 4K content. The right upconversion technology performs wonders with 1080p and lesser resolutions.

The recent New Year’s “Twilight Zone” marathon that ran on American TV, which included every episode ever made and in the sequence in which it originally aired, was for the first time ever in HD. Even though the episodes we watched were in black and white, they looked spectacular on a 2014 Samsung 4K set that has the best upconversion technology of any 4K TV we tested in 2014 and 2015.

– Samsung versus LG. It appears that LG has the best screen technology – OLED – but that Samsung with its LED screen has the best 4K/UHDP technology, based on reading the press announcements and reviews, plus listening to company representatives in their CES booths. It is not clear which company has the best upconversion because as best as we could see, none of them were demonstrating it in their booths. Anyway, it’s best done at home over an extended period of time and content, especially with lots of content from the pay TV service.

– The Others. It’s not clear yet which of the others – Sony or the Chinese setmakers and, in the States, Vizio – will emerge as having the third best 4K TV and the third best-selling 4K set in North America and Europe. Can Vizio, with its much improved but still price competitive sets remain in the top three best-sellers in the States or will one or more of the Chinese setmakers move ahead of it in 2016?

– The UltraHD Premium” moniker. The TV, content and TV distribution industry in the form of the UHD Alliance did themselves and consumers a great disservice by selecting the term “UltraHD Premium” to indicate that TV sets and content meet the full specifications they developed for the new enhancement to 4K, 8K and other screen resolutions.

Firstly, there was already a lot of confusion about the terms “UHD” and Ultra High Definition.”

Secondly, setmakers can and will and already use similar but confusing terms to describe their TVs that do not meet the UHDP standard – terms such as “UltraHD” and “premium UltraHD” TVs.

Third, the Alliance’s bold initiative, which many thought could not be accomplished at all much less in the time frame in which they accomplished it, needs a bold name that is a) distinctive, b) descriptive, c) very different and d) memorable.

The term “4K” did those things for 4K TVs – plus it sounded enough like “3D” that people could easily remember it.

Any term with the word “ultra” in it is going to be confused with the many other consumer and commercial products that are described as “ultra this” and “ultra that.”

You can look it up with Google search for “products with ultra in the name” and see a list.

– What would you buy? Based on what The Online Reporter has seen and know from two years of reporting on 4K/UHD TVs, we would only consider buying a 4K set that meets the full specifications of the UHDP standard.

The industry, reviewers and our eyeballs have convinced us that UHDP is the only way to go – as have our ears for immersive (also 3D or HD) audio. It may be 2017 before prices of 55-inch UHDP sets fall below $2,000 although it could happen as early as the autumn or this summer – if not then, perhaps by the 2016 holiday shopping season. So much of pricing will depend on what the Chinese setmakers do with UHDP sets.

– How to pick the best UHDP set? There is no way to evaluate 4K/UHDP sets except by taking them home and testing them by watching the shows you normally watch.

We’d start by buying an LG set, which is what we did the last time but primarily this time because its OLED display technology is getting rave reviews.

If the LG UHDP set wasn’t what we wanted, especially in terms of upconverting 1080p and lower resolutions, we’d …

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The Online Reporter is the weekly subscription-based strategy bulletin about the enabling technologies of broadband, Wi-Fi, HDR, home networks, UHD 4K TV & OTT services; identifying trends in the Digital Media space. Only a fraction of our material here is published here. To see 4 free copies, follow the links above or go to www.onlinereporter.com/trial-subscription/