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 3840x2160 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 3840x2160 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