As I mentioned on the introduction part 1 of this series:
Regardless what A/V gear you buy today it is already obsolete for some functionality or feature, primarily due to HDMI and 4K with HDR, but audio is not as innocent as it seems compared to the former. Consumers know that manufacturers want them to buy again and replace components that are still perfectly functional for the legacy content they already have, but there is not a single component on a home theater that maybe fully compatible with the rapidly changing features and standards that are continuously emerging and most components are not upgradeable.
Most consumers may resist the urge of upgrading, and continue with stereo, Dolby Digital, DTS, HDTV, cable/satellite set-top-box, 5.1 channels (if you have that, many only have a bar or two speakers), but the fact is that the components they use for those purposes are not compatible with new technology and content that are already here, not to mention with what is coming down the line.
On the first article of this series I started with audio, the second article was about video, the third article was about connectivity, the fourth article was about "not-too-distant-future", this final article covers The Internet and Broadcasting, and the Final thoughts.
Internet Seen as the Future Broadcasting
Today a 4K movie from the Sony 4K Entertainment service takes about 40GB of space on the Sony 4K media player and takes long hours to be downloaded even with my Internet fiber-optic line of 100 Mbps.
Certain ISP providers may make more difficult the delivery of high resolution content such as 4K, for example, a subscriber of Comcast ISP has data-caps on the range of 300GB per month and is charged $10 per each 50GB exceeding that cap. The total cost of ownership of downloading a 4K movie that already cost $30 from Sony could grow another $10 for just receiving the movie over the Internet if the monthly data-cap was already exceeded.
When I compared with other ISP competitors (on this article, "total cost of ownership section" toward the end), Charter was charging $40 for a data-capped 100GB service, downloading the same $30 Sony 40GB 4K movie would have cost a Charter subscriber about $16. From another perspective, for a fan of downloading 4K movies, the whole ISP month of data-capped-service would be consumed just downloading seven 4K movies in Comcast's 300GB-capped-service, or just downloading two 4K movies in Charter's 100GB-capped-service.
Streaming (rather than downloading) a similar 4K 2hr-movie at a more compressed bit rate of about 15-20Mbps, such as Netflix, would have cost less to deliver than the downloaded version, which Sony claims is of better image quality, but the point is that the total cost of ownership of Internet streaming/downloading higher resolution content compatible to the quality of today's consumer UHDTVs should be carefully evaluated by consumers eager to cut the cord and use the Internet for the more bit-hungry 4K content.
Yet many still consider that the future of streaming also applies to UHD, and consider that streaming a new release UHD $30 movie compressed at 10-15 Mbps is a better option than the same $30 UHD movie on a new 4K UHD Blu-ray disc that plays as fast as 100 Mbps, theoretically providing about 7 times the image detail, on UHD Blu-ray players that were just announced for a reasonable $399, with lossless multichannel audio (rather than lossy), language selection, bonus features, which can be physically owned, collected, or lent to others (rather than trusting the continued existence of a cloud service), and of which a digital copy could be made.
Some say that the convenience of clicking on an app to view an acceptable image quality still motivates consumers more than a better image quality on a disc, a position that is consistent with the growing acceptance of MP3 audio as good enough for the music requirements of many.
I think that there are still two parallel paths for consuming content and I hope the higher quality path never gives its place to the path of convenience at lower quality, but rather continues as a personal choice.
Downloading an 8K movie would require higher ISP bandwidth and longer times, for which the infrastructure is not prepared.
In summary, 2016 is a year with too many moving and self-replacing parts for A/V consumers. As components get upgraded the A/V system will always be an unfinished and costly project in continuous levels of obsolescence. Some may rather deal with more traditional format battles like VHS vs. Beta, or HD DVD vs. Blu-ray, which can clearly show the boundaries of the investment/loss even before the end of the format war, so one may be able to make more intelligent choices.
As the A/V industry is today, other than consistently choosing the best top of the line model of anything, for it to have the most features and best performance, there is nothing a consumer can do to improve the chances of a longer future proof of a product.
Posted by Rodolfo La Maestra, February 20, 2016 7:00 AM
About Rodolfo La Maestra
Rodolfo La Maestra is the Senior Technical Director of UHDTV Magazine and HDTV Magazine and participated in the HDTV vision since the late 1980's. In the late 1990's, he began tracking and reviewing HDTV consumer equipment, and authored the annual HDTV Technology Review report, tutorials, and educative articles for HDTV Magazine, DVDetc and HDTVetc magazines, Veritas et Visus Newsletter, Display Search, and served as technical consultant/editor for the "Reference Guide" and the "HDTV Glossary of Terms" for HDTVetc and HDTV Magazines. In 2004, he began recording a weekly HDTV technology program for MD Cable television, which by 2006 reached the rating of second most viewed.
Rodolfo's background encompasses Electronic Engineering, Computer Science, and Audio and Video Electronics, with over 4,700 hours of professional training, a BS in Computer and Information Systems, and thirty+ professional and post-graduate certifications, some from MIT, American, and George Washington Universities. Rodolfo was also Computer Science professor in five institutions between 1966-1973 in Argentina, regarding IBM, Burroughs, and Honeywell mainframe computers. After 38 years of computer systems career, Rodolfo retired in 2003 as Chief of Systems Development from the Inter-American Development Bank directing sixty+ software-development computer professionals, supporting member countries in north/central/south America.