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Like it or not, Ultra HD televisions (aka TVs with an enhanced 2160p resolution) are on their way to market, and this past weekend manufacturer Seiki rocked the industry by releasing the first budget 4K HDTV — the 50" Seiki SE50UY04. Checking in at $1,500 MSRP, it's by far the cheapest 4K TV publicly announced thus far. What's more, we've already found a deal on it! TigerDirect has knocked $300 off the retail price, dropping it to $1,199.99 (via coupon code "TJM88351" with free shipping, a low by $299).
Although it's not unusual to see a quick discount on new tech, this cut is more notable than most because it prices the Seiki SE50UY04 far below the rest of the Ultra HDTV pack. In fact, at $1,200 it costs 76% less than Sony's base 55" 4K HDTV, priced at $5,000. And when Sony announced that price point just two weeks ago, we were all swooning at how Ultra HD was becoming astonishingly affordable. Given the novelty of the technology, Seiki's $1,500 4K TV is almost unbelievable.
But before you become a 4K evangelist or buy Seiki's budget HDTV to use as a "cheap" entertainment option, keep in mind that the $1,199.99 Seiki SE50UY04 is also 65% more expensive than the average price of a 50" 1080p HDTV. That means that you can get a "standard" 50" HDTV for around $422 — and that includes models from better known manufacturers, especially if you pitch in an extra $100 or so. Meanwhile U.S. consumers are fairly unfamiliar with Seiki and their quality standards. And finally, let us not forget that there's very little media available at this juncture that takes advantage of this increased resolution. As was the case with 3D in its early stages, a consumer-level 4K TV is more so about the novelty of the technology rather than actual functionality.
Still, we were curious to know how Ultra HD compares to 3D technology, as the latter faced a lot of obstacles when it first hit the mainstream market during CES in 2010. Impressively, Seiki's budget TV is 47% cheaper than the first 55" 3D HDTV deal we posted back in September 2010. Granted, that 3D TV was a larger name-brand Samsung and the Seiki is an off-brand 50" model. But this is still a major win for Ultra HD, as the technology is debuting considerably cheaper than any 3D HDTV ever did.
Moreover, the fact that an off-brand manufacturer like Seiki jumped onto the Ultra HD bandwagon this early in the game is also encouraging for deal hunters. It conversely took six months for us to see any deals on off-brand 3D HDTVs back in 2010. The presence of much cheaper options, regardless of how they compare in terms of quality, will only put pressure on manufacturers to drive prices down overall. These two budget-friendly factors may lead consumers to adapt the new technology faster than they did with 3D, further accelerating production of 2160p media.
Either way, from a deal perspective, the Seiki 50" set is an enticing option for anyone who absolutely must try out the latest advances in home entertainment. While the $1,200 price tag is quite good, you can always set up an email alert to receive notification about future — and potentially better — price drops.