Consumers warm to 4K TVs as they reach 6% market penetration

Ultra-high definition TVs are beginning to see some market penetration with about 14 million shipped in 2014.

About 14 million ultra-high definition (UHD) 4K2K television sets have been shipped globally in 2014, penetrating 6-7% of the overall TV market, according to WitsView, a subsidiary of Taiwan-based market intelligence firm TrendForce.

Chinese vendors, including Skyworth, Changhong and Hisense, have the highest shipment rates. The six largest Chinese brands, which also include Konka, TCL and Haier, will achieve a 13-15% penetration rate in the UHD TV market this year, the firm projects.

The spec of 4K2K TV means 3,840 X 2,160 pixel resolution compared with HD TV, which has a resolution of 1,920 X 1,080. UHD TV has four times the resolution of HDTV.

"China's six major 4K2K TV brands price their products very competitively," Anita Wang, a research manager at WitsView, said in a statement. "Other vendors can't offer such an attractive price proposition."

Last month, the retail price difference in China between 65-in 4K2K 3D and HD 3D TVs was 32%, but in other markets it was as high as 63%, Wang said. As a result, Chinese consumers are more willing to purchase 4K2K televisions, Wang added.

One of the biggest issues facing the UHD TV market is a lack of "available" content. That's not to say there aren't plenty of 4K movies and TV shows ready to be streamed to the public. Since 2004, the movie and television industry has been producing 4K content for the digital market.

"Broadcasters will always use the best equipment they can, because they want to be able to archive and repurpose that content in the future. But that's a long ways from saying they have 4K content in the production chain," said Paul Gray, director of TV Electronics Research at DisplaySearch.

Buying a 4K UHD TV today requires a leap of faith in two ways: You need to believe broadcasters will begin streaming 4K content soon and feel confident that the content will conform to a standard a new UHD TV can decode and process.

"Neither of those things are clear because there are no standards for 4K video," Gray said.

LCD computer monitors are also starting to become available in UHD and feature attractive price tags, she said. For example, the 28-in 4K2K monitor retailed at an average of just $630 in August. In the coming months, panel makers will continue to introduce new 4K2K monitors in different sizes.

For example, Samsung is expected to launch a 23.6-in model that will be priced lower than the existing 23.8-in model. That will help to further drive down retail prices and stimulate 4K2K monitor demand.

Meanwhile, Apple is expected to release the 27-in 5K3K high-resolution iMac by the end of the fourth quarter of 2014.

Monitors built to the 5K3K specification have 5120 x 2880 resolution. The 5K3K iMac is expected to spur a new wave of demand for ultra high-resolution monitors, Wang said.

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