According to the people I had talked to before I went Las Vegas, I was convinced that this new technology was still a work in progress. To be more precise, some have even told me that the best UHD TV didn't reach the quality of the worst Full-HD TV.
So, today I've checked some high-end TV screens at the CES 2013, and I can say with absolute certainty that the apocalyptic picture I had described in the previous paragraph isn't true. Not anymore, at least.
I visited the pavilions of some leading companies, including Sony, LG, Toshiba, Sharp and Panasonic. In many cases, I went very close to the screens, no more than ten inches, managing to capture some spectacular details with my own eyes. In LG's booth, in particular, I had a close encounter with an 86 inch UHD TV (equivalent to 2.18 meters of diagonal distance between one side of the screen and the other). Usually, the largest screens leave me a bad first impression, as the minimum distance in order to enjoy the images is six or seven meters. So much for my modest living room. Way too much for a packed booth.
With the ultra high definition, however, things change. Even a behemoth 86 inches can be viewed from a few feet away, without noticeable artifacts or lack of details.
UHD technology, however, has a big issue: at the moment there is no UHD content available. We know that Sony will soon release movies on BluRay in 4K resolution (four times higher than the current Full HD) and we know that a Korean broadcaster has already started airing its transmissions in ultra high definition. But, unless you have moved to South Korea driven by a reckless love for Gangnam Style, the vast majority of content available today reaches Full-HD resolution at best.
And this is where it comes into play a fundamental element of the UHD TVs: the graphics processor. Or, more precisely, the scaler. The scaler is a chip responsible for converting in real time a low resolution image into the screen's native resolution. In this way, you can show any image in full screen, regardless of the original resolution.
While the scaler is very important for HD screens, we could say it's fundamental for UHD TVs. Obviously, the process of converting images in real time may deteriorate the overall quality of the video, and with a UHD screen of 80 or more inches, one would immediately notice it. It is surprising how TV manufacturers have been able to refine their scalers in the last few years, particularly on these huge UHD TVs: almost all the manufacturers present at the CES 2013 showed us HD pictures on UHD screens, with surprising results.
There is only one last problem. A problem that, here in the U.S., is green and includes a portrait of George Washington. I'm talking, of course, about the money needed to buy this technology. At present, these high-end TVs can cost up to $ 20,000. It is evident that this technology, like any technology, will become cheaper and cheaper in the next few years. But, for now, my dream to cover an entire wall of the house with a TV screen is still very, very far away.