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When Will LG's 84-Inch 4K TV Go Mainstream? Maybe Never

Higher resolution won't make a difference if your TV screen is too tiny and your home bandwidth is too slow

Higher TV resolution is always better, right?  Not if your television screen is too tiny to do justice to the millions of pixels at your disposal, and if "high speed" Internet bandwidth is too slow to deliver said resolution to the average consumer. 

On Thursday, LG announced plans to show off an 84-inch TV capable of displaying eight million pixels at 3840 by 2160 resolution at the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.  As my PCWorld colleague Ian Paul wrote yesterday, LG's ultra-high-res set has four times the pixel density of an 1080p HDTV.  Samsung and Sharp are developing similar technologies as well.

Currently, there's no industry standard beyond 1080p, and it's unclear when (or if) 4K HDTVs will reach a Best Buy near you.  Besides the obvious lack of 4K video content, there's the issue of screen size. LG's 84-inch TV may seem gargantuan -- an elephant in many living rooms, in fact -- but it's actually too tiny to do justice to 4K video.  Way too tiny.

Consider this: In July 2010, YouTube announced support for videos shot in 4K.  In a post on The Official YouTube Blog, company engineer Ramesh Sarukkai wrote that the "ideal screen size" for a 4K video is 25 feet. 

That's right, 25 feet!  Unless you buy a 4K-capable projection system and rig up some sort of in-home drive-in theater, it's unlikely you'll ever have a screen big enough to fully appreciate the splendor of 4K.   Of course, 4K video equipment is pricey too, often costing thousands of dollars.   

"Because 4K represents the highest quality of video available, there are a few limitations that you should be aware of. First off, video cameras that shoot in 4K aren’t cheap, and projectors that show videos in 4K are typically the size of a small refrigerator," Sarukkai wrote.

And then there are the shortcomings of today's high-speed broadband.  Your home Internet connection is almost certainly too slow to stream 4K content; if you don't believe me, check out these 4K clips on YouTube's playlist.  And 1 gigabit-per-second broadband networks like the one that Google is installing in Kansas City won't reach the masses for many years.

I'm all for 4K resolution, but I don't expect to see 4K TVs or monitors anytime soon.  What's the alternative?  One Official YouTube Blog reader, Philip Arnason, posted this worthy suggestion a while ago: 

"The only place this could work out is with a 4k projector in a movie theater. Does Google have plans to stream movies to movie theaters? I'm all for it!"

Contact Jeff Bertolucci at _Today@PCWorld, Twitter (@jbertolucci) or jbertolucci.blogspot.com.

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