The 4K Peril

January 8, 2013 by Dave Haynes


A lot of the fuss coming out of the massive Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week is focused on big, sleek and beautiful 4K flat panel displays.

They look awesome, and I can guarantee you, all kinds of end-users will be asking their digital signage vendors and integrators about 4K screens in the next few days and weeks. Tech media is not normally all that mainstreamed, but one look at the morning and evening news shows tells you this week is different. 4K is leading the news from CES.

So … you have a client you are trying to close on a deal … finally. He comes into the meeting saying he saw some reports about 4K screens and he wants to look at that for the lobbies in his main stores.

What’s your reply?

Answer – Yes, they look awesome … but … here’s the thing:

a – They’re just coming on the market and are going to be wildly expensive for many months, possibly years. Sony’s first 84-inch 4K LED TV, now shipping, lists for $25,000. OUCH! Or this 110-inch beast for $300K;

b – Very, very little content is available at that resolution, which is essentially four times that of 1080P. 4k is ultra high definition television, with a resolution of 3840 by 2160 pixels, or 8.3 million pixels on a screen;


Image from Expert Reviews:

c – The file sizes will be HUGE. This changes the playback hardware not only with respect to the CPU, but also the storage. You are no longer talking gigs of hard disk space, but quite possibly terabytes;

d – Distribution costs, when you update these utterly massive video files, will increase exponentially. These files will redefine the term bandwidth hog;

e – In many cases, only the video nerds will know and notice the difference between 1080P HD and 4K, and even they might not care. Ultra high resolution is a beautiful thing, but you need the right kinds of visuals to make a worthwhile statement. It’s not all that well-known that in most instances, even using 1080P instead of 720P is pretty much pointless in digital signage installs, because human eyes can’t resolve the differences unless they are up really close to the screen. Going to 4K is truly pointless, and expensively so. Here’s a great Cnet piece that explains it all.

When your client says “What about going 4K?” tell him the costs are too high right now. And if budget doesn’t stop him, move to points b to e.

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