Is 4K the next big thing in HDTVs and not 3D?

The jury's still out on 3D being the next big thing in HDTVs, though it's hard to imagine every household wanting to spend hundreds of dollars to make sure each family member has a pair of glasses to watch 3D programming and movies. So if not 3D, what's the next great technology to make everyone update their sets?

The jury's still out on 3D being the next big thing in HDTVs, though it's hard to imagine every household wanting to spend hundreds of dollars to make sure each family member has a pair of glasses to watch 3D programming and movies. So if not 3D, what's the next great technology to make everyone update their sets?

Enter Quad HD/4K. As its names suggest, the technology provides more than four times the resolution of 1080p HD at 3,840x2,160 (slightly less than the 4K digital cinema standard). While it will require its own set of infrastructure updates (new TVs, additional bandwidth to get the content into your home, etc.), it won't require any pair of glasses on the end user's face. (That is, until they make 3D 4K HDTVs, which they certainly will.)

One technical hurdle in getting so-called 4K video to a compatible TV appears to be cleared. Marseille Networks, one of the leaders in this new technology, has just demonstrated the ability to send 4K content over HDMI, which means you wouldn't have to update to some newer cable in order to get the full 4K resolution. Marseille also says that Quad HD capabilities can be installed in the current designs for HDTVs, so that can help hasten the pace of 4K sets reaching the marketplace.

In fact, the company says that 4K sets could reach the market by next year, though as with all HD innovations, it'll cost you. The first sets will be sky high in price, no doubt, before the technology filters down to the rest of us masses.

It's clear that 3D will just become another spec on most HDTVs, so the question will be if 4K will be awesome enough to get buyers opening their wallets for an updated set. I haven't seen it in person on a TV screen, so I can't say, but if you have viewed 4K in a home video setting, let us know in the Comments section. But expect 4K to be one of the stories of CES 2011.