Whatever you care to call it: 4K, Ultra HD, 4K Ultra HD – the ‘four times HD’ TV technology is here to stay. In 2016 the major TV manufacturers are delivering their third-generation 4K TVs, the UK’s first 4K TV channel is now live, you can stream 4K from Amazon, Netflix and YouTube, and you can finally buy 4K Blu-ray.
There’s no doubt about it, 4K video can look seriously impressive with LG and Panasonic both delivering 4K OLED TVs that are, arguably, the ultimate in TV performance.
However if you’re scratching your head and wondering what 4K TV all about then read on, we’ll try and explain the basics of ultra-high-definition video and help you get you up-to-date with the latest 4K news and available content.
So what exactly is 4K Ultra HD?
It’s all about the resolution. Technically, 4K resolution is 4096 x 2160 pixels. However that doesn’t quite work with regular the 16:9 picture format so in order to squeeze in the higher resolution it has been altered to 3840 x 2160 pixels, which is four times the total number of pixels on a Full HD 1080p screen (1920 x 1080).
Obviously in order to take full advantage of 4K Ultra HD you will need a compatible TV, a source and content that packs those all-important extra pixels. The TVs have been available to buy since around 2012 but it’s only in the last year or so that there has been any content to watch on them.
So if you’ve held off buying a 4K TV until now, which was probably a wise move, now might be a good time to dive-in and upgrade your viewing.
A word about HDR
You may notice the acronym ‘HDR’ on your searches, this stands for High Dynamic Range and it’s tipped as the next ‘big thing’ in the TV world (remember they said that about Betamax?). The term has been ‘borrowed’ from photography and refers to a technique that heightens a picture’s dynamic range i.e. the contrast between the bright whites and dark blacks. The theory being the higher the dynamic range the closer a picture gets to real life.
No prizes for guessing that HDR for televisions is based on the same premise. An HDR TV is all about contrast and colour performance and as such a TV must meet a certain level of brightness and black levels to support HDR.
If you spot an Ultra HD Premium badge on your TV then you know that it meets the required specification of delivering 4K resolution (3840 x 2160), 10-bit colour depth, BT.2020 colour space representation and support for HDR, for the ‘ultimate 4K performance’.
One thing to bear in mind however is that the Ultra HD Premium standard is agreed upon by the UHD Alliance , so not everyone adheres to it and just because a TV doesn’t have the logo, won’t mean it doesn’t meet the specification. Not confusing at all then!
How do I watch 4K video?
Okay, you’ve got your 4K UHD television, what next? Well, you need a source and content. The source can be an Ultra HD Blu-Ray Player but given the limited selection of 4K films available it’s more likely that you’ll be streaming content via services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime or even YouTube or you’ll need to invest in a media box, such as Amazon’s 4K Fire TV Box.
For those, and there were many, who doubted that 4K would ever become ‘mainstream’ it seems safe to say that it is here to stay so you should really be considering it when you look to buy your next TV.
The market has a full range of Ultra HD 4K TVs, all of which are capable of providing the necessary picture performance for SD, HD and 4K content with a price to suit all budgets.
Whilst only limited content at the moment, streaming 4K video has arrived, 4K broadcast plans are underway in the UK and Ultra HD Blu-ray is now a reality. What are you waiting for?
We highly recommend John Lewis for your TV purchases as they offer a 5 years guarantee on all televisions, which is a vast improvement on the usual 1 year manufacturer’s warranty.