4K technology could be the future of TV

Panasonic unveiled its 56-inch 4K OLED TV -- which has four times 1080p resolution -- at CES yesterday. AP Photo/Al Powers

In 2010, three-dimensional TV technology was the talk of CES, but like this season's Boston Red Sox, it was a flop -- overpriced with a lot of hype and little substance. Consumers felt there wasn’t enough content and disliked the clunky frames. (Although I must say, my friends are obsessed with watching golf in 3-D, and I personally love 3-D in any and all content.)

This year at CES, the unofficial theme is 4K televisions. It seems like TV manufacturers are really counting on you to get on board and make up for 3-D’s lackluster response.

So what is 4K TV, and what does it mean for sports fans?

4K, or “ultra HD,” gives you four times the resolution of 1080p, which is what most of us have now. Specs are impressive, so images of games -- or even Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron’s girlfriend, Katherine Webb -- are razor-sharp. (Geez, interwebz, will you relax?)

Prices vary for models, but they’re not cheap (if only 4K were also the price). For example, Sony’s 84-inch model has a price tag of $25,000. Expect to see more models from just about every well-known brand to trickle out this year.

But will 4K do better than 3-D?

The verdict: Hold on to your hard-earned Best Buy holiday gift cards for now.

Panasonic chief technology officer Eisuke Tsuyuzaki foresees a great future for 4K, but he doesn’t necessarily envision it taking root in the home. “Sports fans in particular expect a sense of realism, and 4K resolution certainly takes us there,” Tsuyuzaki says. Still, he expects that the lack of a commercially viable distribution system means that we can expect to see 4K used primarily in training and coaching for now.

And if size matters to you, don’t even ask how much the highly touted Westinghouse 110-inch 4K TV costs (answer: $300,000). It had better be made out of unicorn blood and Peyton Manning tears at that price.