In October 2011 at the CEATEC conference in Japan, the 4K TV was
arguably the hit of the show. The new picture technology, which
purports to offer a resolution four times better than current
HDTVs, was gushed over by attending press and industry
One CNET headline stated: "Toshiba's $12,000 55-inch 4K TV --
Dazzling!," in reference to Toshiba's 4K exhibit. But other 4K
presentations received similar rave reviews. Geek.com called
Sharp's 60-inch 4K set "the next major step in display
After CEATEC, U.S. geeks could hardly wait for the Consumer
Electronics Show in January to bow down before this
awe-inspiring new image. And the industry as a whole prepared to
christen 4K as the Next Big Thing in TV technology, if not
But then, something happened.
During CES, some tech analysts, myself included, posted stories
saying that 4K's picture, while better than current sets, didn't
seem four times better. I wrote
that I was impressed with the picture, but it didn't have the
'Wow Factor' I expected after reading the CEATEC coverage. The
Los Angeles Times chimed in with its own less-than-overwhelmed
review with a headline that read: "4K TVs Makes Their Debut,
Minus the Hoopla."
Rather than aiming their gush at the 4K, tech journalists raved
about the new ultra-thin OLED TVs, which only promised better
pictures, not four times better. LG's OLED TV won CNET's 'Best
of Show' award.
And then things got really bad for 4K.
Can the 4K TV turn things around?
Following the show, more semi-negative articles surfaced,
including one particularly bitter diatribe from CNET columnist
Geoffrey Morrison who questioned people's education levels for
even thinking of buying a 4K set. Under a headline that read,
"Why 4K TV Are Stupid," Morrison said the average viewer could
not see the difference in the picture resolution on any 4K TV
under, oh, 80 inches or so unless you sat extremely close to the
screen. He did say that 4K might be a benefit for projection TVs
which displayed images on screens 100 inches and above.
"But with televisions, 4K is stupid. Stupid. Stupid. Stupid," he
Consumer Reports also took a shot at 4K with a story under this
headline: "What The Heck Is 4K TV And Why Should You Spend
$25,000 On It?" -- a reference to Sony's outrageously priced
$25,000 4K projector.
So how did a new TV go from being The Next Big Thing to the Next
Big Ridiculed Thing?
1. Substance Did Not
I'm not sure what the CEATEC attendees were seeing, but 4K's
picture is only an improvement on today's HDTVs, not a display
breakthrough. The set may offer four times the number of pixels,
but as Morrison points out, the average person can't see that
unless they are sitting closer to the screen than that little
blonde girl in Poltergeist.
2. OLED Exhibits
Were Sharper Than 4K's Exhibits
While everyone was expecting a sharper picture from 4K at CES,
what was immediately clear was that TV makers at CES had done a
sharper job of exhibiting the new OLED sets. They were
prominently featured in the LG and Samsung booths with lots of
floor space to gather around to ooh and ahh. In contrast, the LG
4K exhibit was tucked off to the side, not quiet as accessible.
And over at Sony's booth, the company featured a 4K Home Theater
presentation in a screening room that required waiting in a long
line to attend. (The presentation was also a ho-hum playback of
some Spider-man movie trailers.)
3. 4K Had a Price --
A Big Price -- to Ridicule
Interestingly, the OLED makers never revealed what the price of
their sets would be at launch later this year. Consequently,
tech journalists and analysts focused their attention (and
words) on the set's dazzling picture technology and amazingly
thin panel. The product got all the attention, rather than
debate over whether it was worth the money.
In contrast, Sony had already announced that its 4K projector
costs $25,000. So journalists and attendees logically started
asking whether the picture they were seeing was worth $25,000.
And the answer, of course, was no. What picture is worth
$25,000?! This product vs. price comparison generated more
negative word of mouth for 4K, especially compared to OLED.
A Consumer Electronics Show can make or break a new product.
While this CES did not destroy 4K's chance of eventual success,
it definitely made it more difficult. The media -- and millions
of viewers and readers -- now have a slightly negative view of
the technology, which might make it more difficult to generate
interest when sets are available later this year.