If you’re looking for a high-definition TV or computer monitor, you’ll likely find 4K resolution in most of them. The term 4K refers to a resolution of ultra high-definition. With all major TV manufacturers now offering 4K models, it has now surpassed both HD and full HD in popularity. There are a few other names for 4K, depending on the manufacturer of the TV. However, they’re all saying the same thing.
At its most basic functionality, 4K and Ultra HD are four times the resolution of Full HD. A standard Full HD screen will have a resolution of 1,920 x 1,080 (a total of 2,073,600 pixels). Ultra HD and 4K screens have a resolution of 3,840 x 2,160 (a total of 8,294,400 pixels). The more pixels there are, the more detail the picture contains.
Shopping for a new TV these days is almost impossible without stumbling across a 4K model. Compared to Full HD’s 8-bit color, a 4K and Ultra HD TV screens can display a wider range of colors, brilliant resolution and images appear more realistic. A wide range of sizes, features, and add-ons are now available for 4K-UHD televisions, which have established themselves as the de facto standard for high-definition viewing. In order to get the most out of today’s HD components, you’ll need a 4K TV, even though 8K and 16K models are on the way. These include things like video game consoles, Blu-ray players, and streaming media platforms.
The stunning 4K TV resolution may entice non-4K TV owners to upgrade. But there’s also new technology inside many of the best 4K TVs that’s worth learning about. They may make an upgrade a necessity rather than a luxury. Models vary in their use of Quantum Dot and OLED panels, as well as High Dynamic Range.
As a first-time 4K TV buyer or a refresher on the technology, we’ve got you covered with this comprehensive breakdown of the most sought-after pixel count on the market.
What is 4k?
4K and Ultra HD have four times the resolution of Full HD at their most basic level. 1,920 x 1,080 is the standard resolution for Full HD screens (a total of 2,073,600 pixels). 3,840 x 2,160 pixels is the resolution of Ultra HD and 4K displays (a total of 8,294,400 pixels). Pictures with more pixels have more fine detail.
Due to the higher pixel counts, 4K HDTVs tend to be larger than Full HD counterparts, but even at the same size, you can see the benefits of a 4K image over a Full HD image. When compared to a Full HD image, a 4K image has more detail and better color grading, making it sharper and more vibrant.
More “true-to-life” images are possible thanks to the higher frame rates and improved color reproduction that 4K and Ultra HD provide. When compared to Full HD, which only supports 8-bit color, 4K and Ultra HD TVs offer 10 and 12-bit color support, respectively. This implies that a 4K screen can display a wider range of colors, resulting in more lifelike images.
In fast-moving scenes like an NFL game or the latest Fast and Furious movie, a bump in frame rate capabilities to 60 frames per second means smoother action scenes and a sharper picture. At first glance, the increase in frame rate can appear to be unnatural, but it is actually a significant improvement over current television broadcasts, which are typically shown at 25fps.
What is 4K HDR resolution?
An additional factor in 4K HDR (high dynamic range), Ultra HD TVs and content is 4K HDR (high dynamic range). It’s worth waiting for HDR-capable 4K Ultra HD TVs to become more affordable before purchasing one.
High dynamic range (HDR) is all about increasing the contrast of an image. An image’s tonal range is defined as the area between the darkest and lightest shades. Consider it the HDR mode on your cell phone’s camera, allowing images to appear more detailed with subtle shadows and bright areas all clearly visible without affecting the overall image quality. When viewed in motion, 4K HDR is simply stunning.
Even though some retailers may advertise their Full HD screens as HDR, this isn’t technically true. The statement merely implies that they’ve employed some HDR-emulating contrast technology. If the TV you buy supports HDR, buying a 4K Ultra HD TV will give you access to this new technology.
Do 4K and UHD have a difference?
No, not at the retail level. Both terms can be used in the same sentence. Professionals in the video production or cinema industry will tell you that what we call 4K is not actually 4K at all when you ask them about it. They’re technically correct.
4K is a digital cinema standard that requires a resolution of 4096 x 2160 pixels. First, the horizontal measurement, and then the vertical measurement all add up to 1.85:1 because of their aspect ratios. With a horizontal resolution of around 4,096 x 3,840 pixels, the term “4K” makes sense, as it is more than twice the previous 2K standard of 2048 x 1080 pixels.
You’re still with me, right? The vast majority of us watch television, so it’s good to be back in that realm. We use 16:9 or 1.78:1 aspect ratio televisions here. When we use this method, we get 3840 x 2160 pixels, which is double the horizontal and vertical measurements for Full HD (1920 x 1080). That’s four times the pixel resolution, if you do the math.
The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), now known as the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), decided in 2013 that Ultra HD should be the official name for the new resolution standard. Manufacturers began branding their newest models as 4K Ultra HD or simply 4K after calling them 4K for so long that the name didn’t stick.
Ultra HD and UHD are the two official consumer labels for 4K, and the 3840 x 2160 pixel resolution is widely accepted in the consumer and home theatre markets (technically that is 3.8K, but saying 4K is easier).
What is difference between Megapixels and Resolution?
In order to compare 1080p, 4K and 8K resolution to the pixel resolution of even modestly priced digital still cameras, here is how to do so:
- 1080p (1920×1080) has a resolution of 2.1 megapixels.
- There are approximately 8 million pixels in 4K (3840×2160 or 4096×2160).
- To get into the pixel resolution range of the best professional digital still cameras, you need to shoot at 8K (7680 by 4320 pixels – 4320p). It is likely that your camera is capable of taking photos with a resolution far greater than what you can see on your television screen when it comes to video.
Is a 4K Ultra HD TV necessary?
Alternatively, one could ask, “Do I need a Porterhouse?” Absolutely not! Isn’t a sirloin good enough for you? You will still be able to use your 1080p HDTV for many, many years to come, even as 4K becomes the industry standard because 1080p digital broadcast standards aren’t going away like analogue broadcasts did in 2009. Even so, once you see what a 4K Ultra HD TV looks like, you might be tempted to upgrade.
While upgrading to 4K Ultra HD is not necessary if you’re happy with your current TV, if you’re shopping around for a new one, you’d be doing yourself a disservice if you didn’t do so. It’s not like you’ll be stymied by the cost. At the lower end of the scale, you can get a 50-inch 4K TV for under $300. The next largest 65-inch 4K TVs start at $400 and go up to more than $600. Isn’t that good, or what?
How far should I sit for a 4K resolution TV screen?
How about those “retina” displays Apple touted a while back? “Retina” refers to screens with such high resolution that individual pixels are invisible at normal viewing distance. With enough distance from a 1080p set, you get a retina display!
At the same distance, your eyes can’t see any more detail in a 4K image than a 1080 image. If you’re already at “retina distance” from your 1080p set and don’t plan on moving your couch, upgrading to 4K may not be worth it. This chart shows how close you need to sit to see a difference in screen size.
What cables do I need for 4K?
The two most common cables are HDMI and DisplayPort when connecting a PC to an Ultra HD monitor.
HDMI cables available in four varieties and the HDMI Forum Technical Working Group that defines the specification has established the following video resolution guidelines.
- Standard HDMI: Up to 720p or 1080i resolution at a 30Hz refresh rate
- High Speed HDMI: Up to 4K resolution (including 1080p) at 30Hz
- Premium High Speed HDMI: Up to 4K resolution with high dynamic range (HDR) at up to 60Hz
- Ultra High Speed HDMI: Up to 10K resolution with HDR at a 120Hz refresh rate (4K video can refresh at up to 240Hz)
Now, as long as you use the same cable class, there is no performance difference between one manufacturer’s set of cables and another.
The speed of your connection depends on the connectors. HDMI 1.4 supports 3820×2160 resolution at 30 fps, while HDMI 2.0 supports Ultra HD resolution at 60 fps, and HDMI 2.0a supports HDR.
HDMI 2.1 adds 4K at 120fps and 8K at 60fps to the mix.
In short, if your HDMI cable can handle 1080p (the standard for years), it should be able to handle 4K. Don’t fall for expensive cables.
The other option is DisplayPort. 4K video and audio from most high-end graphics cards to monitors with no visible artefacts or delays.
Major Brands that produces the best 4K Ultra HD TVs
4K TVs are being produced by nearly every manufacturer, and there is no shortage of them on the market. That doesn’t mean you should spend your money on any of them. Higher-end models from major TV brands such as LG and Samsung are best for those who can afford them, while those who don’t have as much to spend but want the biggest screen for the lowest price should look to TCL, Hisense, and Vizio, which are producing stunning 4K panels that are starting to rival the big players.
According to your price range and what you’re hoping to get out of the television, which one is the best? TCL Roku 4K TVs are a great option if you’re looking for an easy-to-use interface with a tonne of streaming options built in. Ideally, you’ll want a QLED or an OLED from LG, Samsung, or Sony for the best possible visuals. If you’re looking for a big screen and great performance on a budget, Vizio is your best bet.
In the case of 4K UHD TVs, do they all have HDR?
When it comes to TVs, High Dynamic Range (HDR), or HDR, is a term used to describe a variety of formats that allow for brighter whites and darker blacks while still maintaining excellent contrast and color volume. If you’re looking for a good reason to buy a new television, HDR is a great option.
If you’re looking for a 4K TV, you’ll be hard-pressed to find one without HDR, but it’s still worth checking to see if the one you’re considering has it. With this in mind, there are a few HDR options, including Dolby Vision, HLG, HDR10, and HDR10+, all of which have their own advantages and disadvantages, depending on the application. It is HDR10 that is most common, while Dolby Vision and HDR10+ are usually reserved for more expensive models. HLG may be important in the future, but it isn’t right now in the United States.
Can Full HD (1080p) content be played on 4K Ultra HD TVs?
Yes, 4K Ultra HD TVs can play Full HD content, but it won’t be displayed in the standard 1920 x 1080 resolution we’ve all come to know and love. Instead, content must be first upscaled in order to fill the additional pixels of a 4K Ultra HD screen. The same holds true for media that was captured or rendered at a resolution lower than HD.
To be clear, that doesn’t mean you have to wait for HD shows to morph into a higher resolution before you can start watching. Real-time upscaling occurs as the content is being played. While most of the big-name manufacturers’ 4K Ultra HD TVs do a good job with up scaling, some budget brands don’t, so we recommend sticking with the aforementioned brands for best results.
There are still options for 4K TV owners who have committed to a set that has upscaling issues: There are a few options here: you can use an upscaling processor in a mid- to high-end A/V receiver, or if you’re playing DVDs, you can buy a 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray player (or even an Ultra HD Blu-ray compatible Playstation 5 or Xbox Series X).
Where can I find content in 4K Ultra HD?
In addition to Amazon Prime Video and Netflix, Hulu has joined the on-demand streaming bandwagon, as well (to a lesser extent). If you prefer physical media, Ultra HD Blu-ray launched in 2016 and opened up a slew of new options, many of which can be rented through Netflix DVDs (yes, that’s still a thing) or purchased on Amazon if you prefer the improved performance. There are also a number of 4K-resolution content download services, such as iTunes, Google Play, and more.
Finally, a slew of new streaming services will likely launch soon, all of which will offer 4K content. Disney+ now has hundreds of hours of movies and television shows to choose from, thanks to Disney’s addition of its own content.
Dish Network, DirecTV, and Comcast are among the first cable and satellite providers to offer 4K live TV, but it’s still very limited and mainly reserved for pre-recorded or streamed content, not live programming. For the time being, 4K is mostly rolled out for special events like the Olympics or other sporting events.
Over-the-air broadcast television doesn’t currently offer Ultra HD, but ATSC 3.0, the next-generation broadcast standard, is coming and will permanently pave the way for 4K broadcasts.
What about gaming in 4K resolution screen?
While 4K gaming on PCs was available before consoles, Sony and Microsoft’s latest gaming machines can now compete.
Sony launched the PS4 Pro, which uses advanced upscaling to generate a 4K image. It’s not native 4K, but the results are fantastic.
With the Xbox One X, Microsoft has taken 4K seriously, offering native 4K resolution on a few titles.
Next-gen consoles like the Xbox Series X and PS5 now support native 4K gaming at frame rates up to 120Hz (if the game supports it too, that is). Red Dead Redemption 2, Marvel’s Spider-Man, and God of War are just a few recent big video games available in 4K on various platforms.
Although, since the Switch OLED was announced, it’s unlikely we’ll see a 4K-ready Nintendo Switch 2 until at least 2023.
Beyond Ultra HD and 4K
What’s the next step up from 4K? It might be better if we went with 8K. 8K has a resolution of 16 times that of 1080p. There are only a few 8K TVs for sale in the US, with Samsung taking the lead, but there is no real 8K content available to watch in the US. Since 8K TVs can only display images that have been upscaled from lower-resolution sources, viewers will have to put up with lower-resolution images for a while. Japan, on the other hand, has begun broadcasting an 8K channel.
Moreover, Organic light emitting diodes (OLED) have been around for a while, but the cost of producing large screens with this technology has kept it from becoming a mainstream option.
It’s a even big regret because OLED technology can produce stunning colors, blacks, and whites. But don’t give up yet. Several companies (most notably LG) are working on OLED 4K TVs. They’re beautiful, but their prices haven’t come down in years, and they don’t last as long as LCD screens.
With less risk of burn-in and a new 48-inch size, OLED TVs are becoming more accessible to average consumers.
4K TV or 8K TV, which should I go for?
While 4K Ultra HD may appear to be the next big thing, there is already a new kid on the block. It’s called 8K, and with a resolution of 7680 x 4320 (or 4320p), it’s four times that of 4K Ultra HD and 16-times that of Full HD. That may sound great, but there are a few reasons why you should avoid 8K TVs for the time being—the first of which is that they’re extremely expensive.
Even if you have deep pockets, we don’t recommend snatching one of these puppies right now. Even if 8K looks like it’s making rapid progress, there’s still a long way to go before it becomes the new standard in the industry. There is a good chance that television technology will continue to advance, making current models obsolete.
This situation is only exacerbated by news that the industry is already talking about 16K, a figure that anyone outside of the top one percent should avoid considering. Even so, there is currently no real 16K content, only pseudoscience that allows manufacturers like Sony to show off their fidelity to the best of their abilities. This holds true for 8K as well, so you’d only be gaining technological clout at the expense of your wallet. To justify a purchase in this category at this time is the fact that the latest TV technology supports screens much larger than current mainstream 4K models can accommodate.
Your best bet is to pour your budget into the best QLED or OLED TV (depending on your preference) you can find. You’ll save money in the long run, and you won’t have to worry about buying an 8K TV that will be outdated before it even becomes widely available. The only resolution worth your money right now is 4K Ultra HD, and that isn’t going to change anytime soon.
Exactly what is 4K upscaling?
When a video signal has a pixel count that doesn’t match up with the TV’s pixel count, it’s known as upscaling. In order to match the 4K TV’s pixel count, a processor compares the video resolution to a predetermined threshold.
Watch this YouTube Video about 4k, 8k and beyond:
Our Thoughts on 4K tech
If you need a new TV and haven’t upgraded to 4K yet, now is the time. The technology has standardized to the point where a 4K television purchased today will be ready for the future, and it is priced competitively with 1080p televisions. Whatever your budget, you can probably find a 4K TV that meets your needs.