HDTVs reaching limits of human vision

By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer

Native 4K
4K visuals are gorgeous, but are they really that much better than regular HDTVs? Not so much, according to eye doctors.

When HDTVs became the latest viewing experience available, people were taken aback by how clear and realistic the pictures were. Why wouldn’t they? The screens boasted 1,920×1,080 pixels.

Well, the newest generation of TVs have even more pixels, but experts say they are a waste of money because humans can’t really notice the difference.

The new wave of TVs are called Ultra HD, or 4K, and are roughly 4,000 pixels wide and 2,000 pixels high. That’s about the same as having four HDTVs, and TV experts say it’s just too much for the eye to handle.

“There was a bigger case for 3D than there is for 4K,” said Soneira. Ouch! Considering what a flop 3D TVs are, it doesn’t look good for 4K.

Raymond Soneira, head of display-testing firm DisplayMate Technologies, explains, “…consumers will soon realize that they aren’t seeing much, if any, visual resolution and sharpness improvements… the higher pixel count will not be the reason.” So, why aren’t the pixels to blame?

Well, the human eyeball can only see about 200 degrees at any given time; if you hold your finger out at arms length, your pointer fingernail will cover 1 degree. Now, pretend that nail was covered with 120 thin stripes of different colors. It would be pretty difficult – if not impossible – to distinguish each individual line. “There’s going to be some density beyond which you can’t do any better because of the limits of your eye,” said Don Hood, a Columbia University professor of ophthalmology – the branch of medicine which specializes in the human eye.

Yet, this is exactly what 4K TVs boast with their latest innovation. There may be more pixels, but just like the example of 120 stripes on your nail, it would be hard to even notice. It makes you wonder, why are more companies like Sony and Samsung rolling out with bigger and “better” sets? Even Netflix plans to move towards 4K streaming in 2014. Sheesh.

Since these TVs range in price from $4,000-$25,0000, your eyes and wallet are probably better off with a regular HDTV. “History has shown that people make something technologically possible, then someone figures out how to capitalize on it,” said University of Utah neuroscientist Bryan Jones. “But for TVs, I don’t see a point.”

Featured image courtesy of Sony. Featured image courtesy of JoshMeister on Flickr.