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Associated Press
A model stands next to a display of Samsung’s curved 4K UHD TVs at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

Your next TV: Ultra HD

Internet-driven format gets push at gadget show

– After attempts to hawk 3-D and OLED TVs fizzled in recent years, television manufacturers are taking small steps toward making a new technology, Ultra HD, more viable for mainstream consumers.

It’s the first TV format to be driven by the Internet video-streaming phenomenon and at the International CES gadget show this week, major streaming players Netflix and Amazon are saying they’ll offer movies and TV shows in the format, and Sharp is introducing a relatively inexpensive TV with near-Ultra HD quality.

The moves are meant to coax consumers to pedal faster on their TV upgrade cycles. At the moment, most Americans buy new TVs about once every seven years. TV manufacturers would love to create another wave of buying like the one that sent millions of people to stores a few years ago to upgrade from standard definition tube TVs to flat-screen HD models.

Unlike 3-D TV trend, which quickly eroded into a tech fad in recent years, analysts say Ultra HD may actually catch on. With screens that house four times more pixels than regular HD TVs Ultra HD is a simple enough upgrade to gain widespread adoption in the next few years. Aside from being visually jarring, 3-D required sometimes pricey glasses and gave some people headaches. Because Ultra HD content can be delivered over a standard high-speed Internet connection, it isn’t likely to get bogged down in a format war that plagued the Blu-ray disc standard.

“You see it, you get it. It’s a big, awesome picture,” says Ben Arnold, a consumer electronics analyst at NPD Group. “Consumers will be interested in it as prices come down. Consumers are also moving toward bigger screens. All of this is good news for (Ultra HD).”

In side-by-side comparisons, Ultra HD is crisper than HD. It displays richer skin textures, finer details and less pixelation. The extra resolution becomes more important as consumers spend more money on bigger screens that amplify images.

But Ultra HD, or 4K, is in its very early stages. Although prototypes have been around for years, the first sets for consumers didn’t hit the market until 2012 with prices in the tens of thousands of dollars. Only about 60,000 Ultra HD sets were sold last year in the U.S., with 485,000 estimated this year, according to the Consumer Electronics Association.

Today, the lowest-priced Ultra HD TV being sold on Amazon.com is a 39-inch model from Seiki Digital for $500. The cheapest name-brand manufacturer’s model, a 58-inch screen from Toshiba, sells for $2,750.

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