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

[credit provider=”LG Electronics” url=””]

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


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