Will 2013 Be the Year of 4K Ultra High Definition Televisions?

Full HD 1080p (1920x1080) may not have fully run its course, but that won't stop TV makers from trying to push new 4K Ultra High Definition (UHD) panels on the public. Will there be any willing buyers? Sure there will, but what's surprising is the potential rate of adoption. According to the latest NPD DisplaySearch Quarterly Large Area TFT Panel Shipment Report, 4Kx2K LCD panels are forecast to ship 2.6 million units in 2013, up more than 40-fold from just 63,000 in 2012.

It all comes down to LCD panel suppliers and their ability to develop cost-effective technology solutions that deliver next-generation technologies at today's prices (or close to them).

Sony XBR-84X900
Sony XBR-84X900 4K Ultra HD TV ($25,000 MSRP)

"To date, Innolux Corp. has been the most aggressive panel manufacturer in this market segment, developing a full line-up of 4K×2K panels in the 39-inch to 85-inch range," noted David Hsieh, NPD DisplaySearch Vice President, Greater China Market. "Despite this, 4K×2K panel manufacturers’ shipments are primarily focused on 50-inch, 55-inch, 58-inch, and 65-inch sizes, which are expected to have the highest volume shipments, especially in China."

The elephant in the room is the lack of 4K content, but according to Hsieh, it's imperative suppliers don't fall behind when making their purchases. In addition, some panel makers are working with design houses to develop circuits that can up-scale HD content to 4K.

As with everything, it's going to come down to price. Walmart, for example, recently sold a 70-inch Sharp LED television for $1,600, and there are several large-screen HDTVs in the sub-$1,000 range these days. That's what 4K panels are going up against. There's a certain value proposition in future-proofing a new TV purchase, but if the premium's too high, that 65 million forecast could turn out to be a pipe dream.