4K Ultra HD, also known as ultra high definition – or, most simply put, 4K – is how we describe the eye-popping resolution that brings more pixels than ever before to your home TV.
You’ve probably seen or heard the term ‘4K’ in a number of places. It’s plastered on most in-store televisions, and certainly comes up a lot in our TechRadar TV reviews. But it’s important to separate vague hype from clear, hard facts – and it’s fitting that this 4K guide is placed to bringing the latter into sharper clarity for you.
4K is the natural successor to Full HD (Full High Definition), with four times as many pixels offering far more detail for viewers to enjoy. Not everything is filmed in 4K resolution, and this does mean that TV makers have to figure out ways to ‘upscale’ low resolution content to fit their pixel-dense screens – sometimes with varying results. It remains a fact, though, that a 4K TV is a sizeable upgrade over an HD TV, and you should be looking to make the most of 4K technologies if you’re on the lookout for a new television set.
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4K resolution isn’t exactly a new technology these days, coming as standard in most new TVs, and is in some cases being superseded by even an sharper 8K resolution – especially with new Samsung TVs. It’s hard to find an HD set, too, unless you’re looking at a small portion of small TVs.
But it might not be the raw resolution of 4K that tempts you into your next TV purchase. Instead, the inclusion of other cool technologies, such as High Dynamic Range (HDR), Quantum Dot and OLED panels might be what sways your purchasing decision.
1. What does “4K” mean, what does “Ultra HD” mean, and what are the differences between the two?
Quite simply 4K is used to refer to a resolution which amounts to about four times the pixel count of Full HD resolution. Full HD is measured at 1920 x 1080 pixels and for most consumer purposes, 4K UHD resolution is set at 3840 x 2160 pixels, which is roughly 4 times as many pixels as FHD (Full HD). They’re also colloquially called 2160p and 1080p resolutions respectively. There is also a less common 4K resolution called DCI 4K, rarely found in 4K TVs but common in 4K home theater projectors and some 4K video cameras. This is set at 4096 x 2160 pixels and offers roughly half a million pixels more than 4K UHD.
As for ultra HD, it has a more flexible meaning. Right now it’s practically synonymous with 4K UHD TV displays and other 4K consumer products but when other resolutions like 6Kand 8K become more common, they could also be called ultra HD.
2. Why are 4K screens/displays preferred over 1080P
what are the advantages and why is this technology worth it? How does this ultra-high definition technology change the user experience for the better on various devices (TVs, computer monitors, phones and cameras)?
4K resolution isn’t actually easy to distinguish from normal FHD on smaller display devices of less than 45 inches across (diagonally) unless you get really close up to the screen but aside from this 4K definitely brings with it a much better level of sharpness on all larger screens and even on smaller screens, the sharpness and smoothness of digital video looks far superior when viewed close up. Aside from these obvious benefits, 4K display devices come with the best peripheral display technologies these days and 4K recording devices are obviously better because their 2160p video output is more future-proof for being displayed on larger screens (which are becoming more popular among consumers).
3. What are the current 4K screen technologies available to consumers (e.g., HDR, OLED, AMOLED, Quantum Dot [QD], UHD, etc.)? Please describe the differences between these technologies mentioned and list any others that I failed to mention.
The most important 4K display technologies (mainly for 4K TVs) currently available are HDR and OLED. Quantum Dots and other brand-specific technologies mostly revolve around enhancing 4K resolution or HDR in any case. OLED is its own distinct display technology for display design and it is also found in non-4K screens.
4. Where can consumers currently get/watch 4K content (e.g., streaming sites, 4K UHD Blu-ray players, etc.)? Why isn’t broadcast TV in 4K yet, and when is this coming?
The best and most easily accessible sources of 4K content for anyone anywhere in the world are 4K UHD Blu-ray discs. You’ll need a 4K Blu-ray player to play them but if you get one, you can watch any of the dozens of 4K movies now coming to Blu-ray on your 4K TV even if you have no other source of 4K content or the right internet connectivity to access streaming media apps. After 4K Blu-ray, the most easily accessible content in 4K is the stuff available from streaming internet services like Vudu, Amazon Prime, Netflix, YouTube, Hulu and others and apps for all of these are found on most 4K TVs right out of the box. However you’ll needs at least 20Mbps of connectivity to your home in order to stream 4K video from said apps.