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What is 4K? Should I Buy A UHD TV?

What is 4k Anyway?

Posted on 29, July, 2015

Last Modified on 22, December, 2017

4K TVs are well known to electronics consumers and connoisseurs. Every year television companies introduce higher resolution capabilities, upgraded user interfaces, and thinner displays. There are plasma, LCD, and LED TVs, and their resolutions have become sharper and sharper. Some say there's no reason to keep introducing new technology because consumers simply won't be able to tell the quality difference after a certain amount of pixels per inch. In this article, we will explain what true 4K UHD is, how you can watch ultra-high-definition movies and shows, and if it's really worth purchasing televisions with such large price tags.

What is 4K?

4K Certified

"4K" means that the TV measures 4,000 pixels diagonally across the screen. Before the creation of 4K, LED TVs came in different formats, including 720p, 1080i, and 1080p (which has the highest resolution at 1920 x 1080 pixels). So essentially, a 4K TV has 4 times the resolution of any HD TV previously made. Now, before you get all excited and think that it's just going to be a clearer picture than your existing television display, think again. Having a 4K TV doesn't necessarily mean you will have the best TV on the market. There are many other specifications besides resolution to think about when purchasing a new television. You could purchase a display with the best and brightest picture but the refresh rate could be low, creating motion blur, or maybe the lifespan on the display may not be as long as another. There are many factors to consider before jumping into a purchase. Here are the most important things to look for.

Important 4K Specifications

When shopping for a 4K television the first thing you should do is look at the product specifications. This is a list of important information you should read to make sure you are about to purchase the right TV for you. This list can be overwhelming so we want to go over the most important specs to make sure you understand what everything means. Some of the items listed below might not be on the box, but you can find this information in reviews by companies like Consumer Reports, CNET, Digital Trends, and rtings.com.

  • Brightness / Peak White - To keep it simple, it is the brightness level that can be administered.
  • Screen Uniformity - This describes hows consistently the image is distributed across the screen including clarity, color, and brightness.
  • Black Level / Contrast - The level of black that can be emitted from the display.
  • Display Resolution - The number of distinct pixels in each dimension that can be displayed. What are pixels? They're tiny squares of light that make up the overall image. The more pixels, the more detail in the image.
  • Reflections - Some TVs, more than others, reflect light from windows and interior lights, diminishing the picture quality.
  • Motion Blur / Refresh Rate - Larger TVs tend to have motion blur problems. A higher refresh rate will reduce motion blur by generating artificial in-between frames between the real ones. This can create a “soap-opera effect." To fix this you can just lower the refresh rate in your settings, although this will lower the quality of your picture.
  • Color Rendition - Color Gamut / Higher Dynamic Range - The Color Rendering Index has a rating from 0 to 100. The higher the CRI rating is, the more accurately colors are displayed.
  • Side Angle Viewing Quality - This is pretty self-explanatory. It's how well the picture looks to someone looking at the screen from the side of the television compared to directly in front.
  • Longevity or Lifespan - You will find this info on consumer reviews mostly. This is the average lifespan a television has before it has color degradation and other expensive problems.
  • Price - The most expensive is not always the best option. A lower brand named TV may have a better price tag than a bigger brand TV with lower specifications.
  • Value & Overall Performance - This is also something else you will find in a review. This will give you the overall pros and cons of the specific television.

Should I Buy a 4K TV?

Purchasing a 4K TV is not like upgrading from a standard definition (SD) to a high definition (HD) TV. Most people, if not everyone, can see the difference between SD and HD. UHD (or ultra-high-definition) televisions were made because when you look at an 80" TV and a 32" TV with the same resolution, the picture quality is worse on the larger screen. This is because both use the same amount of pixels which are spread farther apart on the larger screen, reducing the sharpness of the image.

1080p vs 4K Resolution

People have argued against the necessity of 4K TVs because they believe the human eye can't see a difference compared to 1080p — unless they are within a certain distance and the screen is a certain size. The average person's vision is 20/20 at best and eyes can only see so much detail. For example, if you have a 20" 4K and a 20" HD television, the normal eye can't see the difference between the standard HD and UHD TV unless they are within 4 feet of the display. People are normally 9-10 ft. away from their TV's. So, unless you plan on moving your couch closer to the television to experience the 4K in all its glory, is it worth paying a rather large price tag? With 4K, size really does matter.

4K and 1080p differences

Also consider that in order to use a UHD television to its full potential you will need 4K equipment that supports the feature. This is also true with 4K displays are used in the medical field. For example, physicians have the potential to improve the accuracy of their medical procedures and tests, but their diagnosis will only be as good as what the display can show.

What about movies, TV programs, and streaming video? Entertainment companies like YouTube, Netflix, Amazon, and other services are publishing content in 4K quality right now. Netflix started with Breaking Bad, House of Cards, The Blacklist, and nature documentaries in 2014. If you're watching TV with streaming services, especially wirelessly, you also must make sure that you have an Internet speed that can support the heavy bandwidth consumption that comes with 4K streaming. For these reasons, many suggest allowing some time for UHD content and media to release before investing in a 4K TV. As of 2017, movie makers are recording in UHD to support the new resolution standard even though they many digital cinema theaters can support it yet. Video game consoles that come with 4K support include the Playstation 4 Pro and the Xbox One S and X models.

A 4K Video Example from YouTube

What About 8K Resolution?

8K is an even larger resolution that is 4 times more detailed than 4K. Many film editors like 8K because the film is easy to crop without enlarging the image and losing picture quality. The detail shown with this incredibly high resolution of 7680 x 4320 is unmatchable. Analysts believe 8K will be the industry standard in 2020.

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