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As you might expect at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show, 4K was all the rage. All of the major leading flat panel display companies were showing 4K Ultra HD product at the show, including Sony, LG, Samsung, Toshiba, Vizio and others. Sizes for actual consumer-bound product ranged from 50-inch “entry level” models to huge displays with over 80-plus-inch diagonals. Naturally, they all look fantastic – just as they did at last year’s CES. The catch, of course, is that the market for these displays is really only the super enthusiast – those very high-end consumers willing to pay prices ranging up to well over $20,000 for such a device. All of the manufacturers claimed that their models will be “more affordable than expected,” but few were willing to quote specific price ranges. LG did indicate that they intend to have an 84-inch OLED 4K set available in 2013 for around $12,000, but that’s still well outside the price range for all but the most affluent early adopters.
Of course, the problem with 4K Ultra HD isn’t just that the displays themselves will remain exorbitantly expensive for the next few years at least – there’s also the problem of having native 4K video content to view on them. Sony has pledged to begin offering 4K film titles for their 4K display customers starting this summer, via their own 4K video distribution service. The company hasn’t specified exactly how this service will work, but it would seem likely that some kind of special Internet-connected set-top box will be involved, employing a secure digital streaming system to deliver content from Sony Pictures servers. There was unofficial chatter at the show that perhaps the box might include a Blu-ray drive – so if you have the Sony Blu-ray version of a particular title for example, the disc itself would unlock a 4K stream delivered to the box digitally. Watch for Sony to make official announcements in the next few months.