Ask LH: When Should I Buy A 4K TV?

Hi Lifehacker, I've been thinking about updating my plasma with a new TV, possibly a 4K model. But after seeing the rapid price drop for LG and the super-cheap deal offered by Kogan, I'm not sure. Should I wait a bit and buy a 4K TV later this year? Are there a few more years before any real content is available anyway? Any advice? Thanks, TV Transition

Photo: LG Electronics

Dear TVT,

There can be little doubt that 4K will eventually become the dominant TV format in Australian living rooms. As the obliteration of the standard-def CRT market proves, there's no halting the march of technological progress.

However, in the case of 4K, it's more of a crawl than a march — most industry analysts agree that 4K TVs wont become mainstream for another four years or so. Until then, it will likely remain a niche/luxury product for technology geeks and cinema buffs.

Because the technology is still in its infancy, 4K content is scant at best. Indeed, an official disc format hasn't even been invented yet. (The Blu-ray Association is currently working on a 4K optical media standard, but has yet to release any concrete specifications.)

To get around this, you can buy 4K media players that are designed to store and play Ultra HD content. However, the selection of titles is extremely small and you're at the mercy of your HDD size when it comes to building a library.

Some content providers, including Sony and Netflix, have announced 4K streaming services, but there has been no word on whether these platforms will be available in Australia. In any event, it will be very interesting to see how the technology handles streaming in this country, given the huge size of the data involved.

All in all, the situation is not too dissimilar to the emergence of 3D TVs — early adopters were forced to wait months for a decent movie release and 3D broadcasting in Australia remains a rarity. If you paid top-dollar for a first-generation 3D TV, you'd probably feel a bit silly now.

In other words, there's little reason to adopt the technology today other than bragging rights and future-proofing. In addition to coming down in price, the technology is bound to receive more advanced and compelling features with each successive generation: good things come to those who wait.

Our advice is to hold off for at least one more year. Alternatively, for the same price as most mid-range 4K TVs you could purchase a state-of-the art 1080p LED and still have money left over for an entire home theatre setup. I know which option I'd prefer.

But that's just our opinion. We'd also like to field some opinions from readers. Has anybody forked out for a 4K TV yet? How are you finding it? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

See also: Lifehacker 101: Ultra HD TVs

Cheers Lifehacker

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Comments

    I was ready to buy the Sony 4k to go with my ps4 until I realised that there was no 4k resolution support. I'm going to hold off for a few years now.

    when i can buy a 60inch 4k curved oled for around $2k then i will get one

      I don't think your going to notice 4k on a screen that small.

        But you'll notice full HD on a mobile phone?

          I don't know the resolution of my Mobile Phone, but it's easily sufficient and it's definitely not 1080p.

          I have a Huawei Y300, unless I got the model number wrong. It detects as a Samsung Galaxy 2.

    Your first link "rapid price drop for LG" is wrong. Says the man still using a 51cm 4x3 CRT TV.

    Wait until these UHD 4k sets have a Vertical refresh rate of 60hz instead of only 30hz at that resolution. By then the panels will have matured and hopefully will be at a price more people will agree to pay.

    Personally if I could find a 2560 x 1440 60hz screen at a decent size of at least 55 inches I could dump my 55 inch Bravia and finally get away from 1920 x 1080. One of the Sony 65 inch UHD 4K screens once they can do 60hz will be perfect. At the moment though over $4000 for a 65 inch UHD 4K screen that can only do 4k at 30hz seems kind of silly.

      It isn't generally the panel that's the problem. Rather that HDMI 1.4 doesn't provide the bandwidth to send 60 frames of 4K every second.

      HDMI 2.0 increases the bandwidth enough to support 4K at 60Hz, or 4K at 30Hz with high bit depth colour.

    dont think any of channels are even broadcasting in FHD, not to mention that most of us arent getting FTTP... by the time the government finishes with FTTN, the our Asia Pacific neighbours will still laugh at our turtle speeds; not to mention the archaic download, you'll burn through them streaming 4K contents...

    Buy a 4K TV when you have something to actually watch on it. It's really that simple.
    Until you have Fibre internet with no download limit to stream 4K netflix, or until they start releasing 4K movies it's the same as buying a 3D TV with no 3D content (or a PS4 with no games, jk).

    I'm only now thinking of upgrading my 42in Plasma but even that I'd prefer to get a non 3D TV since I just don't need it. Unfortunately I think every new Smart TV is 3D anyway.

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