Seiki Digital, a manufacturer of TV and Audio systems, has announced that its 39-inch, ultra high definition (UHD) LED TV will go on sale in the US by July 2013, with pre-orders from retailer Sears beginning in late June. The release follows another UHD TV released in the US by Seiki in April 2013, the SE50UY04 50-inch model available at $1500, whilst the company has stated plans to launch a 65-inch UHD model within H2 2013.
UHD TVs have been available in small quantities since Q4 2012, and in 2013 have been launched globally by all Tier 1 and many Tier 2 brands, at screen sizes predominantly from 50-inches up. The 39-inch UHD TV launch from Seiki is significant in several aspects: it represents the first sub 50-inch UHD launch in the US; it is the first sub-$1000 UHD launch, marking the technology's entry at a lower price range; and it demonstrates the first step in competitive pricing in the UHD market, where lower-end manufacturers typically push average market prices down through cost-effective, simpler models.
In the case of the Seiki TV, the key pricing differential comes through its UHD LCD panel, produced by Taiwanese manufacturer Innolux, the only current manufacturer of 39-inch UHD TV panels. At its most strict, UHD is defined as a TV with a resolution of 3840x2160 pixels (part of a broader range of resolutions which can be referred to as "4K") and conforming to certain standards related to the colour gamut, bit-depth and refresh rate. With no official UHD standard certification available as of H1 2013, there is still an ambiguity between a UHD TV which can fully represent 4K content, and a UHD TV which has an effective panel resolution that is UHD-capable. An example of this is the current 39-inch "4K" panels from Innolux - which use half the number of T-cons and other picture driving components within the TV to scale to an image which has effective resolution between Full HD (1080p) and UHD.
As commented by IHS in May 2013, these developments in UHD LCD panel production, where a range of UHD panels with differing effective resolutions and capabilities are available, concurrent with an influx of Tier 2 manufacturers launching UHD models, are driving down the pricing of this relatively new technology rapidly. This fits into to a more general trend in TV hardware, where high-levels of competition and efficient mass production of components are reducing prices down across all products and specifications - although the increasing number of large-size TVs sold has stabilized total market value somewhat.
Currently display technology for TV Systems is in a state of transition - Rear-Projection TV shipments ceased in 2012, CRT TV shipments are expected to cease in 2015 and Plasma TV and CCFL LCD TV shipments will cease between2016 and 2017, depending on the region. With the large-scale launch of OLED TVs delayed, LED LCD TVs will therefore account for the vast majority of TVs shipped in the next few years. It is becoming even more essential for manufacturers to differentiate their products beyond the display technology and screen size, which is why the early race for higher resolution products has created such variety, in both solutions and pricing, so quickly.