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CE Week 2013: Toshiba takes a flying leap into 4K Ultra HD with 3 models coming this summer

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Check out our review of the Toshiba L9300U series of 4K TVs.

With more than 33 4K Ultra HD TVs scheduled for release in 2013, it would seem industry support for the new format is set in stone. Marketing blurbs promise an experience akin to “looking through an open window,” (isn’t that what they said about HD when it launched?). But, hype aside, it’s clear that 4K Ultra HD TVs have the potential to inject some much needed life into sagging flat-panel sales, and Toshiba is ready to bet the farm on it.

Not only will Toshiba be shipping three 4K Ultra HD TVs by the end of the summer, but a Blu-ray player/media streamer with 4K upscaling as well. Toshiba reps refused to divulge any pricing on the new products but expect to see 55-inch, 65-inch, and 84-inch L9300U 4K Ultra HD TVs at select retailers before Labor Day.

One thing that Toshiba has learned from its experience with 3D HDTV is that customers need to see differences between various formats before they’ll be convinced it makes sense to pull the trigger. Scott Ramirez, Toshiba”s VP of Marketing and Development, explained during the Ultra HD Summit held at CE Week that Toshiba was going to “educate consumers in regard to the differences between 4K, upscaled 1080p, and standard HD content” with the aid of interactive endcaps at major retailers.

Ramirez explained that the endcaps would feature either the 55-inch or 65-inch 4K Ultra HD TVs, a Toshiba sound bar, and the forthcoming BDX6400 Symbio Media Box and Blu-ray player playing native 4K content (via content stored on an SD card), 1080p content upscaled to 4K, and standard HD so that consumers could easily see the benefits of the new technology.

Toshiba feels that with large flat-panels sales in North America poised to tick upward by the beginning of 2015, this is the perfect opportunity to educate rather than thrust 4K Ultra HD down consumers throats with no content available and what is likely to be a high asking price for first-generation products.

“3D has never really met the high expectations set for it, and while we think consumers are going to immediately appreciate the ability to watch full HD 3D with passive glasses on an 4K Ultra HD TV, it’s unlikely to be the reason why consumers are going to invest in the new technology,” explained Ramirez.

Toshiba4KBD“We’re extremely proud of the upscaling performance of our L9300U series and that is ultimately why consumers will upgrade to the new format, even with all of the questions regarding content, standards, and the future of HDMI 2.0.”

A show floor is no place to make definitive comments about the picture quality of any HDTV, but the 65-inch Toshiba L9300U we viewed was extremely impressive. And while we’re confident 4K Ultra HD’s wider color gamut  is going to be an important benefit of the technology – perhaps even more important than the increase in resolution – with no content or standards yet in place, we still think consumers are best served waiting until the industry has ironed out some of the obvious wrinkles before spending between $6,000-$20,000 on a TV.