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Sharp's new range of 4K TVs start well under $1,000

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Android TV and pixel-splitting tech may help Sharp stand out from the crowd

CES is nothing if not a TV show — a time to take the temperature of the market and see what gimmicks and trends might convince consumers to drop thousands of dollars on a new set in the coming year. 4K resolution is an obvious, industry-wide trend, and Sharp is no exception. The company is going all-in on 4K this year and now offers a wide variety of 4K TVs, with its entry-level model coming in at well under $1,000.

More interesting than an entry-level TV, however, is Sharp's attempt to stand out from the many other manufacturers out there pushing 4K: the new Sharp "Beyond 4K Ultra HD" TV. It's a massive 80-inch panel with impossibly thin bezels, but that's not what the company is counting on to help it stand out from the crowd. Sharp is bringing its Quattron technology (featured in some of the company's 1080p sets announced at the last CES) to this 4K TV. This technology splits the TV's pixels horizontally, offering a vertical resolution of 4,320 pixels — double that of a standard 4K TV. To achieve an increased horizontal resolution, Sharp uses pixel mapping: the red and blue sub-pixels are shared between neighboring pixels, while the brighter green and yellow sub-pixels are each associated with their own unique pixel to keep that brightness intact.

How much of a difference does pixel-splitting really make?

This results in a TV with some 66 million individual sub-pixels — something Sharp says is 42 million more than you'll find in a standard 4K TV. Of course, there is virtually no content that can play at this resolution natively — 4K content itself is still pretty hard to come by. Still, those split sub-pixels can be controlled independently, and Sharp has included upscaling technology to let the TV display 4K and 1080p content at this higher resolution. There's no doubt it's a fancy bit of technology, but the real question is how substantially it improves over the already-high resolution found in standard 4K TVs — and whether or not this surely expensive set will be worth the money compared to its competition.

Sharp says this TV won't be out until the late 2015, but it's not the only 4K set in the company's lineup — indeed, 4K is rapidly becoming the standard, and as such there's a host of options from Sharp across price points this year. The entry-level UB30 lineup will feature screen sizes ranging from 43 inches up to 65 inches and will be priced starting "under $750." Stepping up to the UE30 line will give you screen size options of 60, 70, and 80 inches, while the UH30 line comes in at 70 and 80 inches. The UE30 and UH30 lines are all smart TVs that run the new Android TV interface, and the 70-inch UH30 model is probably going to be the one that those obsessed with image quality will want to check out: Sharp says it is working on getting it THX certified.

That pixel-splitting, 80-inch monster is many months out, but those looking to buy a new TV won't need to wait quite as long for the rest of these sets — Sharp says they'll begin shipping in spring of this year.

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