This week is the Consumer Electronics Show (CES 2013) in Las Vegas, and several companies will announce the next generation of home entertainment, UltraHD televisions. But what is UltraHD and do residents of Southeast Idaho need it?
SD and HD
Currently SD and HD are the standards for video both as physical media (VHS, DVD and Blu-Ray) and streaming video (from services such as Netflix, Amazon, iTunes, and Microsoft).
SD stands for Standard Definition and can be either analog or digital video. It is measured as the number of lines on a screen (yes, your TV picture is made up of lines). The more lines, the better the quality. VHS tapes support 360 lines. DVD supports 480. Most streaming video is SD at 480 lines, but it is slowly increasing. On the old CRT televisions, VHS looks good, but DVD looks better. There is no noticeable difference between SD and HD.
HD stands for High Definition and refers to digital video. The two formats are 720 and 1080. The file size of 1080 is approximately twice as large (although it varies) which means you either need twice the bandwidth or twice the physical storage. On HDTVs with a screen 32” or smaller, there is littler discernable difference. On larger HDTVs, 1080 is noticeably crisper. But once a screen reaches 55”, even the 1080 starts to look a little fuzzy.
UltraHD is four times the resolution of 1080 with twice as many vertical lines (2160) and twice as many horizontal pixels (nearly 4000). This is almost equal to the resolution of a 35mm movie print used in theaters. Several companies are debuting and will debut TVs they claim will be on sale this year with a price tag of over $10,000.
Does Southeast Idaho need UltraHD?
UltraHD will look very crisp on screens 55” and larger assuming the video source is that high. Currently, Blu-Ray does not support that resolution, and neither do streaming services. Most HD video is 720 because it is half the size of 1080 and appears almost as clear. Most Internet speeds in Southeast Idaho aren’t fast enough to smoothly stream even this. And a 55” TV is best viewed from around 10’ away. How many people have rooms that large?
Someday bandwidth will be sufficient and movies will be available to take advantage of it, but until then UltraHD will be little more than showing off how much money you have.