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Toshiba’s 4K experience

- November 2nd, 2013
Toshiba's 65-inch 4K Ultra HD L9300 series TV

Toshiba’s 65-inch 4K Ultra HD L9300 series TV. (Supplied)

If you’re looking for a new TV these days, Toshiba may not be a brand that pops to mind. But after seeing what they have to offer, it might come to mine.

On Thursday, I attended a media event at Great Metropolitan Sound in Toronto and was shown Toshiba’s line of 4K TVs. The company showed off its L9300 series, which come in 58-inch, 65-inch and 84-inch models. At the store, all were showing different demos. And they all were impressive.

It’s hard to describe the quality of 4K Ultra HD video if you haven’t seen it, nor can I show it here as you wouldn’t be able to view it properly unless your screen was also 4K. (Many movie theatres with digital projectors present films in 4K, but of course, the screens are much larger, so the quality is a little washed out.)

Basically, 4K TVs have a resolution of 3,840×2,160 which is four times as many pixels as a full HD 1080p TV. (Native 4K resolution in digital film is slighter higher at 4096×2160 – as its aspect ratio is 256:135 as opposed to 16:9.)

This results in a crisper, more colour-saturated picture. It’s quite evident even on the 58-inch  TV set.

Toshiba’s 4K UHD TVs are powered by its proprietary, second-generation CEVO 4K engine. In a press release, Toshiba states:

“It provides the best quality resolution, colour, brilliance and fine texture details that bring images to life. The CEVO 4K processor also provides near-4K level picture quality for 1080p contents such as Blu-ray movies. It can restore the precision up to 90% of the original 4K content, providing realism that you have never experienced.”

Tony Mooc, a product manager for the company added, 4K also allows you to sit closer to the screen. He said when watching an 1080p TV, you should  sit back at a distance of three times the height of the television to avoid “seeing the cell structures of the actual pixels or any degradation.”

But with 4K TVs, the optimal viewing distance is cut in half to about 1.5 times the height of the TV:

“So for customers who were traditionally afraid or hesitant on putting a 58-inch in their small living space…” Mooc said,  “they can do that with a 4K set.”

The 58-inch set was demonstrating the difference between 4K and 1080p travelogue-style video in a split screen – something you may have seen in an electronics store before.

It wasn’t perfect as it was actually two videos shot by two cameras side-by-side, (one 4K, one 1080p)  so the videos didn’t completely line up. And since it was a 4K TV, the 1080p was being upconverted. But there was clearly more information and better depth-of-field on the 4K video. For example, I could better make the details on the stone exterior of a building the cameras panned past in 4K, whereas on the 1080p side, the focus on that part of the image was soft.

The second demo showed the ability to output photos to the TV in 4K. As Mooc explained, still cameras have been able to create photos with a resolution of 4K or higher but “up until now, there hasn’t been the ability to output that 4K resolution at least in the more affordable format.”

“So what we’re showing here is a 1080p image that was shot in 4K and what it would look like in a 1080p TV versus what it should look like natively.”

Much like on the 58-inch set, the difference in detail was evident.

“It’s really amazing right because  even when I first looked at this image here, I had to step back…and say, ”Well ’1080p doesn’t look that bad,’” Mooc said. “Well, it’s not that 1080p looks that bad, it’s just that 4K offers up some much more detail, colour saturation because of its high-density pixel count.”

The images were actually being outputted via HDMI from a Toshiba Satellite P Series laptop. In fact, all the demos that day were being outputting by P Series laptops. Mooc pointed out Toshiba has a whole 4K family that includes laptops and a 4K media box/Blu-ray player.

Toshiba's P Series laptop

All of the 4K demos were being outputted via HDMI on a Toshiba’s P Series laptop. (Supplied)

The final demo was showing off a series of video demos on the 84-inch models. And, frankly, I think drool started to form on the side of my mouth. It was just beautiful, even when I was viewing it from the side.

And with the first video, I had trouble telling at first if it was a live action or computer-generated as the colours were so bright and the details were hyper-realistic. But when I saw faces, it was clear that it was a video game. In fact, it turned out to be a Final Fantasy tech demo for Sony’s PlayStation 4, which showed at E3 earlier this year. Mooc pointed out that both the PS4 and Xbox One support 4K video. (Though the games themselves may not be in 4K, as Stuff reported.)

“(The tech demo is) really pushing the power of what the console is capable of doing but you have to have that canvas, right?” Mooc said. “I like to think of the console or the source as the artist and the TV as the canvas.”

And it was an amazing canvas. The tech demo was mesmerizing, especially when the sparks were literally flying during the gun and magic play.

Mooc added he doesn’t think 4K content is as far away as many think, but he admitted that the customers’ biggest concern is how it will handle 1080p content.

He said the CEVO processor will fill in the extra lines and uses what Toshiba calls “brilliance restoration” to upscale the video image.

“So it’s not just one blurry image that we’re upconverting but it’s clear, cleaning it up as well,” Mooc explained. “So getting rid of a lot of that staircasing effect that you’re used to seeing on a 1080p image on a larger screen, smoothing everything out.”

toshiba keyboard

Toshiba’s U50G wireless keyboard ships with all of the L9300 televisions. (Supplied)

In addition, they have Smart TV features and come with a wireless keyboard, with a built-in trackpad that doubles as a number pad when the number lock is turned on.

They are also capable of 3D, the 58-inch model is active 3D (so you need battery-powered glasses), while the other two models are passive 3D (so you can steal glasses from the movie theatre).

The TVs come with four HDMI and two USB slots and are available at select retailers. The 58-inch model retails for $4,799.99, the 65-inch model is $6,499.99, while the 84-inch model goes for $19,999.99.

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