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Get a 50-inch Seiki 4K HDTV for $965.99 shipped

The question is, even at this price, should you invest in a new TV technology with little available content?

Rick Broida Senior Editor
Rick Broida is the author of numerous books and thousands of reviews, features and blog posts. He writes CNET's popular Cheapskate blog and co-hosts Protocol 1: A Travelers Podcast (about the TV show Travelers). He lives in Michigan, where he previously owned two escape rooms (chronicled in the ebook "I Was a Middle-Aged Zombie").
Rick Broida
3 min read
Are you ready to ride the 4K wave?
Are you ready to ride the 4K wave? Seiki Digital

Now that ESPN has announced plans to drop its 3D channel, it's pretty obvious that, despite TV manufacturers' claims to the contrary, 3D isn't going to be the Next Big Thing in home entertainment.

What will be? If you attended (or read about) this year's CES, you know that manufacturers have shifted their breathless attention to 4K Ultra HD. Of course, as with any new technology, the first models come at a premium: Sony's 55-inch 4K Ultra HD TV lists for $4,999.99, effectively five times the price of your average 1080p TV of the same size.

Ah, but now there's this: For a limited time, Amazon has the Seiki Digital SE50UY04 50-inch 4K HDTV for $965.99 shipped. That's the lowest price by far for any 4K TV to date.

For those unfamiliar with the technology, 4K Ultra HD TVs offer a resolution of 3,840 x 2,160, quite the jump from 1080p's 1,920 x 1,080. (Four times the jump, in fact -- hence "4K.") And although Seiki is hardly a well-known brand, the TV has mostly positive reviews from the Amazon buyers who pulled the early-adopter trigger.

I won't regurgitate a bunch of specs for you; rather, I'll pose the obvious question: Does it make sense to buy a 4K TV when there's almost zero 4K content available to watch?

For what it's worth, the TV does upscale standard HD video to 4K, though I have no idea how it looks. When a Blu-ray player upscales a DVD, the results tend to be decent, but nowhere near what you get from native 1080p. I'm guessing the same applies here.

But it's not like Comcast has a bunch of 4K channels (though the company did just preview U.S. delivery of 4K video, suggesting that it will be ready if and when the market is). There's no such thing as a 4K Blu-ray player -- not yet, anyway -- and the hard drive-based Redray Player ($1,750) has yet to go on sale.

Perhaps the biggest argument against this purchase comes from CNET's own Geoff Morrison, who explained back in January why Ultra HD 4K TVs are still stupid. Of course, that was before there was a model available for under $1,000.

To hear the TV industry tell it, 4K will eventually be the norm -- maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon, and for the rest of our lives (or at least until 16K or whatever comes along). So why not start enjoying it as soon as possible, especially if the hardware is priced only a little higher than a plain old 1080p TV?

On the other hand, a couple years from now, 4K might suffer the same fate as 3D: not enough content, not enough interest. Time will tell.

By the way, this deal went live on Saturday, and was originally priced (amusingly) at $1,080. Then it dropped to $969, and now it's even a few bucks less. This being Amazon, however, it could change again at any time.

Your thoughts? Are you ready to take the 4K plunge, or do you think it's far too early?