Sony going all-in on ultra-high definition

  • AFP
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  • Updated: Dec 11, 2013 11:40 IST

The Sony XBR-65X900A 65-inch UHD TV. Photo: AFP

The company is promising a cornucopia of 4K products at January's International CES as it aims to push the technology further into the mainstream while rebuilding its reputation as a serious alternative to Apple for aspirational tech-savvy consumers.

Thanks to the speed in which the technology world moves, it's easy to forget just how cool Sony and its products used to be. So much so that Steve Jobs himself used to use the company as a benchmark for where he wanted Apple to be in terms of design and desirability.

Following one or two wrong turns in recent years, the signs are that Sony is getting its mojo back. Its TVs look great even when they're switched off, its tablets and smartphones are as elegant as they are cutting-edge and it's building cameras that are equally appealing to professionals and aesthetes.

However, Sony wants to go one further and be the go-to brand for premium consumers, especially when it comes to ultra-high definition (UHD) or 4K TVs.

For those that don't know, 4K or UHD refers to displays that offer four times as many pixels as a high-definition screen for a depth of light, color and detail which is as close as a viewer can currently get to actually looking out of a window or being present while something is being filmed.

The technology is by no means new; Sharp and Toshiba first demonstrated UHDTVs at Japan's Combined Exhibition of Advanced Technologies (more commonly referred to as CEATEC) electronics trade show in October 2011 and at every major tech show since, the number of companies, sets and their sizes have grown exponentially.

And although the company refuses to go into specifics, Sony is promising a 4K fest for January's International CES in Las Vegas. So as well as TVs and 4K video cameras at different price points, expect smartphones and tablets with ultra-high definition displays and the ability to record in the same format too.

The technology has so far failed to capture the wider public's imagination. This is partly due to cost -- most UHDTVs cost thousands of dollars -- but it is mostly due to the lack of native content available. With the exception of South Korea, no country currently broadcasts TV programming in the format and there are very few 4K films available to rent, buy or stream. All of which explains why Sony is focusing on allowing its customers to create their own 4K footage.

However, many also believe that 2014 could be the year that the technology stats seeping into the mainstream. Japan is set to start broadcasting 4K TV in 2014, and Netflix hopes to be able to stream UHD videos over the internet to US customers at least before the end of the year.


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