Vizio 21 by 9A few weeks ago, we wrote about 2012 HDTV Technologies that are actually interesting.

Now, let’s take a look at the other side of the pixel: tech worth ignoring. Either it has no use, or its use is so marginal, that it’s not worth your time, despite the inevitable marketing push.


One of the big tech demos at CES this year was 4K TVs, or TVs with four times the resolution of 1080p (twice vertical, twice horizontal). 4K has its uses. On gigantic screens, like in a movie theater, 4K has small enough pixels that the average viewer can’t see it.

But those small pixels are too small to see when on a “normal” sized television. At the distance most people sit from their TVs, the pixels on a 4K 50-inch television would be so small, the eye won’t be able to distinguish them. In other words, you won’t be able to tell the difference between 1080p and 4K. Now, if you sit closer, or get a larger television (much larger), then you might be able to see the difference.

An exception to this is passive 3DTVs. With current passive 3DTVs, the odd lines of the image are sent to one eye, while the even lines are sent to the other. This means that at best, you’re getting 1,920×540 per eye. With 4K passive, you’ll get 3,840×1,080 per eye, greater than full HD.

For more on the math behind this, check out my article on CNET: Why 4K TVs are Stupid.

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Gesture Control

Even though I listed Gesture Control as one of my picks for “Interesting” 2012 tech, the actual implementation of this right now is a bit too cutting edge. In other words, it’s a little too clunky to use day to day.

Now, to be fair, we’ve only checked out prototypes at the show. Once we get hands-on (or technically, hands off), with actual product, maybe we’ll change our tune. But for now, waving at a TV to enable a sluggish cursor isn’t our idea of easy-to-use.

If this technology keeps progressing, it’s easy to imagine a version in the near future that works well and natural enough to forgo the remote entirely. Until then, it’s a bit too much of a gimmick.

Vizio 21 by 921:9 (2.37:1)

Vizio is saying that they’ll finally ship their 21:9 LCD this year. I’m of mixed mind about this. My main screen is 2.35:1, and I have no problem using just the 16×9 middle portion to watch HDTV shows.

But my screen is 135 inches diagonal. The Vizio is 58-inches. This means the 16×9 portion of the screen is smaller than a 50-inch 16×9 HDTV. This wouldn’t be a problem, but the Vizio is $3,499. You can get a 70-inch Sharp for that kind of money, which will be significantly larger for 16×9 content, and about 8 inches bigger diagonally for 2.35:1 content.

To be fair, there are some cool uses for the extra screen real estate. You can have apps running on one side of the screen while a full-res 1080p image is on the other. It’s also, and let’s be honest here, pretty cool looking. Even your luddite friends will notice that there’s something different about your TV. “Is it… wider or something?”

What’s amusing is the problem some people have with this TV, namely it’s odd 21:9 (2.37:1) aspect ratio. Most modern Hollywood blockbusters are 2:35:1, while older “ultra-widescreen” movies were often 2.39:1 (often rounded to 2.4:1). As Hollywood has no set aspect ratio for movies, one that’s right in between makes perfect sense… if you’re going to do it. A larger, and inevitably cheaper, 16×9 HDTV is a much better buy.

Seriously, do people still hate black bars that much? Now they’ll just have them on the sides instead. Unless they stretch the image. Oh the horror.


Geoff Morrison   @TechWriterGeoff
Geoff’s book is now in paperback

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