Lav-talk­ing ex­pert Duncan Bell gets to talk toi­let tech this month. It’s uri­nal you’ll ever need to know.

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Are TVs now so mas­sive, so pris­tine and so per­fect that they’re too good for mere hu­mans?

Al­though I wouldn’t claim to know a lot about TVs, I do like be­ing shown new ones, and nod­ding sagely while some­one yaks on about ‘bezels’, ‘HDR’ and ‘Su­per OLED Ultra Mega Hi Def­i­ni­tion-o-matic’. Well, it gets me out of the of­fice.

I do feel, how­ever, like the cur­rent gen­er­a­tion of gog­gle-boxes is reach­ing some kind of pin­na­cle of fren­zied tech willy-wav­ing. Are they now so mas­sive, so pris­tine and so per­fect that they’re too good for us mere hu­mans?

TVs are nearly al­ways sold on their pic­ture qual­ity be­ing ‘re­al­is­tic’. But OLED 4K, at least as pre­sented in shops and at trade shows, is not re­al­is­tic at all.

It’s so ultra-vivid and hy­per-real. You’ve got colours like an ex­plo­sion in a Du­lux factory, yet with blacks that are blacker than the in­te­rior of a broom cup­board in a black hole. At night. Mo­tion is smoothed out to a pris­tine sheen, pix­els are pol­ished and bezels ban­ished, so the im­age seems to hang in the air.

It’s beau­ti­ful, but it doesn’t re­sem­ble my life in any way. Maybe if I was a Kar­dashian, it would seem real. But al­though, yes, you can stand a pint glass on the per­fect curve of my but­tocks, and I reg­u­larly break the in­ter­net, I’m not a Kar­dashian. Alas.

Club too def

I sup­pose you may be think­ing, “I bet you said that about HD!” But I didn’t. So shut it. ‘HD Ready’ 720p and then Full HD were a huge leap for­ward from stan­dard def­i­ni­tion. On a large flat screen (by which I mean about 30 inches, be­cause that was large at the time), stan­dard-def looked like ab­so­lute arse. The jump to HD was es­sen­tial.

Now, if I’m forced to watch any­thing in SD, I re­coil, like an aris­to­crat be­ing in­tro­duced to a drunk tramp. I just don’t see my­self hav­ing the same at­ti­tude to HD in a few years, if 4K be­comes the norm.

It’s quite telling that when brands show off 4K HDR OLED (etc) tel­lies they use ei­ther mega block­buster movies or im­agery that looks like an ex­pen­sive screen saver.

Of course that’s partly be­cause there still isn’t a hell of a lot to watch in UHD. Ask any TV jour­nal­ist what they think of the open­ing five min­utes of Mad Max: Fury Road and they’ll sigh wearily, be­cause they’ve seen it a bil­lion times at 4K demos.

So it’s ei­ther Fury Road or some other multi-bazil­lion dol­lar FX­trav­a­ganza, or it’s slow-mo­tion footage of gym­nasts throw­ing paint pow­der at each other, some­where fright­fully pic­turesque.

Which is great, ob­vi­ously, but what if you just want to watch Jeremy Kyle, or the news, or some­thing on the Food Network about bros eat­ing burg­ers?

Watch­ing old YouTube clips, or a lot of the movies on Net­flix, or ugly peo­ple on a telly like today’s flag­ships would surely be akin to us­ing the Mona Lisa as a pic­nic blan­ket. Or tak­ing a piss against a Henry Moore sculp­ture. But you can’t spend your en­tire life watch­ing pretty pic­tures and mas­sive ex­plo­sions, can you?

It all rather re­minds me of the time I pur­chased my first plasma screen TV. Re­mem­ber them? As usual, I was pretty late to the party, and by this point plasma was al­ready seen as yes­ter­day’s panel. LED was the hip, swing­ing new telly tech.

It was in a TV shop – re­mem­ber those? – as that seemed like a good place in which to buy a telly. Now, it was ob­vi­ous to me that this plasma had by far the best pic­ture, be­cause it looked like what you might ex­pect to see on a cin­ema screen.

All the LED tel­lies, which the as­sis­tant was hugely en­thu­si­as­tic about, showed what looked like very smooth, HD CCTV footage. Ev­ery­thing gleamed in a way that looked totally un­real. So I bought the plasma, de­spite the shop guy de­cry­ing it as ‘jit­tery’.

To be fair, I sub­se­quently dis­cov­ered that TV shops al­ways turn ev­ery sin­gle im­age-en­hanc­ing fea­ture up to 11. So prob­a­bly all those LED TVs would also have looked re­ally good once you di­alled it all back. Oh well.

Most times I see 4K UHD HDR OLED TVs, not only am I stunned by the sheer num­ber of cap­i­tal let­ters in­volved, but I get the same feel­ing as I did in that TV shop years ago. The vi­su­als on these mega sets are beau­ti­ful, but they don’t feel real. If I wanted to end on a re­ally trite note, I’d say it’s like a metaphor for the era we live in. But I don’t.

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