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CES 2013: Set Makers Unveil 4K Displays

Sony CES Proto-type TV - H 2013

Sony's lineup includes 55-inch and 65-inch “Ultra HD" TVs, while a prototype 56-inch 4K OLED display also was highlighted.

LAS VEGAS -- Sony unveiled a prototype 56-inch 4K “Ultra HD” OLED TV Monday at the International CES, capping a press conference during which the tech giant demonstrated that it is bullish about bringing Ultra HD -- or 4K, which is four times the picture information as today’s HDTVs -- to a wide audience.

There is a lot of interest in the new Ultra HD product category at CES. In fact, the Consumer Electronics Association estimates that roughly 50 4K TVs from at least 10 manufacturers will be unveiled this week. Sony, as well as LG, Samsung and others announced 4K TVs on Monday.

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Despite the buzz, it is generally believed that this will not have a fast start, particularly as the first 4K TVs to reach the market were priced at a whopping $20,000-$25,000. CEA projects that in 2013, the average wholesale price of a 4K TV will be $7,000, and will drop to around $2,800 by 2014.

Aiming to offer 4K at a “more accessible price range,” Sony unveiled 55-inch and 65-inch Bravia 4K LED TVs, expected to be available in the spring. Pricing was not revealed.

Its first 84-inch 4K LED TV, which is currently shipping, lists for $25,000.

Sony has a broad 4K strategy. For instance, it makes 4K digital cinema projection systems for theatrical exhibition, as well as 4K camera technology for the production community. Sony Pictures is already making movies with 4K cameras, including the upcoming After Earth, directed by M. Night Shyamalan and starring Will Smith; as well as remastering library titles in 4K.

At this stage, there isn’t a distribution system in place that would enable consumers to access a steady amount of 4K content in the home.

Sony Electronics president and COO Phil Molyneux said the company plans to “use all of the Sony assets” to get 4K to a wider audience. For starters, its 4K Bravia TVs include technology to upscale HD to 4K.

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As a first step to getting native 4K to homes, it is currently offering on loan to its 84-inch 4K TVs customers an Ultra HD “media player,” which is a hard drive pre-loaded with 10 4K mastered movies from Sony Pictures, such as The Amazing Spider-Man, and additional 4K content from 3net (a joint venture of Sony, Imax and Discovery).

Sony related that it plans to introduce a 4K content distribution service using a dedicated 4K media player in the summer.

In production, Sony already offers professional 4K digital cinematography cameras; its F65 4K camera has already been used to shoot upcoming features After Earth and Oblivion. At CES, the company is is exhibiting a prototype for a 4K consumer camcorder.

Also Monday at CES, Samsung highlighted 4K, demonstrating an 85-inch and 110-inch Ultra HD LED TV. Built-in technology allows consumers to upconvert their content -- whether that be HD broadcast, downloads, streaming or Blu-Ray -- to 4K resolution, allowing them to view Ultra HD at this early stage. The 85-inch display is scheduled to ship in March; pricing was not announced.