Rich Warren: Ultra-high definition offers a richer experience

Generous Geoff Poor of Glen Poor's Audio-Video offers free admission to his theater in the Old Farm Shops at Kirby and Mattis avenues in Champaign.

This probably outrages the owners of the local cinemas. Poor currently showcases the new 84-inch LG Electronics model 84LM9600 4K television, also known as ultra-high definition.

The room in which he demonstrates it resembles an average living room, except for its excellent acoustics. Poor reproduces the audio through a system that surpasses any local movie theater, and for that matter, most movie theaters in this state.

Poor apologized that LG failed to send any 4K demonstration material. Thus, he showed me a Blu-ray version of the most recent James Bond flick, "Skyfall." The LG television incorporates enhancement circuitry to upconvert Blu-ray 1080p HD video to not only display properly on the 4K screen, but to look phenomenal as well.

Poor asked me to compare it with the ultimate Sharp conventional HDTV with approximately the same screen size in an adjacent room. Indeed, the picture quality surpassed the Sharp, even though the source was standard Blu-ray HD.

Beyond seeing the delicate spider web wrinkles in Judi Dench's face and the subtleties in the day-old stubble on Daniel Craig's face, the art gallery segment closed the sale. When the camera zoomed in, the paintings looked so lifelike it was more like seeing ultra-high-quality slides rather than an action video. All of the nuance the artists imbued on their canvases projected right through the LCD TV screen.

I will be forced to imagine what true 4K source material looks like until LG sends Poor the real thing. We'll report back when that happens.

While Poor demonstrates this monster TV gratis, if you want to leave with it, that will set you back somewhere close to $20,000. If you carry it out yourself, he might knock off a few dollars. Poor needed the help of a few friends just to get it into the store. He reminded me that just six years ago, his best 60-inch plasma HDTV sold in the range of $12,000-$15,000.

Meanwhile, across town, Verizon Wireless demonstrated its new alternative for broadband high-speed Internet, HomeFusion.

Over the years, many of you who live outside cities and towns emailed me with pleas for high-speed Internet access. If you are within range of one of Verizon Wireless' 4G LTE cell towers, Verizon heard your prayers.

Read no further if Comcast, Mediacom, U-verse or Frontier offers broadband service in your area.

The Verizon Wireless alternative may be a bit slower than the base Comcast and Mediacom service and a lot more expensive. However, compared with dial-up or satellite services, Verizon HomeFusion is a gift.

It promises true high speed with download data rates of 5-12 megabits per second and upload of 2-5 Mbps. That's far faster than satellite Internet. In fact, with satellite Internet, uploads crawl through conventional telephone lines.

Verizon Wireless gives you the antenna, about the size of a big bucket, that mounts on the outside of your house and a combined modem/router, which offers four wired ports and Wi-Fi for a score of devices. The deal is the same as when you obtain a cellphone from them. Sign a two-year contract, and it's yours.

The drawback is cost. Unlike with cable and DSL, which include nearly unlimited data, Verizon sells data in pricey packages.

The basic 10 gigabyte data plan costs $60 a month, on up to 30 GB for $120. You also can combine it with Verizon's Share Everything cell plan that allows your phone, tablet and other portable digital devices to share the same data package.

While 10 GB is more than enough for email and downloading software, you'll need 30 GB for YouTube and movies. Even then, you'll exceed 30 GB if you watch more than a few movies a month. Still, compared with dial-up, the 10 GB plan is a bargain.

Rich Warren, who lives in the Champaign area, is a longtime reviewer of consumer electronics. He can be emailed at hifiguy@mchsi.com.

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RAM wrote on April 11, 2013 at 5:04 pm

This from a recent Scientfic American article authored by David Pogue:

4K TV broadcasts? Forget it. The Retina-zation of television is particularly absurd. No cable or satellite company will send out 4K broadcasts because, in the bandwidth space of one 4K channel, providers could send out four HDTV channels. (Companies already send out low-res versions of HDTV channels to conserve bandwidth.)

 The data required for a 4K video is also too great for DVDs, Blu-ray discs or Internet streaming. So what, exactly, will you watch on a 4K set? If you buy a Sony 84-inch 4K set ($25,000), the company will loan you a hard drive containing 10 Sony movies in 4K. That's it? We're going to ship hard drives?   4K TV begins to look like 3-D television, an interesting idea going nowhere soon. 

KOR wrote on April 12, 2013 at 2:04 am

"In fact, with satellite Internet, uploads crawl through conventional telephone lines."

I'm not sure of your sources or what decade you live in, but that is just not true. Satellite internet has had affordable bi-directional technology for many years.

Exceed currently offers 12Mbps down and 3Mbps up with 10GB bandwidth for $50 per month. This rate also includes 'free time,' where between midnight and 5 am traffic is unmetered.

Hughesnet and dishnet also offer satellite internet with similar pricing. With Exceed or dishnet, customers can bundle their respective DirecTV or dish network TV services to save about $10 per month.

Next time, please do your product research.