| Jochen Wieloch |
Berlin (dpa) – The last year has seen the arrival of Ultra High Definition (UHD) television, which manufacturers boast offers higher resolutions than HDTV as well as more realistic colour and higher frame rates.
But is it really time to replace your HD TV, so soon after it was considered the cutting edge of home cinema technology?
“The optimal set up is to have a full HD television with at least a 40-inch screen along with a Blu-Ray player as a universal player,” says Herbert Bisges, editor of the German home cinema magazine Heimkino.
There are currently plenty of devices on the market that play DVDs and audio CDs as well as videos, photos and music from USB keys, memory cards or over a network. Bisges says a decent Blu-Ray player will cost in the region of 200 euros (US$250) and he sees no reason for waiting for the full roll-out of UHD, which he believes is still some distance away.
One of most important considerations when purchasing a home cinema system is sound quality.
“AV receivers can only release their full potential when used together with high-quality speakers,” he says. Those with a small budget should use sound bars (a single-cabinet loudspeaker enclosure) or a flat type with a separate subwoofer. These generally are linked up to the TV using a cable and do not take up much space.
Even if you don’t have a new flat-screen TV with an Internet connection, it is still possible to access digital media sites such as YouTube using a Blu-Ray player that is WiFi-enabled.
“Those who are particularly interested in HbbTV offerings should invest in an internet-enabled digital receiver,” adds Bisges. This allows users to store TV recordings on a hard drive and watch them at a later date. Customers focusing on the online world of games, films and apps, should consider looking at Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV or Google Chromecast.
CRT technology – the bulky TVs of old – has been almost completely replaced by flat plasma and LCD television screens with a seemingly limitless choice of equipment on offer.
With the arrival of 4K Ultra High Definition (UHD), there are four main resolution standards for use in the home: standard definition (480p/540 pixels), high definition (720p), full high definition (1080i/p) and ultra high definition (2160p). Like Bisges, the German consumer testing institute Stiftung Warentest recommends waiting before investing in a UHD television, pointing out that expensive devices in XXL format with curved displays or ultra-high resolution are often unable to show off all their capabilities.
UHD may offer four times the resolution of standard full HD, but there are still no TV channels or Blu-Ray discs, just a few specialised video players, YouTube and some specialised online streaming services.
The major challenge that needs to be overcome is the amount of bandwidth required by UHD, although new HEVC (High Efficiency Video Coding) compression does reduce the bandwidth needed.
In order to stream UHD directly into a set, an extremely fast and consistent 15 million bits per second connection is advised.
Home cinema enthusiasts should remember that picture quality is barely affected by whether cable or satellite is used.
However, it is important to ensure that there are enough HDMI sockets available. Two can quickly become too few when a user has a DVD player, games console and a set-top box on the go.
More and more flat screen TVs can be connected to an external hard-drive, meaning programmes can also be watched from laptops or other media players.