What's Next for TV: 4K Goes Mainstream, But Here Comes HDR

What's Next: Biggest Tech Trends for 2016 - TV

Prices are finally coming down to earth for 4K Ultra HD TVs, which offer four times the resolution of traditional HDTVs. According to the Consumer Technology Association, 4K TV sales are expected to double in 2016, to 8.8 million.

Credit: ShutterstockCredit: ShutterstockOther than a smattering of shows on Netflix and Amazon, there's been a dearth of 4K content, but DirecTV and other providers should start beaming Ultra HD channels in early 2016. Regardless, this seems to be a case in which the hardware momentum will drive the content part of the equation, and not the other way around.

HDR technology dramatically improves the contrast and color range in television screens so that images are more realistic.

"The combination of 4K and affordable screens 50-inch and above is really propelling consumers' interest and activity in terms of upgrading and buying into this," NPD's Stephen Baker told Tom's Guide. "People want this hardware because it upscales standard HD content, so it looks better."

HDR illustration. Composite: Shutterstock, Kenneth Butler/Tom's GuideHDR illustration. Composite: Shutterstock, Kenneth Butler/Tom's Guide

Just when you think your TV is futureproof, though, there's another buzzword that looks to define the state of the art. Called HDR, or high- dynamic range, the technology dramatically improves both the contrast and color range in the picture, resulting in more realistic images.

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We've reviewed one of the first HDR-capable sets in the Sony X930C (about $3,000), and it delivered "some of the widest color-spectrum numbers we've seen in our testing and some of the subtlest shades of contrast."

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There are just a couple of obstacles. HDR-ready TVs are pretty pricey right now, and there's not much content to watch, other than some streaming shows Amazon is offering. Nevertheless, look for most TV brands to push hard on HDR at CES 2016, including LG with its OLED sets and Hisense on its LCDs.

"I think HDR is a really interesting trend," said Shawn DuBravac, chief economist for the Consumer Technology Association. "You’re going to get support from Hollywood, because it’s a more accurate capture of what they saw when they filmed the movie."

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