Beyond HD: Is LG's New Ultra HD TV Really Worth $20K?

LG releases the crispest picture yet, but is it worth $20K?

What comes after HD? If you're a gadget geek with money to burn there really wasn't much better you could do than 1080p HD until now. Previously known as 4K TV, LG's Ultra High Definition TV might just sound like a marketing gimmick, but it's actually a huge improvement over the current crop of HD displays.

Launched to the public just last week after making tech writers salivate earlier this year at IFA in Berlin, one of the world's biggest consumer electronics shows, the Ultra HD display has a resolution of 3840 x 2160--four times that of a normal HD display. On really big HD screens images look pixelated if you examine them closely, but you can press your nose right up against the Ultra's screen and still see pixel-free. LG is the first electronics company to offer this major jump in picture quality to consumers in the United States, with Sony slated to release its own Ultra HD TV during the holiday season. Not that you should plan on giving any as gifts. Even though the $20,000 LG is less expensive than Sony's anticipated $25,000 offering, it's still, well, kinda pricey. Even for an enormous TV.

While some of the Ultra HD's features, like 3-D capability and built-in Wi-Fi, are standard on many Blu Ray devices, huge improvements have been made in the clarity and sound: The system comes with a 10-speaker sound system and 84-inch display. But even those with the funds to finance their tech flights of fancy might want to hold off; there just isn't that much content made to be viewed at such a high resolution. LG says that its Ultra HD TV will automatically update Blu-Ray discs to be viewed at 3840 x 2160, but when it comes to clicking through cable channels, you're pretty much out of luck. When companies started trotting out HD TVs, it was the same story: expensive TV sets with very little HD content. Now it's the standard. The lesson here is that patience is a virtue. Eventually you'll be able to buy a reasonably priced 60-inch Ultra HD TV. Until then, send this article to your wealthiest friend and hope he gets the message.

—Keith Wagstaff is a writer and editor based in Brooklyn. Follow him @kwagstaff.

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