Despite the hype over 4K, or Ultra HD, TVs during the past two years, we held off on recommending that people go out and buy them. Now that's changing.

We had a few reasons for hesitating. First off, there were barely any 4K movies or TV shows to watch. Secondly, the sets were considerably more expensive, and we knew the prices would drop, as they always do. And, finally, the higher resolution by itself wasn't that noticeable to most viewers sitting a typical distance from the screen. (A 4K television has four times as many pixels as a conventional 1080p television.)

What mattered more, we thought, were additional enhancements to UHD picture quality including high dynamic range, or HDR, and an increased range of colors via wide color gamut, or WCG, technology. (HDR improves contrast by expanding the range of the lightest and darkest images a TV can display, and WCG gives the TV a larger box of crayons to play with, so to speak.) When done well, these features can produce impressive, more lifelike images, but we were concerned that these technologies were still evolving.

After meeting with TV makers at CES 2016, we think that the industry has progressed enough so that it now makes sense to consider a 4K UHD TV, especially if you're looking to future-proof a purchase.

Prices High, But Dropping

The price difference between a 4K UHD TV and a 1080p model continues to narrow. While the major brands didn't reveal pricing for their new models at CES, a few secondary brands did. As a result, we expect this spring you'll be able to buy a 50- to 55-inch UHD TV with some level of HDR capability for as little as $600 to $700. That's only about $150 to $200 more than a comparable 1080p model.

Major-brand UHD TVs will be pricier, but not outrageously so. In its new entry-level D-series, Vizio is charging about $200 more for a 4K UHD TV than for a 1080p set. For example, its 65-inch D65-D2 1080p TV costs $1,000, while the UHD version (D65u-D2) is $1,200.

More 4K Content Coming

Right now 4K content is still limited but much more is on the way, both from streaming services and on new 4K discs for the Ultra HD Blu-ray players that will start arriving this spring. Both Amazon and Netflix have indicated that all their original series will be available in 4K this year, and M-Go and Vudu will be ramping up their 4K lineups, too. Several Hollywood studios, including Lionsgate, Sony, Twentieth Century Fox, Universal, and Warner Bros. have already pledged support for the new Ultra HD Blu-ray standard. Titles will roll out slowly, but we've been told to expect more than 100 releases by next fall. Many of those titles will also include HDR and WCG, which will be supported by both streaming services and the new 4K Blu-ray players.

One other issue we had in 2015 was that a fair number of the UHD TVs we tested lacked the latest HDMI inputs, HDMI 2.0a. These inputs are required for HDR, and some didn't support HDCP 2.2, the copyright protection scheme used by Hollywood to prevent piracy. But just about every UHD TV announced for 2016 that claims HDR capability supports those technologies.

HDR: Still a Bit Tricky

The area that's still of concern to us is HDR. And from what we've seen, there could be wide differences in performance among 4K UHD TV sets that tout HDR capability, which could make it hard to know if the TV you're buying can really deliver the full HDR experience.

How can this be? Well, some televisions have the hardware to really take full advantage of HDR. Others don't, but they are able read the metadata, which is the information embedded in the digital signal that tells the TV how the image should be displayed. These sets then try to accommodate it as best they can based on the TV's capabilities. That could lead to big differences in performance.

To help reduce confusion, the UHD Alliance—a diverse group of TV makers, Hollywood studios, distributors (such as DirecTV and Netflix), and technology companies—has created performance specifications for "Ultra HD Premium" TVs. Sets that pass a certification process can use a new Ultra HD Premium logo on packaging, so you'll know they can deliver top-level UHD performance in various areas, including HDR. We expect these to be the pricier models in a TV manufacturer's lineup.

But many sets won't have the Ultra HD Premium logo. Instead, they'll be labeled "HDR-capable," meaning they can read the metadata (as we describe above) but they may lack the electronic circuitry needed to deliver the full range of brightness and colors. Until we test them, there's no way to know how well these sets will perform.

Another wrinkle: Some TV manufacturers may decide not to use the Ultra HD Premium logo, even on sets that could meet the certification standards. Sony, for example, tells us it won't be using the industry logo, choosing instead to mark its premium 4K TVs with its own "4K HDR" logo. Other manufacturers could follow suit, utilizing proprietary, rather than standardized, logos to denote various levels of HDR performance.

That's why this year we'll be spending a fair amount of time testing a wide range of UHD TVs this year—both premium and lower-priced models—to see how much of a difference in picture quality TV buyers this year will experience.

Bottom Line: Wait a Few Months

Despite some of the remaining issues with HDR, we think that if you're looking for a new TV in 2016, you should consider buying a UHD set, especially if you can wait a few months. In the back half of the year, we expect prices to be lower and more content to be available. And, by then, we'll have had the chance to test a wide variety of HDR-capable TVs and judge the differences in performance.

If you need to replace a TV immediately, it depends on your priorities. Prices are at an all-time low for 1080p sets, and there are a lot of good models on the market. But if you're willing to pay more for top-notch picture quality, an HDR-capable 4K UHD TV could make sense. And buying one of these televisions will future-proof your entertainment system.