Trends in home entertainment

Part One: The new Standard in High Definition TV's

Will 2014 truly be the dawn of a new age in home entertainment? The past few years have seen the fast-paced introduction of dazzling new technology and the pursuit of maximum connectivity between all our devices.

This year promises to be the start of an era in which manufacturers finally harness the firepower available to them and tailor it to what consumers are really chasing: an easy-to-use interactive experience that’s stunning on a sonic and visual level.

Basically, we’re talking big glossy fun minus the clunk-factor. The trial-and-error period is over and it’s time to kick back and enjoy the kind of top-shelf entertainment systems that were once only accessible to those with a bottomless bank account and an honours degree in instruction manuals.

With our first blogs of 2014 we’ll:

  • walk you through all the must-have home entertainment tech hitting shelves right now
  • explain precisely what everything does
  • why it’s gonna add the extra wow-factor to your hard-earned downtime.

First up, we’re taking the microscope to the item central to any good home entertainment set-up: the TV screen, We explore the current TV buzzwords that you are likely to hear in most electrical stores these days (4K, Ultra HD and Curved OLED) and uncover the new features that are going to transform the way you experience your digital media and home entertainment.

4K and Ultra HD Televisions

If you’ve been investigating upgrading your home entertainment arena you may have heard the two terms 4K and Ultra HD. Firstly, 4K and Ultra HD are the same thing, so let’s clear that one up. Your full HD TV has a resolution of 1920 pixels wide by 1080 pixels tall (2.1 megapixels), hence the standard Blu-ray resolution often being referred to as “1080p”. Ultra HD TV offers a resolution of 3840 pixel wide by 2160 pixels tall (a whopping 8.3 megapixels) which is a full four times as many pixels as your full HDTV or 1080p, earning it the 4K tag.

The biggest-of-the-best-of–the-best will certainly cost you but large-size models from top-shelf brands are becoming amazingly affordable.

Are you ready to future-proof your living room? What does all this mean from a viewing perspective? Read on.

What’s great about Ultra HD/4K TV:

  • a dramatic upgrade in picture clarity and sharpness, it works with a stunning 8 million pixels rather than the 2 million offered by Full HD
  • it is a derivative of the new 4K digital cinema standard, meaning it’s the closest most of us can get to the multiplex experience in our lounge rooms as 4K home projectors are a long way off becoming affordable (Sony’s is around $25,000)
  • full HD content looks way better on an Ultra HD/4K TV because of the increased pixel density and the upscaling technology available, so even though you might not be always watching 4K content, even your basic free-to-air TV gets the royal treatment
  • 4K Blu-ray discs are just around the corner and they are going to blow you away, each disc with a capacity of 100GB and the high-frame rate Ultra HD format as used by Peter Jackson on the new Hobbit trilogy is fully supported
  • your digital photography – which you often take at a higher resolution than is supported by your screen and therefore don’t see all of what is present in an image – is really going to shine for the first time
  • sports coverage will be truly akin to being there; the resolution is so high on an Ultra HD set that you could watch an entire game without ever zooming in for a full close up and still see the emotion of every player running on the field
  • TV productions are readying for the 4K market with Netflix in the US announcing they’ll be streaming the second season of their hit show House of Cards in 4K this year

The technology certainly speaks for itself up close. If you can pop your head into your local retailer and treat your eyeballs – do it. The best comparison we’ve heard is that it’s so lifelike it’s as if you’re “looking through an open window”.

Curved screen OLED HDTVs

While the race for the greatest possible resolution has snared the attention of many, physically innovative design is also on the burn. For those looking for the most immersive viewing experience – something more in line with wrap-around screens now used in larger digital cinemas including IMAX – the curved OLED TV revolution is also upon us.

Yes, we’re talking about those big bendy TVs that have you doing a double-take as you wander past shop windows.

OLED stands for Organic Light Emitting Diode. Each pixel creates it’s own light and doesn’t require the backlight we see in a lot of the chunkier Full HD TVs. This means that OLED TVs can be much lighter and thinner (LG’s 55EA9800 is only 4.3mm thick and weighs 17kgs). They’re also highly flexible, resulting in the curvability.

If aesthetics are your thing, a curved OLED TV is essentially the supermodel of the modern home entertainment market. This same technology is being used for a super-bendy new LG smartphone, (though we’re not sure if that’s gonna make it easier or harder to get into your jeans pocket).

The best things about OLED TVs:

  • the technology is completely unique, putting electricity through certain materials that glow the specific colours needed to create an image
  • pixels can be completely shut off, allowing for absolute blacks, long sought after by movie buffs and gone since the days of the old CRT TVs
  • they are extremely energy efficient and believed to be one of the longestlasting, brightest panels on the market
  • the curved panel is less reflective and reduces glare
  • units such as the Samsung KE55S9C OLED have a high-tech, multi-view feature which means you can watch two entirely different feeds at the same using 3-D glasses to reduce fighting over the remote

Coming up next…

Hopefullly we’ve given you an insight into what the next gen TVs hitting stores mean for you when it comes to planning your own home entertainment space to keep in synch with the new advances in technology.

In our next blog, we’ll give you the lowdown on two new console releases that propose to become your one-stop interactive media hub in 2014: the Sony Playstation 4 and the Microsoft X-Box One.