At $1,500, Your Next TV Could Be Ultra-High-Definition

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) - I have seen the future of television, and I'm happy to report that the next generation is worth waiting for. Best of all, it looks like many will be able to afford this new TV technology.

I spent some quality time this week with a next-generation, 50-inch, 4K2K television set from Chinese manufacturer Seiki (SAY-kee). 4K2K means the TV is capable of providing you with a 3,840 by 2,160 pixel (rounded off to 4K and 2K respectively) view of the world. 4K2K, or 4K for short, is soon to be re-labeled "Ultra High Definition," or UHD, in the U.S.

On paper, UHD means you'll get twice the horizontal and vertical resolution of today's 1080p monitors. In real life, that translates into improved picture quality unlike anything you've even seen from a consumer television.

Seiki, part of the TongFang Global manufacturing empire, isn't the only company diving into 4K marketplace. Sony ( SNE) has announced at least three new UHD models ranging from $5,000-to-$25,000 for a giant 84-inch model. LG also has an 84-inch model current retailing online for $14,000 and Westinghouse (another TongFang brand) previewed an 110-inch monster at CES. No price was set at the time.

The 50-inch Seiki device I saw has a list price of only $1,500. It's a no frills model meaning it doesn't directly connect to the Internet or any pay-TV services. But, when fed with a UHD video source via one of its three HDMI 1.4 (the new standard) ports you're rewarded with next-generation picture quality.

Picture quality on this relatively inexpensive TV was amazing. In the live video clip showing a Tokyo street scene there was so much detail that I was able to clearly pick out cars traveling on a highway that had to be miles and miles away from the camera. Everything was razor sharp and looked real - as if a layer of fog and haze was lifted from what we're accustomed to seeing. Video-game animation seemed more authentic than I've ever seen. Even up-sampled 1080p video from a BluRay disc looked great.

The main sticking point for the success of these television is applicable content. There is very little to be found from the usual sources. But Netflix ( NFLX), and Disney/ESPN ( DIS) as well as cable and satellite operators are investigating the bringing UHD programming to life by the end of this year. I wouldn't be surprised if Super Bowl XLVIII, to be played at the Meadowlands in New Jersey on February 2, 2014, is the first major sporting event available in 4K/UHD quality.

At $1,500, these units are very reasonably priced, and you're still paying a premium over current 1080p TVs. But, unlike 3D TV, which never really caught on (how many times could you wear special eye glasses to see usually disappointing special effects), 4K-television actually improves the experience. And, from what I saw yesterday, consumers won't have a hard time seeing the value.

By the way, Seiki will introduce a 65-inch UHD model in the second half of this year. Pricing to-be-announced.

--Written by Gary Krakow in New York.

>To submit a news tip, send an email to: tips@thestreet.com.
Gary Krakow is TheStreet's senior technology correspondent.

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