TCL's 50-inch 4K UHD TV

Time to toss that HDTV? 4K UHD TVs become affordable

The third largest television maker in the world, China-based TCL, announced Thursday that it will sell a 4K resolution, 50-inch Ultra High Definition (UHD) TV (shown above) starting this fall for $999.

The edge-lit 7E504D LED 4K Ultra High HDTV will launching in the U.S. this September. The set will debut along side TCL’s new flagship 5510 LED 1080p HDTV series, which will be available for sale in August with 40-inch, 46-inch and 55-inch models.

TCL’s 50-in 4K UHD TV will sell for an aggressively priced $999.

TCL’s 40-inch 1080p HDTV is priced at $399, its 46-inch HDTV for $499, and its 55-inch Smart TV for $799.

The new 50-in 4K 7E504D Ultra High HDTV is the lowest priced Ultra High HD TV by a long shot, according to analysts, and it could spur a pricing war with consumers being the beneficiary.

Fellow Chinese TV maker Seiki offers the next closest 50-inch 4K UHD TV. The SE50UY04 is priced at $1499, but can be found on Amazon for $1100.

Seiki SE50UY04 4K HDTVSeiki
Seiki’s SE50UY04 4K HDTV

The prices are a significant drop for the new TV technology. As recently as April, Sony was selling its 55-inch 4K TV set in its XBR line for $5,000.

“That is the cheapest one I’ve heard of,” said Paul O’Donovan, a consumer electronics analyst with Garteer. “And, it’s not really happening too quickly when you look at the personal cameras we have that have resolution that is leaps ahead of where HD TVs are today.”

Most smartphones, for example, have cameras with 5- to 8-megapixel resolution.

Ultra High Definition TV technology offers resolution measuring 3840 by 2160 pixels, or 8 megapixels—four times that of 1080p televisions, which offer 2 megapixels of resolution.

Besides far higher resolution, one advantage pointed out by industry pundits is that 4K TV can show passive 3D better than today’s 1080p sets.

“That has to be sold to the consumer, and I think it’s starting to come through,” O’Donovan said. “3D TV was always a fad or novelty that was going to wear off, but this is actually a technical revolution coming along.”

Specs for the TCL 4K HDTV

The 7E504D LED 4K UHD TV will come with a 120Hz CMI (Clear Motion Index) engine with 5,000,000:1 dynamic contrast ratio for brilliant color and contrast. The television will feature an ultra-thin bezel with a gunmetal gray finish.

The 4K TV has four HDMI inputs to allow users to connect to satellite or cable, DVD/Blu-ray players, gaming consoles, and other devices at the same time. As an MHL (Mobile High-Definition Link)-enabled TV, users can also connect smartphones or tablets to the TV to display content while simultaneously charging the device.

“Similar to what the market saw a dozen years ago with the introduction of HDTVs, 4K UHD TVs are priced so high today that most consumers cannot afford them,” Michelle Mao, president of TCL USA, said in a statement. “TCL is able to change that. While other brands see the introduction of 4K as an opportunity to make large margins—we see it as an opportunity to demonstrate to U.S. consumers the combination of advanced technology and great value we’ve been delivering across the world for over 30 years.”

Content issues

One nagging problem with 4K UHD TVs is that there’s very little content available for viewers to enjoy on them, O’Donovan said.

“There isn’t any content available today, like movies and television, because although the movies exist, they’ve not been transcribed onto Blu-ray, or there aren’t many satellite TV services transmitting them at the moment, but the content is there,” he said.

The 4K format is standard cinematic production today, but Blu-ray players aren’t capable to playing the higher-resolution format.

Sony, for example, has up to 50 4K films that it has produced since 2004 backlogged and ready to be offered to the public.

O’Donovan said a 50-inch 4K UHD television will likely spur sales because—while many consumers have only recently purchased HDTVs—the average screen size has increased. So consumers who purchased 32-inch to 42-inch flat screen TVs over the past few years, will likely spring for a 50-inch or 60-inch screen UHD TV if the price is right.

“People are saying, “maybe I can put my 32-inch TV into another room,” O’Donovan said.

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