BERLIN Giant TVs with "4K" screens — 8 megapixels, or four times the resolution of the best HD screens — are popping up at the IFA tech conference here in Berlin. Already Sony, Toshiba and LG have introduced models, all in the gargantuan 84-inch diagonal screen size.
Kenneth Hong, LG's director of global communications, says not to look for screens that are smaller — he expects them to go even larger. "Are you really going to see those eight million pixels [on smaller screens]?" he said to TechNewsDaily.
And with giant screen sizes will come giant prices. The LG sets just started going to customers in Korea, at a price of about $23,000. And they probably won't cost much less in the U.S. "It will be in the basement screening room of Steven Spielberg," said Hong.
But those few who do see a 4K screen will have an amazing experience. Despite claims that the 8 million pixels are impossible to see, we were able to discern them at a distance of about three feet. But up that close, we couldn't even see the whole screen at once. In other words, no one would watch it that close.
With 8 million pixels, though, we did see an incredible amount of detail — from a Parisian vista in which the Eifel Tower filled the screen, we were able to walk up and see individual girders on the building.
On a smaller screen at 4K, the details might still be there, but possibly not visible to the naked eye. It's the kind of thing that you see under a magnifying glass in an ad or a tech site article. But who watches TV or a computer screen with a magnifying glass?
The takeaway for those people outside Spielberg's income range is simply an appreciation for how far image technology has come. In the 1990s, a megapixel digital camera was a fantasy. Now 12MP or greater is commonplace. And screens have gone from well under a megapixel now up to eight.
In technology it's just about always true that nothing is good enough. A faster processor, bigger hard drive or wider broadband "pipe" can always be put to use, eventually. But screen resolution may have finally met its end, or come close to it — the point at which you simply can't see anything more.