Monday, September 1, 2014

4K, 3D TV on the way (it's here and it's working well)

This was a very weird decision to make.

Months ago, I traded my 3D TV and Blu-Ray player for some help in getting things to the garage from other levels of my house.  I knew that the heavy TV panel on the flimsy pedestal would end up in millions of pixel-sized pieces at the other end of the journey, so I did the best thing.

I've been looking for a TV to replace it.  If the 3D craze had gone better, it wouldn't have been a big search.  Of course, had I not chosen an LG 3D TV in November 2011, I wouldn't be looking for one now.  I found enough movies that I liked in 3D that I wanted to see them in 3D again.

So, I started to search, starting with the same Blu-Ray player/3D TV combo deal.   Nothing was available.  Many of the TVs just weren't available and various web sites would produce links that went to whatever models were available, none of which had any 3D capability.

So, I noticed that all of the 4K TV models had 3D capabilities, until recently, that is.  I tried various models at Best Buy, where I was shown a Sony 1080p TV in their Magnolia Home Theater department, which was very good.  The price was somewhat high, but given the area, I could understand.  Recently, I went to try the 3D effect.  The heavy, active 3D glasses caused some kind of odd feeling in my nose as they sat there.  Perhaps, it was like getting a buzzing in your ear.  It wasn't exactly a vibration but maybe an electromagnetic resonance that was uncomfortable.

The 3D effect was rather good but within a few minutes, I couldn't wear the glasses any longer.

I was told the only alternatives were LG and Vizio.  I had reasonable luck with the bargain LG TV but I continue to hear how people have wildly variable experiences with Vizio.  So, I was thrilled when someone showed me a 49 inch class (class? Just say that it's 48.5 inches) LG 4K 3D TV (LG 49UB8500) at $1499.99.  Yes, that is not cheap, but it was a small difference from the 1080p Sony TV.  It's actually the same as my first 41 inch rear projection TV I bought in 1994 at Macy's.

I've seen several 1080p movies played on it and it's obvious that they're pixelated here and there, but no more so than on other 4K TVs I've seen--or for that matter, 1080p TVs.

There are two big deals for me--substantial processing power and passive 3D glasses.

Obviously, with the ability to decode 4K content, it will do just fine with 1080p and 1080p 3D content, and that's plenty.  Do I expect 4K to hit it big?  No, not in the least.  I expect that 8K will have the major content re-work behind it.

I heard that DirecTV is planning to deliver (some) 4K content any time now, but whether I want to pay extra for that (if there is an extra fee), is unlikely.  I'm finally making the switch to 1080p/1080i content, since I started with them in December 2008.

In any case, I got an extra $100 off because of the Labor Day weekend sales.  I wanted to buy through the same store in NYC that sells me cameras but their sale went off earlier than expected, probably because of the East Coast/West Coast time difference, and I had to wait a bit to transfer money.  Having a 6% points coupon would have been good, along with the $100 discount.  In any case, Best Buy is getting my money and they have free delivery, which will probably come from one of the local stores where I viewed the TV.

The only thing really left to do (for the TV itself) is to get an upscaling 4K Blu-Ray player some time in the future, especially if the current one just doesn't do the job.  I need a sound system and haven't decided on anything.  Being in an apartment has changed my options a bit and having a 900 watt system is probably not as good an idea as it was.

Update 2014.09.05: The TV was delivered between 3:30 and 5:30, as promised.  With free delivery, there was no setup.  That left the assembly to me. The box was strapped and the reason for it became quickly apparent.  The box wasn't much.  There was a small stand with the styrofoam holding the panel and the outer box that had no bottom.

There was a box reminiscent of something Apple would do with various adapters, the remote control and batteries, as well as instruction manuals and some screws for the assembly.

The assembly took a little work and was best handled by two people.  I had my buddy keep the panel upside down, while I secured the stand to the panel.  It wasn't exactly difficult.  Why do these stands never seem substantial?

Once finished, the TV required a brief setup and found my internet connection.  For such a TV, it shouldn't be a surprise that it had built-in WiFi.  This also has webOS as a base, using their Magic Remote as a pointer.  Getting anything done with the pointer is an exercise in frustration.  However, the TV looks good, has a tiny bezel, and the image quality even from DVDs is quite good.  I haven't checked too much about screen dimensions--4:3 seems to cover everything but 16:9 has a letterbox setup.

I noticed that my 16 MP JPEG photo files were displayed just fine using a rear USB port.  One of the three ports seemed to be USB 3.0 compatible.  There are ports, with cabling adapters, for composite and component video.  My old HDD/DVD recorder works well with it.  I supposed it will be a while until I adjust but the image quality is quite good and even the 3D was quite good.  Only the extremely cheap 3D glasses (cheaper than those from the cheapo 2011 set I had) let it down a bit.

Update 2014.09.06: Went to Best Buy to retrieve the Sony upscaling 4K Blu-Ray player, which was on sale for US$149.99.  It feels incredibly cheap, but it's a bit bigger than the 1080p model.  The remote control is exactly the same.  It works well enough.  I'm waiting for Yamaha or someone else to provide something amazing for more money, but I think it won't matter much.  I just wish I could enhance the firmware.  It keeps requesting a USB drive in back to keep information about Blu-Ray discs--their way of cutting costs to keep the price low, whereas other units I've had kept the information internally.

Update 2014.09.19: I need more and better sound.  I've been looking at sound bars and I'm just not sure.  Certainly the US$300 sound bars aren't going to give me much better sound, if any, than the TV already gives me.

Best Buy sales people push Jamo, which is owned my Harman International, which own Harman-Kardon, JBL, Infinity, and more.  Is $799.99 too much?  I'm not sure.  They also talked about Sonos, which makes a lot of portable music speakers.  It was $100 cheaper but seemed to lack the subwoofer, and I found the subwoofer later for an equal amount, which could make a comparable Sonos sound bar system as much as Bose.  I even had a convincing Bose Cinemate 1SR demonstration, but Bose stores are quiet.  That sound bar system was US$1499.99, which is probably not the highest you'd find

Update 2014.10.09: I changed my mind about the sound bar and DirecTV is working now.  I was ready to buy the Jamo sound bar and no Best Buy location seemed to have them.  They had a big drop in price on the Cinemate 1SR to US$1099.99 and I was ready to go for that, but they also didn't have those.  Something odd about Bose selections--they don't have HDMI inputs at the mid-level, so they couldn't handle higher resolution audio, even though optical connections don't seem to be constricted as copper is.

I was really thinking about buying a Yamaha receiver and buying a set of Infinity speakers, along with my Bose center channel speaker which is really thin.  Then, I noticed a premium Yamaha sound bar (YSP-2500) for US$999.99.  Of course, I kept looking and at $1499.99 and $1799.99, the capabilities and power became much better.  The top end model, the YSP-4300 had all of the DSP sound modes I wanted, claimed to deliver 7.1 sound (as did the YSP-3300), but also had FM radio and a USB connection for devices, just like my previous Yamaha receiver.

The only problem with a sound bar--like many central channel speakers--is finding a place for it.  Either it blocks the TV or it won't fit on the shelf.  Currently, I'm looking at buying a large piece of heavy, sturdy glass to lay under the TV that will extend past the ends of the top shelf of the TV stand in order to hold the sound bar comfortably.

As far as DirecTV is concerned, the HD (1080i or 720p, depending on the channel) video quality is generally amazing though many channels still don't have HD broadcasts.  I haven't seen anything about 4K video, but then, that will probably be as great as the 3D video that has come and gone.

Update 2014.10.27: About a week ago, I went into a Fry's Electronics store.  The last time I had visited one, it was a circus of sorts.  I didn't expect much.  They seemed expensive on TV pricing, and they mostly had the lowest end of sound bars and other electronics.  They had a small section labeled 4K/3D in the movies area, but naturally, they had no 4K content available at this point.  It was amusing to see that they had full Blu-Ray/DVD/digital copy packages for less than the DVD by itself.  At least, they're somewhat prepared for 4K content, even if it never arrives.  If scanning and correcting photos (negatives, positive slides, or paper) into digital formats is a pain, I cannot imagine having to do that for motion picture film

Update 2014.12.19: I just saw my TV available for US$1199.99 or $200 cheaper than I paid and $300 cheaper than the typical price.  It's been three months, so I'm not upset.

This is the first TV I've had where I've gone to stores like Best Buy and I've not been jealous of the TVs on display.

What's more, a couple of weeks ago, I bought the Panasonic GH4 camera body, capable of Cinema4K and 4K video recording.  It should be interesting to see how good the video actually is.

Update 2015.01.01: I took a few 4K videos a couple of days ago, and played them through a USB 2.0 port.  The clarity of video and audio was great, but there was a problem with performance at times.  I don't think that it was because of the camera.  It could be either the USB 2.0 speed, which isn't tremendously fast or it could be the decoding of the raw video.  I'll buy a USB 3.0 drive to see how that works.

Update 2015.12.07: I've finally got a Bose sound bar.  That took a while.

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