What would an agency do with Ultra HDTV?
- By John Breeden II
- Apr 05, 2013
Ultra HDTV is a new display technology that may be ahead of its time. There is little doubt that most LCDs eventually will move to this technology, but for now, its high price and limited applications are going to keep it out of reach of most people, and that includes government.
The standard for any large format display today is 1080p, otherwise known as full HD. That means that there are 1,080 pixels running vertically up the screen and 1,920 pixels going across in a typical 16:9 ratio LCD monitor. For monitors whose primary job is to display video or graphical information, the 1080p resolution looks really good. Pixilation is only visible a few inches from the screen and mostly seen, not surprisingly, in text display.
There are two types of UHDTV, the 4X and the 8X variety. The 4X models have started to make it to the market in very limited quantities, while the 8X is still being tweaked. In the 4X UHDTV, the number of pixels running lengthwise across the screen is increased to 3,840 pixels, and the vertical is bumped up to 2,160 pixels -- meaning there are four times as many pixels on the screen as with the 1080p models, hence the 4X designation.
Now, having more pixels on a standard desktop screen won't necessarily look four times better to most people who don't need that clarity anyway. But higher resolutions allow for larger screens. And larger screens mean higher prices: An 84-inch UHDTV right now from LG Electronics costs a cool $20,000, putting it out of reach for agencies.
Certainly most government agencies, even those tasked with displaying information to the public, can come up with less expensive solutions. They could purchase at least 20 42-inch LED displays running at 1080p for the cost of one UHDTV. Of course, with satellite imagery of Earth and space becoming more fine-grained all the time, and multi-billion-pixel images becoming more common, some agencies could find a use for these high-end displays. They also might come in handy in surveillance of large crowds.
One side benefit to UHDTVs is that they will drive the cost of regular LCD displays down to the point where everyone can afford them. There is no reason that any agency couldn't replace its remaining CRTs with LCDs, or replace their tiny LCDs with larger models. They are just too inexpensive not to.
The 8X UHDTV, which is still in the works, will double the resolution once again, to 4,320 pixels by 7,680, but it will require a huge screen and carry an enormous price tag. In this age of increased budget scrutiny, both the 4X and 8X UHDTVs will likely remain out of reach of most government agencies for a long time—at least until some application comes along to make them necessary.
John Breeden II directs the GCN Lab.