Everyone wants an Ultra HD 4K TV. Yes, we all know there isn’t yet any commercially available native 4K source material that properly showcases the stunning eight-times-better-than-HD picture quality, but there will be soon.
The Blu-ray format is due a refresh in January and, before you know it there’ll be test transmissions and perhaps even a 4K TV channel from Sky or the BBC.
It’s all about future-proofing, though there’s slightly more to it than that; some of the first batch of Ultra HD TVs pump out best-ever Blu-ray images, thanks to some wonderfully adept upscaling tech. The birth of 4K could also lead to the re-birth of 3D – it just looks so much better at this higher resolution.
The big stumbling block – as always with first-gen tech – is money, but already there are relative bargains to be had and, better still, some sumptuous designs stuffed with new innovations. The race for 3840×2160 pixels is on.
The 4k TV that changed everything
4k will catch-on when it becomes affordable, and that era starts now with the release of the Toshiba 58L9363, (£2,999).The undisputed cheapest Ultra HD TV out there in the UK, it’s three-inches wider than the 55-inchers from LG, Samsung and Sony – and its announcement actually caused the prices of those three to be hugely slashed. Using the Active Shutter 3D system, the 58L9363 is Toshiba’s second-generation 4k TV after 2012’s 55ZL2 glasses-free telly than also sported a 3840×2160 resolution. Its smart TV options – called Cloud TV – aren’t as slick as on the pricer brands, but its CEVO 4k engine upscales HD-to-4k, and this remains the cheapest way to get eight million pixels into your life. Read: Toshiba 58L9363 review
Drop-down Sliding Speakers, but it’s Cinema 3D that wins-out
LG isn’t the only manufacturer to take advantage of the need for chunkier 4k panels to simultaneously beef-up audio – Sony is also playing that game – but the Korean company’s effort is super-slick. Yes, it’s got eight million pixels, but what we really love about the 55-inch 55LA970W (£3,299) is its motorised drop-down, 50W-rated Sliding Speakers. They literally appear from within the TV’s undercarriage at the touch of a button, and are accompanied by a subwoofer on the rear. Back on picture the 55LA970W uses a a 100Hz-rated panel that also boasts LG’s own NANO Full LED backlighting and a Tru-ULTRA HD Engine for upscaling SD and HD to UD quality. The 55LA970W naturally sports LG’s own Cinema 3D ‘passive’ 3D system, which is arguably where Ultra HD succeeds most obviously. Read: LG 55LA970W review
4k works its magic with Active Shutter 3D, too
Having eight million pixels instead of two million helps ‘passive’ or Cinema 3D systems immeasurably, but what about the Active Shutter 3DTVs from Samsung? It’s a company that’s stubbornly stuck to this increasingly unpopular technology, but UE55F9000 (£3,299) proves that it’s not misplaced loyalty; we’re talking a cracking visual density and – compared to passive 3D TVs – a startling level of extra resolution and detail. Meanwhile, native UHD content looks so good it’s silly, while upscaled HD looks crisp and clean. Although it uses a now standard edge LED lighting system, the UE55F9000 also boasts local dimming tech for better contrast. One of the slimmest Ultra HDTVs around, the UE55F9000 also has the best smart TV platform around. Read: Samsung UE55F9000 review
Booming sound system almost steals 4k’s thunder
By creating this widest-ever 55-inch TV Sony may have inadvertently blotted-out the very reason for the the penchant for small (ish) 4k TVs, but the KD-55X900 [LINK] (£3,300) is nevertheless a timely reminder of how crucial sound is to higher-res movies. Native 4k looks pin-sharp and upscaled Blu-rays – both 2D and 3D – have never looked better, but it’s those built-in side-mounted Magnetic Fluid speakers, complete with two subwoofers, than are the biggest delight. With only slightly less wow factor than its big sister, the far pricier KD-65X9005A, the KD-55X9005A, which uses passive 3D specs, is one of the best value Ultra HD tellies around. Read: Sony KD-55X9000A review
Is this the best value 65-incher?
Philips TVs and always all about detail – and the 65-incher, in that sense, is no mould-breaker. However, in every other regard the 65PFL9708 (£4,500) is a one-off. The smallest in Philips’ flagship 9000 Series, the 65PFL9708 comes armed with a HEXCore processor that feeds Philips’ own Ultra Pixel HD Engine, which is built around an ULTRA Resolution upscaler. It cleverly splits each pixel in HD source material into four, then intensifies them to find additional colour and detail. Also featuring an ambient light sensor that noticeably deepens blacks are purifies whites in high ambient light levels, the 65PFL9708 also includes Ambilight. Philips promises us that a small converter box will be available soon to upgrade the 65PFL9708 to HDMI 2.0. Read: Philips 65PFL9708 review
Panny’s power-play includes HDMI 2.0
Aside from being one of the best-looking TVs around, Panasonic’s debut Ultra HD telly has some work to do. With the manufacturer having finally dumped plasma as a screen technology, it needs to make Ultra HD work – and the high-end TX-L65WT600 (£5,499) does just that. The only Ultra HD telly we know of with HDMI 2.0-rated inputs from the get-go, the future-proof 65-inch TX-L65WT600 can accept and play 4k progressive pictures at 50Hz. It’s also got a Display Port 1.2a input, which can take 4k feeds from a PC, and 4k Intelligent Frame Creation, which can pan at up to 1,200 frames per second with all sources. Oh, and did we mention its 4k THX Certification? Read: Panasonic TX-L65WT600 review
The ultimate all-in-one home cinema
Just like the early flat TVs – and the smaller, far more affordable 55-inch version, the KD-55X9000 – this 65-inch stunner from Sony (£5,999) uses forward facing stereo speakers either side of the 4k display, though the glossy design sees a single sheet of edge-to-edge glass across the front. Native 4k has absolute fidelity and image depth on the KD-65X9005, and Blu-ray is upscaled so well, but it’s those Magnetic Fluid speakers that we’re really taken by. Adding immense depth and stereo imaging as pin-sharp as the onscreen antics, the KD-65X9005A becomes so much more than just another large screen telly – it’s perhaps the ultimate all-in-one home cinema product. It’s another watershed moment, though at this price it will remain out of reach of most of us. Read: Sony KD-65X9005A review
A visual knock-out, this pixel-dense display is a pricey plaything
One of the UK’s first Ultra HD TVs initially released last Christmas, LG’s monster-sized 84-inch 84LM9600 (£14,999) is next-gen TV tech writ large – and an equal to the Sony KD-84X9005. With Ultra HD content, the TV’s fine detail performance is phenomenal, and the pixel-packed panel does a grand job of remapping Full HD too. It breathes startling life into contentious 3D, doing away with the resolution loss seen on regular passive 3D screens. The immaculate solidity of its pixel-dense images is beguiling, whether it’s Ultra HD or Blu-ray on the screen, while the beefy sound system adds another dimension to the best-ever picture quality. It’s big – so big it likely won’t fit through your front door – but as a proof of concept the 84LM960V is well ahead of its time. Read: LG 84LM9600 review
An incredibly ambitious bid for TV greatness
The biggest of Sony’s cutting-edge X9005 Series of Ultra HD TVs, the 84-inch KD-84X9005 (£24,999) is a challenger – albeit it in a niche – to the LG 84LM9600. With its ultra-powerful 4k X-Reality PRO video processing, the KD-84X9005 is a gloriously ambitious TV. Native Ultra HD pictures look unbelievably good, and it’s no stretch to say that it’s capable of hosting the best picture quality ever known. But it’s not just about pixels; the levels of detail, colour accuracy, clarity and depth are astounding, too, and the set’s upscaling of HD images is enormously impressive. Its 3D images are a revelation, with the 4K resolution combining with passive 3D technology to jaw-dropping effect. As well as injecting new life into the ailing 3D concept, the KD-84X9005’s built-in Magnetic Field speakers and subwoofers are extraordinarily potent for a non-separates system. Read: Sony KD-84X9005
4k in the frame on this 85-inch design icon
Carrying a ridiculous price tag (£35,000), Samsung’s 85-inch UE85S9 is a true one-off. So outlandish is its design – it’s suspended in a frame to look almost easel-like – that we wouldn’t be at all surprised if it’s only manufactured in the dozens. Nevertheless, it shows just what can be done with 3840×2160 pixels and a wild imagination. That surrounding frame doubles as a sound system, pumping out 120W from the sides and top, but it’s the pictures that excel – and we mean really excel. Using Active Shutter 3D system, the UE85S9 has Precision Black Pro, Micro Dimming and the all-important Quad-Detail Enhancement tech for upscaling Blu-ray. However, despite possibly the clearest and most involving pictures ever seen, this is one Ultra HD that won’t live or die on the quality of its images – the UE85S9 is all about a wacky design for the super-rich. Read: Samsung UE85S9 review