by Brad Moon | December 20, 2013 6:00 am
Ultra HDTV sets were the eye candy at January’s Consumer Electronics Show and no matter what acronym you use to describe the technology — 4K TV, UHD or Ultra HDTV — the picture offered by these new flatscreens is drool-worthy.
But the cost! The 85-inch S9 Ultra HDTV that Samsung (SSNLF) unveiled at CES (the one with the suspended frame) was blasted in just about any 4K TV review for its price tag, which was estimated at $35k. By the time Samsung actually got around to releasing the S9 UHD TV, that sticker shock was even worse, at an astronomical $45k MSRP.
The good news is that if you happen to be in the market for a big screen TV from a leading manufacturer that offers Ultra HD resolution, Sony (SNE) has you covered with its 65-inch LED Ultra HDTV, the XBR65X900A. While not quite as immense as the Samsung behemoth, it’s still a big flatscreen and it offers the same 4K TV pixels, at a fraction of the cost.
The Sony has an MSRP of $5,500. Sure, it isn’t exactly cheap, but for a high-quality set from a premium manufacturer, it’s a heck of a lot less that expected. If you’re looking for an Ultra HDTV on the cheap as a holiday gift, Chinese manufacturers like Seiki are flooding the U.S. market with sets under $1k, but they’re much smaller and a 4K TV review that compares these bargain sets to premium versions will point out the compromises like lower picture quality, cheaper plastics, fewer ports and bare bones remotes.
Here are the details on Sony’s ‘affordable’ 4K TV:
Even during its dark days, Sony has always had a reputation for offering some of the most visually appealing gear on the market. Apple (AAPL) is probably the only other consumer electronics company with similar cred. The XBR65X900A 65-inch Ultra HDTV is a looker, with a sleek black case, angular edges and a minimalist silver stand.
Sony has packed the UHD TV with its most advanced technology, including TRILUMINOS display, Motionflow XR 960 and a 4K X-Reality PRO chip. The results are impressive if you happen to see one in a store and any 4K TV review will confirm it performs well even with 1080p source material.
If you can find native 4K content, Sony’s 65-inch Ultra HDTV is likely to leave you more than happy with your $5,500 investment.
As you can see from photos, the 4K TV also has some serious looking speakers prominently positioned on the cabinet sides. And this 4K TV review from LCD Buying Guide says the sound quality those drivers and the 65-watt amp provides is “best in market.” So maybe you can justify some of the premium you paid on the Ultra HDTV by skipping out on the home theater sound system.
The elephant in the room with any Ultra HDTV remains the issue of content — specifically, content that’s mastered to take full advantage of those 8 million pixels.
If you check out a 4K TV review from different outlets, you’ll often see the same footage being run on the televisions being tested. That’s because there isn’t a whole lot of native 4K TV content out there. The file sizes are huge, the pipelines to deliver the files are small (or subject to download caps) and there isn’t yet a disc standard available in stores for buying 4K movies.
Sony actually sells a 4K Ultra HD Media Player (pictured at right and priced at $700) that’s essentially a 2 TB hard drive preloaded with 10 Ultra HDTV movies and access to Sony’s own Video Unlimited 4K network. But it’s just a band-aid solution with limited content and the problem of bandwidth still an issue.
In the meantime, upscaling of Blu-ray movies still looks pretty good and Sony is releasing some ‘mastered for 4K’ Blu-rays that remain 1080p but are intended to bring out the best in a 4K TV. And there’s always the hope that Netflix (NFLX) will come to the rescue with Ultra HD streaming. Netflix Ultra HD streaming could strike a compromise between quality and bandwidth to deliver content to 4K TV owners that looks better than old school 1080p HDTV.
I’ve been watching the developments in the Ultra HDTV market closely over the past year. And while much of the hype just seems over the top (that $45k Samsung UHD TV being a prime example), every 4K TV review I’ve read for Sony’s 65-inch XBR65X900A has been largely positive.
Between the 4K TV quality, a price that’s at least close to reasonable and a size that’s big but doesn’t mean you have to build the room around the television, this Sony 65-inch Ultra HDTV seems to bring out the best of what the industry has to offer.
I recently replaced our primary TV, so I won’t personally be in the market for a few years. Hopefully by then this whole Ultra HDTV content thing will be a non-issue.
Either way, if I was looking to buy a new TV today, instead of dropping $2k for a high end 1080p set, I’d seriously consider paying the premium for the Sony 65-inch 4K TV.
As of this writing, Brad Moon did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.
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