If there is a buzz word in every area of technology then the current one in the world of televisions is 4K. You will of heard of 4K in technology reviews, TV adverts and in your local shops. But should you buy a 4K TV? or more to the point should you buy a 4K TV just yet. 4K or sometimes called Ultra HD is the next generation of TV’s superseding the range of Full HD Televisions which have been around for a while now and are pretty much a standard specification. Should you buy one? many factors are obviously involved in any buying decision so lets take a look at those factors.
What is 4K?
The first thing to know is what it is that your paying your money for. 4K represents a step forward in resolution in the same way that HD ready improved standard definition and Full HD iproved on that. Ultimately it is how may pixels are on the screen. The more pixels the sharper and clearer the picture will be.
Standard Definition (576i) = 414,720 pixels
HD Ready (720p) = 921,600 pixels
Full HD (1080p) = 2,073,600 pixels
Ultra HD (4K)= 8,294,400 pixels
As you can see 4K TV’s have 4 times the resolution (pixel count) as Full HD, giving 4K TV’s a real picture improvement especially on larger screens. 4K is actually a cinema standard with a resolution of 4096 × 2160 (8,847,360 pixels) commercial TV’s are likely to be based on the Ultra HD standard but 4K is snappy and not too far from the truth, so many companies will market their TV’s with the 4K logo.
What 4K Content is Available?
If you have a shiny new 4K TV then you will want to have some 4K content to watch on it, so is there any about? At the moment not a great deal, however there is some and the catalog is growing. Online services such as Netflix are offering some of its content in 4K format. There is however no disc storage medium capable of holding 4K resolution contend because of the high storage capacity required (remember its 4 times larger than Full HD) and over the air broadcasting still hasn’t adopted full HD completely yet You can be sure however than a new storage format or an upgrade to the Blu-ray format is being worked on.
Regardless of the limited 4K content on the market at the moment, a 4K TV will still display images at a 4K resolution. This is called up-scaling and depending on the quality of your TV will do a decent job of making high definition content look close to the quality of 4K.
Better 3D with 4K.
3D television in the home seem to have been largely dismissed as a fad. While TV’s are still sold with 3D capability its not really the main selling point any more. The problem with 3D is that it was a little gimmicky and it actually degraded the viewing quality. The reason for this is that a 3D image is derived from send half the available resolution to one eye and half to the other, letting your brain merge the two. This effectively halves the resolution of the picture. So from 2 Million pixels for a Full HD picture it becomes a 3D image with 1 Million pixels. With a 4K TV however the 3D image will still halve the resolution again but this time it will halve from 8 Million Pixels down to 4 Million Pixels. So you get a 3D picture which is still twice the resolution of Full HD.
The increased resolution will bring your digital photos to life. If your taking picture is a very high resolution then even a Full HD TV will not be doing your shots any justice in terms of the details that can be seen.
The limitations with all these new TV’s with increasing amount of pixels with a greater pixel density is actually you. Your eyes can only see so much detail on a small screen. To get the best out of a 4K TV it needs to be in the 50 Inch range and above or you will have to be sitting very close to a small screen to see the extra detail that 4K brings. It does however allow your seating position when watching larger screens to be more varied. With previous TVs if you had a larger screen but a small room your were obviously forced to sit closer to the screen, this meant that you could see the pixels at times and the quality of the picture on large screens would not be as sharp.
Resolution isn’t everything
4K technology is mainly about the increase is resolution but that’s not everything that it brings to the table. It also brings a piece of tech called “HFR” (Higher Frame Rate) which allows viewing at increased fps beyond the old cinema standard of 24fps. Higher frame rates are said to give a smoother image and so can appear more detailed. HFR will be of benefit to all 4K TV’s even the smaller screen sizes, where as a simple resolution increase can be lost on smaller screens.
As always all the new features are always going to be pluses when deciding if you want to buy a new 4K TV. But the real question comes with the price. 4K TV’s are coming into the mainstream price range now. They started out in the £10,000 plus range but now you can get smaller screen sizes in normal £400+ range. For the best benefit of 4K you will need a 50+ inch screen which will probably set you back about £1000 mark for a basic model. So the technology has been out for long enough for the prices to be reasonable.
The benefits of a 4K TV dont need native 4K content and with that point I think that if its in your price range then your next TV should be a 4K/Ultra HD TV. Prices have dropped to a reasonable point now and the extra clarity, HFR and the fact that 4K is being taken on board means you can be sure that your 4K will be great now and even better in the future.