Struggling Japanese TV makers are hoping to make a comeback with the next-generation 4K TVs that can turn a living room into a cinema-like experience.
With their South Korean rivals dominating the global TV market, Sony Corp. and Toshiba Corp. said Aug. 30 they plan to release 84-inch 4K TVs by year’s end for Sony, and in April or later for Toshiba.
The new-generation TV has four times the resolution of the current full high-definition (HD) standard, with nearly 4,000 pixels on the horizontal edge. But high prices and a lack of content carrying high-resolution images for the TV are huge hurdles for the Japanese TV manufacturers.
Sony and Toshiba are currently displaying their new TVs at the IFA trade show in Berlin. South Korea’s LG Electronics Inc. is also expected to introduce a 4K TV in North America and elsewhere in September.
Sony said its 4K TV will be priced at around 25,000 euros (2.5 million yen, or $31,000) in Europe, while Toshiba has yet to announce a price for its massive 84-incher.
Both said their 4K TVs are capable of processing current HD images of digital broadcasting and Blu-ray Discs into higher resolution images.
The world’s first 4K TV was released by Toshiba in December. Measuring 55 inches, it is priced at around 700,000 yen, more than three times that of a conventional TV of the same size. Toshiba said the product has sold about 1,000 units a month.
“Sony’s (4K) entry will galvanize the market,” a Toshiba official said.
The new-generation TV needs four times the data of current HD TVs to fully take advantage of its capabilities. But currently the technology does not exist to broadcast 4K images or put 4K images onto discs.
“For the time being, we have no choice but to have people use the TV’s image-processing function to view high-quality images,” a Sony official said.
Despite the lack of content for 4K TVs, Sony and Toshiba decided on early releases of their 4K TVs because they said customers who are particular about image quality will want them.
Images on current HD TVs can appear grainy when viewed at a distance shorter than three times the height of the screen. But 4K TVs can halve that distance, enabling people to sit in front of an 84-inch TV at a distance of 1.5 meters.
Sony expects people who have small living rooms to buy the new large-screen TV, a company official said.
Meanwhile, Japan Broadcasting Corp. (NHK) said it is developing technology to broadcast 8K images carrying four times the data of 4K. NHK plans to start test broadcasting 8K images in 2020.
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