The case for 4K Today: Part 1

at least for nerds and cord cutters. 4K broadcast might never happen in the US. We still don’t have everything in HD period, let alone 1080p (usually you have to pick between 720p and 1080i). But just because your broadcast content isn’t ready doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy 4K sets today because we don’t get our content over the wire. I’ve participated in buying a lot of TVs in recent years. My entire family clung to CRTs for a while because they were all Sony Trinitrons that still work and look great (as well as 640×480 can look, anyway).

Having dealt with all their sets “features” like pulling teeth to turn overscan compensation off or noticeable video processing delay I’ve been using Dell projectors instead. Why Dell? because their projectors are still expecting to be hooked up to laptops rather than TV signals. Minimal (if any) processing. Overscanning isn’t even offered as a feature. The good kind of feature-less I love. But projectors have bulbs, and they decay noticeably halfway before their death. Basically you have to buy one every year if you want a decent picture. (At my job we managed to wear one down until the projector started complaining that the bulb had “Passed its useful life”)

That’s why when late last night as I was shopping for a replacement bulb for my Dell 4310WX 1280×800 projector and seeing the $1600 price tag for a new unit altogether I decided to put 4K into the Amazon search and noticed a set for a suspicious $1300 – the Seiki SE50UY04. 50inch, 4K, LED. Sounds good, right?

Since my experiments with Windows 8 have ended, the 22-inch LED lit 1080p HDMI accepting touch enabled display I had been using gained new purpose sitting on my coffee table mirroring the projector. I actually hooked them up to a monoprice 4×2 HDMI matrix so I could either mirror or use one for Xbox and the other for AppleTV or something. My projection area is about 100 inches so 50 isn’t going to compete with that. But 50 is only a little over 2×22, which means 50 inches of 4K has basically the same size pixels (and same viewing distance) as 25 inches of 1080p. I’m also cursed with 20/10 vision.

I found a CNET review of the SE50UY04 and was elated to find the reviewer was annoyed by a lack of “image processing features”. The reviewer was also too inept to get his PC’s video card to deliver 4K over HDMI saying it was only supported over display port “and the TV doesn’t have that” and leaving it there rather than seeing out an adapter. The short viewing distance to appreciate the small sampling of 4K content he could find was also complained about.

I’ve ordered the set and a few HDMI 1.4 cables (and mini displayport adapters). I imagine that if the MacBook Pro is willing to drive 3840×2400 on its internal display for More Space mode then there should be at least one way to get it to do 3840×2160 externally – hopefully both with and without HiDPI mode via some display menu bar apps.

I (unfortunately?) decided to save $200 on a seller that wasn’t Amazon Prime but also offered free shipping so instead of the set taking 2 days to arrive it’ll probably arrive during WWDC. I’ll write and post a photo-heavy review once I receive it.