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Consumer group: 8K chatter confuses 4K message

A senior representative of US consumer body Consumer Reports has questioned the need for television manufacturers to showcase 8K sets at the recent CES 2016 show in Las Vegas at a time when industry has taken great strides in raising public awareness of 4K/UHD.

Writing on consumerreports.org, Glenn Derene, Director of Content Development, noted that about a year ago, television manufacturers and content creators joined together to create the UHD Alliance, an industry group formed to “promote the benefits of Ultra HD entertainment technology” and “foster the Ultra HD ecosystem”. “The very formation of the Alliance was an acknowledgement that consumers were eye-glazingly confused by all the jargon surrounding the new Ultra HD (UHD) format,” he suggested.

He suggested that at CES 2016, there did seem to be some hope at cutting through the confusion. “The UHD Alliance codified a standard called ‘Ultra HD Premium’, which pretty much guarantees that if you buy a TV with that label, you’re getting a fancy set with all the bells and whistles that will work with most of the content for the foreseeable future. Also, UHD Blu-ray players were announced and are coming shortly, and Netflix promised even more UHD content,” he noted.

“There’s still plenty of confusion to go around and not all the manufactures are hewing to the standard, but it’s enough progress for Consumer Reports to endorse the idea of getting a UHD set if you’re on the market, rather than suggesting you wait for any more dust to settle,” he advised.

“I’ll tell you what’s not helping though. Right in the middle of all these beautiful Ultra HD sets on the CES show floor, there they were: 8K TVs. That’s right 8K—four times the resolution of 4K UHD sets (which doesn’t seem mathematically right, but trust me, it is). In both Samsung and LG’s booths we were invited to marvel at yet another tier of HD that hints at the obsolescence to come, just when we were all getting comfortable with the new standard,” he bemoaned.

“And these aren’t even the type of show-offy, engineering experiments you typically find at trade shows—rollable, super curvy, or reconfigurable TVs. LG announced it fully intend to sell these 8K sets within the year (no word on pricing, but, you know, think high). What kind of content such a set would display or even the connections necessary to do so are almost besides the point. Manufacturers who have a business interest in getting us consumers to understand and appreciate the pleasures of UHD shouldn’t want us asking these kinds of questions in the first place. It only leads to discomfort and disgust with the entire upgrade process,” he warned.

“Many of us have made our peace with frequent product turnover when it comes to smartphones and computers. Apple, LG, and Samsung release new flagship phones each year that promise new and revolutionary functionality. But TVs are supposed to be different. They fill a role in our houses more like that of an appliance than a computing device. And even though a modern TV has an operating system and enough processing horsepower to launch a space shuttle, we want them to do one thing and one thing well—display our favourite content. Predictability trumps innovation. Once you’ve got your TV working right, you don’t want to have to think about it for a while—a long while,” he suggested.

“Which is why, if we’re going to make the switch to 4K UHD, we don’t want to know about 8K. At least not yet,” he concluded.

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