Hey Lifehacker, 4K TVs have become much more affordable. As someone who wants to start a physical movie collection, is 4K just a phase that will pass by quickly (like 3D) or is it safe to assume that it's here to stay for a long time? Thanks, May The 4K Be With You
At this stage, it's too early to tell. The home entertainment industry will continue shoving the technology down our throats for years to come: of that you can be assured. But whether 4K discs will become the dominant movie format remains unclear.
Disc sales on the whole are in rapid decline: the latest figures from the Australian Home Entertainment Distributors Association (AHEDA) revealed that DVD and Bly-ray sales dropped by 10 per cent in 2014. What's interesting is that the fall was roughly equal across both formats, which means Blu-ray penetration may have already peaked with a total market share of just 16 per cent.
If people are already abandoning Blu-ray, it seems unlikely that they'll fork out for an even pricier disc format that requires a dedicated TV and player. Sharper resolution is nice and all, but is it really that nice? With the exception of hardcore videophiles, we'd wager most consumers are far from convinced.
There's also the horrifying prospect of the industry entering yet another format war. Samsung, Toshiba, Sharp and LG have all unveiled 8k UHD video formats that could potentially enter the fray at the same time as 4K discs. Remember all those poor saps who backed HD DVD back in 2006? Early adopters of 4K players could be taking a similar gamble. It's also worth noting that the industry has yet to announce a 4K disc standard — currently there are only a handful of protoypes.
In fact, there's a distinct possibility that 4K discs won't be launched on a grand scale at all. Instead, the primary distribution model could be digital. According to the aforementioned AHEDA report, video on demand (VoD) and electronic sell-through (EST) sales increased by 11 per cent in 2014. It makes good business sense to tether your wagon to a healthy horse instead of a lame one. Of course, this raises further questions about the huge size of data involved, particularly in Australia with its neutered NBN.
As with most new technologies, our advice is to wait and see. Other than bragging rights, there aren't many practical applications for 4K technology right now; especially when it comes to physical media. Let the early adopters take all the risks and get mercilessly fleeced at the checkout. 4K players should still be there in years to come; as an added bonus, they will also be priced more sensibly.
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