While 4K may be an unfulfilled promise abroad, operators here are already cashing on it

  • Rajiv Makhni, Hindustan Times
  • Updated: Mar 07, 2015 17:12 IST

In January this year, I was chewing on a pizza slice and browsing the stalls at the fag end of one of the halls at CES, Las Vegas. Most of my work was done, I had seen thousands of new products, my feet were killing me, and I had a flight back to India in a few hours.

Light at the end of the tunnel

I had seen several 4K TVs with slow motion videos, shot just to make people’s jaws drop. And frankly, was overwhelmed by the disconnect between the 4K hardware (available) and the 4K content (still as elusive as Big Foot). This was the fourth year that thin 4K TVs with an ever-widening array of features were being showcased.

But what were we going to watch on these incredible machines? Every time some company used the dreaded word ‘upscaling’ (turning regular HD content to make it look more detailed and clearer), I knew we were doomed for one more year. It was starting to feel ridiculous.

It’s true that even Full-HD had a period where you could buy the display but see no HD content, but never was the loop this poorly executed. Almost every company promised a 4K player or streamer every year, and then came back next year and made that promise all over again. But, at the fag end of CES, at the fag end of the hall, I was finally shown 4K nirvana.

4K is OK

It was a DTH operator based in the US, and what they were showcasing was their first 4K broadcast channel. It was pure heaven – rich, incredibly detailed, colours so natural yet hypnotic and images so vivid. I was mesmerised.

The overly excited female demonstrator promised that it would be available in the third quarter of the year and she would be glad to have it set up in my house as soon as it launched.


Check list: Buy the biggest screen TV that is LED illuminated and UHD certified

I told her I lived in India and she looked suitably crestfallen. Her expressions more or less said ‘not in your lifetime, dude’. Well, Ms 4K-only-for-the-USA, India just beat the pants off most countries. We’ve got 4K broadcast and we’ve got it now!

Game on

Both Tata Sky and Videocon have launched their 4K service in India. The services will be available for World Cup cricket matches that feature India, as well as the semi-final and final matches. If ever a country could be catalysed into buying a new technology, sports (and specifically cricket) would be the way to do it.

But, this spectacular announcement and Indian buyers jumping the 4K gun over many other countries has created complications in one arena: My life! All I’m asked now are serious questions.


Back up: Big brands like Sony that offer this TV will ensure that more and more 4K content becomes available soon

Should I buy a 4K TV now or wait, what should I be careful about if I do want to buy one, does 4K broadcast in India live upto expectations and what will I be able to see in 4K after the World Cup is over? That, and a lot more get answered right here.

Does 4K broadcast in India live up to expectations?
Well, yes and no. The technology being used is world class, and the cricket World Cup in 4K is spectacular – but in phases. That’s because not every camera used in the broadcast is 4K. Most are, but when they switch to one that is not, it’s like a slap to your face or to your eyes! The difference between 4K and Full-HD is incredible. It’s only going to get better from here.

What do I watch after the cricket euphoria is over?
Quite a bit, but it may not be the kind that you would want to watch all day. You have a dedicated channel of 4K from Videocon with varied content like movies and sports and video-on-demand, plus Tata Sky has one channel with a lot of cerebrally rich content in full 4K on at all times. So, it’s not that you won’t get 4K!

On top of this, let me lay down one more little wager. The Samsungs, LGs and Sonys of this world will pump in money with operators to make sure that more and more 4K content becomes available. The TV industry needs 4K to be available in droves for 4K display demand to pick up. Billions of dollars worldwide are at stake and India could unwittingly become a test case.

Should I buy a 4K TV now? Or should I wait?
Aaah, the 4096x2160-dollar question (also the resolution of a true 4K TV)! If you’re a sports fan, a early adopter of tech, a tech show off or a ‘I need the latest even if I don’t understand anything about it’ kind of person – buy now!

Not much that you need to be careful about other than the fact that you should buy the biggest screen you can afford and that the TV should be LED illuminated, UHD certified, HDMI 2.0, HDCP 2.2 compatible and the refresh rate and frame rate should be as high as possible.

If you are in the market for a new TV, then too, you should invest in a 4K TV to make sure you are future proof. But if the above categories don’t apply, then I would suggest the following. Wait about six months and put in a certain sum of money every month into a piggy bank called the 4K TV fund.

In about six months, you’ll be able to buy the most kickass large-sized 4K TV at a price about 25 per cent lower and be able to watch an incredible amount of 4K content on it much before any other country in the world!

Rajiv Makhni is managing editor, Technology, NDTV, and the anchor of Gadget Guru, Cell Guru and Newsnet 3

From HT Brunch, March 8
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