What is 4K TV?

4K TV is the successor of FullHD television. Speaking of 4K TV normally refers to the 4K UHDTV or Ultra HD standard which is mostly used for consumer electronics. 4K UHDTV (2160p) is exactly twice as wide as the Full-HD standard 1080p with a total of four times the pixels. Depending on the aspect ratio, 4K television devices may support different maximum resolutions, like 3840×2160 for the well-known 16:9 format. (for more information in resolutions see this article)

Sony 4K LCD TV

Sony’s 84inch 4K LCD TV “KD-84X9005 b”

However, the term 4K describes a video format that is comprised of roughly four thousand vertical lines and that is normally used in digital cinematography. The pixel count of the native 4K resolution is 4096 x 2160, which is exactly twice as much as the 2K cinematic projection format.

Why you should have a 4K TV

The higher resolution of the television panels means improvements in terms of sharpness and details. Thanks to the high resolution the video material on larger screens still looks nice and sharp, while it is possible to sit closer to the television. 1080p/FullHD looks best at screens with the size of about 50 inches, but the 4K resolution can deliver a great looking image for larger screen sizes, especially around 80 inches.

While 4K TVs hardly hit the market, the ITU already specified a standard with an even higher resolution – the 8K UHDTV standard. The 8K resolution is based on 7680 x 4320 pixels, 16 times the pixels of Full HD.

People ask why you would want an even higher video resolution in your living room, if you can’t even see single pixels in 1080p videos. The answer is the cinema experience: in cinema, sitting at a good position, your whole field of view is normally the screen. If you want to achieve this at your home, you simply need a bigger screen. With the full-hd standard on screens much larger than 55 inches you would be able to recognize pixels. With 4K however, you possibly won’t.

The first 4K television models presented in the year 2012 by Sony, LG and Toshiba for instance had a whopping screen size of 84 inches (2,13 meters).

Is there 4K content?

The main problem with 4K television in the early days is, that there are neither blu-ray discs supporting 4K material nor cable television broadcasts anything in UHD. In fact, a blu-ray with additional layers does have the physical capability to accommodate 4K resolution content. What is more, Japan announced plans on broadcasting 4K content in 2014.

Nevertheless, the 4K resolution is not utterly new. Since years there have been movies which were shot in 4K or even 5K (like with the Red Epic Camera). The next step of course is mastering movies; we have a list of movies that were already mastered in 4K here.

Also, from a technically point of view, broadcasting 4K content through cable tv should be possible already. An uncompressed 720p cable tv stream uses the bandwidth of about 10 to 15mbit/s. With the new h.265 compression standard the same bandwidth would be sufficient to broadcast 4K material.

Main Advantages of 4K TVs

  • more details: Full-HD TVs show a maximum of about 2 million pixels, while 4K screens come up with 8 million pixels.
  • bigger screens: 4K screens may have twice the size of Full-HD models without the picture quality getting worse.
  • sharper photos: nearly every digital camera shoots photos above 8 megapixels, thus viewing photos on your television will be much more fun.