The technical term for 4k television describes an ultra-high definition screen resolution. You may also see this labeled UHD, 4K, or 4K UHD, depending on which brand makes the TV. but everyone is talking about the same thing.
At this time, 4K has overtaken both HD and Full HD to become the most popular TV resolution chosen by major TV brands. You’ll find 4K screen resolution on most TVs today, except for some small TVs, which tend to have full HD resolution, as well as most PC monitors.
The important thing to know here is that just because you have a 4k TV doesn’t mean you have to have a lot of 4k TV shows and movies. That’s because many of the best 4K TVs can display lower resolution images. This means your favorite TV shows and movies that have been shot in HD will play as they should on a 4K screen regardless. some might even be upscaled by your tv meaning they were enhanced to ensure 4k display
The brilliant resolution offered by a 4k TV could tempt anyone to upgrade their non-4k TV. But there are other new types of technology inside many of the best 4k TVs that are also worth learning more about. they could make an update a must instead of a nice one. these features include quantum dots and oled panels, as well as high dynamic range (hdr), but they vary from model to model.
In the following guide, you’ll find a video that explains the basics of 4K, along with all the information you need to know about pixel count, viewing distances, and the difference 4K really makes to your viewing experience.
what is 4k resolution?
We know it has greatly improved our viewing experience, but what is 4k?
4k resolution, at least as defined by most TV companies, is 3840 x 2160 pixels or 2160p. To put that into perspective, a full HD 1080p image is only 1920 x 1080. 4K screens have around 8 million pixels, which is about four times what your current 1080p set can display.
Think of your TV as a grid, with rows and columns. a full hd 1080p image is 1080 rows high and 1920 columns wide. a 4k image roughly doubles the numbers in both directions, producing about four times as many pixels in total. to put it another way, you could fit each pixel of your 1080p array onto a quarter of a 4k screen.
why is it called 4k?
It’s called 4k because the images are around 4000 pixels wide. and before you ask, yes, the industry named 1080 resolution after the height of the image, but named 4k after the width of the image. For added fun, you may also hear this resolution referred to as 2160p. welcome to the future it’s confusing here.
do all those extra pixels matter?
That’s where it gets sticky. we’re talking about a similar resolution jump from sd (480 lines high) to hd (1080 lines high). and 4k screens are noticeably sharper than 1080p screens.
But if you stick with roughly the same size TV and are used to sitting fairly close together, you may not notice much of a difference, especially if you’re still primarily watching HD content rather than 4k video.
how close should i sit to a 4k screen?
remember when apple made a big fuss about “retina” displays a few iphones ago? “retina” refers to displays that have sufficient resolution that, at a normal viewing distance, your eye cannot distinguish individual pixels. get far enough away from a 1080p TV and voila, it’s a retina display!
more importantly, at that same distance, your eyeballs won’t be able to extract any more detail from a 4k image than from a 1080 one. if you’re at “retina distance” from your 1080p equipment now and not plan to move your couch closer, upgrading to 4k may not make a huge difference to your experience. this chart (opens in a new tab) shows how close you need to sit on any screen size to see the difference.
4k vs. uhd: what’s the difference?
technically, “ultra high definition” is actually an offshoot of the 4k digital cinema standard. however, while your local multiplex displays images in a native 4096 x 2160 4k resolution, the new ultra hd consumer format has a slightly lower resolution of 3840 x 2160.
this is one of the reasons why some brands prefer not to use the 4k tag at all, but stick with ultra hd or uhd instead. however, the numerical abbreviation is likely to stick.
why should i care about 4k ultra hd?
There are many reasons why 4k should make you reconsider your next TV purchase (there are actually eleven and you can read about them here), not all of them immediately obvious.
Photographers who routinely view their work on an HDTV see only a fraction of the detail inherent in their images when viewed at 2160p.
an ultra hd screen reveals so much more nuance and detail – the difference can be staggering. While 3D has proven to be trendy fun, 4K comes with no caveats. your higher resolution images are simply better.
The higher pixel density of a 4k panel also allows you to zoom in much closer without the grid-like structure of the image itself becoming visible; This means you can comfortably view a much larger screen from the same seating position as your current Full HD. board.
my friend told me about 4k oled. what is that?
more acronyms! isn’t this fun? OLEDs (organic light-emitting diodes) have been around for some time, but producing large screens with this technology has proven to be prohibitively expensive, something that has so far prevented OLED TV from being a mainstream proposition.
It’s a real shame because OLED technology can be impressive, offering vibrant colors, deep blacks and bright whites. But don’t lose hope just yet. Several companies (mainly LG) are working to bring OLED to 4K TVs. They’re certainly gorgeous, though the price remains high even years after they first hit the market, and it’s generally accepted that they don’t have the longevity of LCDs.
However, OLED TVs are getting better year after year, with a reduced risk of burn-in and a new 48-inch size that aims to make flagship OLED TVs a bit more affordable for average wallets.
read more: what is oled?
is netflix in 4k?
yes, if you pay for it.
netflix has tiered pricing plans, with 4k movies and tv shows available at the premium tier. Not everything on the service will scale in resolution, though there is a decent amount of Ultra HD content available, including Dark, Star Trek: Discovery, Altered Carbon, and much more. the selection may be more limited than the amount of HD content, but it is increasing every day.
netflix is also not an outlier. Amazon has entered the 4K UHD streaming game by offering some of its top-rated shows (Clear, Mozart in the Jungle, Man in the High Castle, The Grand Tour, and Mad Dogs) in Ultra HD.
You’ll also find Ultra HD content on Disney Plus, Hulu, Rakuten TV, and other streaming TV services like them. everyone is doing it! It’s not like some services allow 4k streaming for all subscribers, like disney plus, instead of netflix’s tiered model.
Are 4k and hdr the same thing?
not. There is no shortage of acronyms in home entertainment, and yet it can be confusing.
hdr, or high dynamic range, essentially increases the difference between the lightest and darkest parts of an image. blacks turn appropriately dark instead of milky gray, and whites turn dazzlingly light.
This means images have more depth and you should also be able to perceive more detail in the lightest and darkest parts of the image.
Netflix was the first content provider to release HDR video in 2015, but Amazon Prime Video also offers high dynamic range content. HDR has also been included in the new Ultra HD Blu-ray standard. you can read our full explanation of high dynamic range here.
why isn’t tv broadcasting in 4k?
Because each 4K frame contains four times the HD information, 4K content is four times as large as normal HD content in terms of raw file size. that makes it a challenge to get it to you.
steps are being taken to bring 4k content to broadcast television. In the UK, Sky has started broadcasting select sports in 4K, and BT is also using IPTV technology to do the same.
On the streaming side, bandwidth is a definite issue. Internet bandwidth is already dominated by Netflix traffic, leading ISPs to look to them for extra cash, and that’s with most of their streams on SD and HD tiers. uploading everything to 4k doesn’t seem like a reasonable option yet.
even if it were possible to stream 4k content for everyone without interrupting the internet, streaming 4k content requires a 25 mbps or faster downstream internet connection, which is faster than most people have right now .
what about games in 4k?
4k gaming has been available on pc for a while before consoles, but more advanced versions of gaming machines from sony and microsoft can certainly compete now.
sony got down to business with the ps4 pro, which uses an advanced form of upscaling to output a 4k image. it may not be native 4k, but we think the results are excellent.
although microsoft dipped its toe in the 4k water with the similarly improved xbox one s, things got serious with the launch of the xbox one x, a powerful console that offers native 4k resolution in a handful of titles.
You can now enjoy even more advanced 4K gaming on next-gen consoles, including Xbox Series X and PS5, which support native 4K at frame rates up to 120Hz (if the game supports it too, that is). Some great recent video games available in 4K on various platforms include Red Dead Redemption 2, Marvel’s Spider-Man, and God of War, as well as many others.
We’re even hearing rumors of a 4k-ready Nintendo Switch 2 console, though since the announcement of Switch technology, we likely won’t see an ultra HD model until at least 2023.
what kind of cables will I need for 4k?
The two standard cables you’ll probably use are either a standard hdmi or, if you’re connecting a computer to an ultra hd monitor, a display port.
hdmi cables now come in four versions: high speed with ethernet; high speed without ethernet; standard speed with ethernet and standard speed without ethernet. standard speed cables are capable of 1080i, but cannot handle 4k bandwidth. high-speed cables can do anything above 1080i.
now, as long as you use the same kind of cable, there is no distinguishable difference in performance between one manufacturer’s cable set and another.
however, the speed of your connection will depend on the types of connectors. HDMI 1.4 connectors support 3820 x 2160 resolution at 30 frames per second (fps), while HDMI 2.0 can output video in Ultra HD resolution at 60 frames per second, and HDMI 2.0a supports HDR.
the latest spec, hdmi 2.1, goes one step further with 4k at 120fps or 8k at 60fps.
The bottom line is that if your hdmi cable is capable of handling 1080p (the standard for several years), then it should be able to do 4k as well. Don’t be fooled into buying expensive cables.
The other type of cable you can use is displayport. displayport carries 4k images and audio signals from most high-end graphics cards to monitors without noticeable artifacts or delays.
do I still need 4k resolution?
This question is made more difficult by the fact that very few TVs aren’t 4k these days. while the benefits of 4k are harder to see on smaller TVs, there’s little point in not getting a 4k display given how freely they’re available.
For 32-inch TVs, you’ll only expect full HD resolution, as you wouldn’t be able to see much of a difference with a 4k screen of that size. however, for 40-inch TVs, that benefit is clearer, if not as clear as the larger 55-, 65-, or 75-inch sizes, and you’ll now see many of the more premium TV technologies in the 40- or 40-inch size. 43 inches.
the panasonic hx800 has a wide compatibility with the hdr format, with dolby vision and hdr10+, as well as with hlg (hybrid log gamma), along with an excellent image quality, despite being a set of leds of half price. Designer TVs like the Samsung The Frame TV are also coming to very compact sizes, meaning small no longer necessarily means cheap.
however, one issue to consider is brightness. Most 40-inch screens won’t have the lighting matrix needed to make those pixels really shine in HDR, since you need around 1000 nits for the intended impact.
what’s next for 4k resolution?
4k has established itself as a must-have television capability and is no longer the preserve of those with deep pockets – it’s now 8k resolution.
We don’t expect to see 4k on smaller screens than we’re already seeing, simply because you can’t see the benefit on 24-inch or 32-inch screens at normal viewing distance.
The main changes and improvements for 4K TVs in the coming years will be in other related technologies such as HDR. panel technologies continue to change and compete, too, with oled and qled fighting for dominance, and microled and mini-led beginning to rear their heads in premium sets.
The next challenge for 4k resolution, then, is not so much about more pixels as it is about better pixels, with better underlying technology and better processing to make 4k images really shine.
- what is 8k resolution? a look at resolution beyond 4k