Ultra-HD sets come as small as new models from LG and Sony, which stretch 55 inches diagonally. And estimated prices are dropping from the tens of thousands to below $10,000, bringing these multi-megapixel TVs well within the spending range of early adopters.
"I hope you can see that 4K is not the future, it's now, and Sony is leading the way," said Sony CEO Kazuo Hirai.
It could be a few years before prices come down enough for the masses to justify buying ultra-HD TVs, especially considering that U.S. TV buyers spent a record-low average of $364 on flat-screen TVs during the recent holiday shopping season, according to research firm NPD Group.
Hampering sales even further, ultra-HD faces another problem: There's very little content. Since 2004, only about 50 movies have been shot with an ultra-HD camera. They include the James Bond hit "Skyfall" and the Batman sequel, "The Dark Knight Rises." Only a handful of movies shot on film, including "Taxi Driver," have been converted to ultra-HD.
There's also no standard way of getting content to the TV, although Sony took the lead in making movies shot in native ultra-HD make it to market.
Sony Corp.'s 84-inch ultra-HD model, which it unveiled in November, comes with a computer server capable of storing and playing back giant movie files. It's definitely not affordable for most people, however, and the TV unit with the server thrown in has a price tag of $25,000.
It also announced Monday that it would launch the world's first ultra-HD movie download service for owners of its compatible sets in the U.S. this summer. The company will launch the service with 10 movies.
Owners of the smaller ultra-HD sets from Sony may have to buy the playback device and movies separately, although a final decision hadn't been made, company representatives said.