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Sony ushers in new 4K high-resolution format with 84-inch TV selling for $25K

09/19/2012 01:59 EDT | Updated 11/19/2012 05:12 EST
TORONTO - Even Sony concedes its latest TV is a tough sell.

For the wealthy gadget lover who has everything, or the most eager of early adopters, Sony is prepping to release a Canadian exclusive in time for Christmas: a new astronomically priced TV that represents the first step into a new ultra high-resolution format.

It's called 4K TV, a technology that promises four times the resolution of the HD picture consumers are now used to watching.

For the price of a brand new family sedan, or a down payment on a condo, consumers can pick up Sony's top-of-the-line 84-inch 4K LCD TV. That's $25,000 — plus tax, of course.

Much like when plasma TVs were first released and were mostly sold to businesses or the very wealthy, Sony isn't expecting a huge rush on its new model, admits spokesman Michael Neujahr.

"There's not going to be an awful lot of consumers buying this TV," says Neujahr.

"But certainly the higher-end customer that wants the best of the best, who's spending $140,000 on a car, or $12,000 on a watch, it's those people we're going to start with."

The technology is so new that there's not much a consumer can actually view in the full resolution. There's some material online, including on YouTube, which plays in 4K resolution but not a whole lot. Don't expect cable and satellite TV providers to start offering 4K channels any time soon. And there's still no physical disc format that's 4K-compatible, although TV manufacturer LG believes a new type of Blu-ray could be ready by next year.

Neujahr doesn't see that lack of 4K content as a huge barrier, however.

Sony claims the TV is equipped with an internal chip that can upconvert any video content to look better on a 4K TV — although Neujahr admits even he still hasn't seen what conventional HD TV content looks like on the new set.

"Will it look better? I'm sure it will, but I haven't seen it with my own eyes yet," he concedes.

"It's not that dissimilar to not that long ago when HD TVs first came out and at the very beginning there was very limited to no content at that point. You have to start somewhere to spur technology advancements and here with 4K televisions — we're not too sure exactly when — but 4K content will be available."

He does say high-resolution photos taken on digital cameras will look great on 4K TVs, even when blown up to 84 inches.

Sony doesn't expect most homeowners will have a spot for a TV that large — it measures 213.7 centimetres wide by 113.6 centimetres tall, which is the equivalent of about four 42" TVs combined together — but anticipates the trend towards bigger and bigger screens will continue.

"In the standard definition days on tubes a 32-inch TV was a huge television. The first HD sets of 40 to 42 inches was a big TV," says Neujahr.

"Today, 55 inches is pretty well the middle point ... where not that long ago you were watching a 32-inch television."

He expects the price for 4K TVs will creep into the four-digit range eventually.

"It didn't take that long for the early HD TVs (to come down in price) and I'm sure at some point in time — and sooner than later — we're going to see more affordable 4K TVs," Neujahr says.

"It's going to happen, it always does happen."

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