4k TVs, also called UHD, have been around for a while, but high costs and sparse selection have kept them out of the homes of most consumers. Now, with most major manufacturers releasing a variety of 4k sets at more affordable prices, buying a 4k TV is starting to become a better idea for more people.
To help you figure out if a 4k TV is right for you, here are answers to a few common questions about 4k resolution and 4k TVs.
What is 4k resolution?
Every TV has a resolution, a number which represents the amount of pixels on the screen. For a while, the standard was 1080p (also known as Full HD): 1920 pixels wide by 1080 pixels high. 4k (also known as Ultra High Definition or UHD) quadruples that, offering a resolution of 3840 by 2160 – twice the width and twice the height of 1080p.
Since 4k material watched on a 4k screen will have four times as many pixels as you get with a 1080p Full HD screen, the picture should have a lot more detail than regular HD images.
Is a UHD TV worth it?
It might be, but it depends on a couple of things.
- Some people have a hard time seeing the difference between 4k and 1080 p – there is a difference, but it’s not nearly as drastic as the difference between SD and HD – and so those people won’t find much point in upgrading.
- Even if you do see the difference, most content is still broadcast and distributed in lower resolutions, so you probably won’t spend the majority of your TV time watching genuine 4k material. In other words, you won’t be benefiting from the higher definition.
- On top of all of that, and even if you’re watching genuine UHD material, sitting too far away from a 4k TV makes it hard to spot the extra detail, so you might need to change your viewing habits to get the best results out of an ultra-high-definition TV.
What are the best 4k TVs?
Right now, our favorite 4k TV is the Samsung JU7100. It has very good overall picture quality, and it does a good job of displaying sub-4k video, too.
You can find more of our favorite 4k TVs in our list of The Best 4k Ultra HD TVs.
How can I take full advantage of my 4k TV?
Like any TV, you should make sure to calibrate it for the best possible picture. Once that’s done, you’ll get the best visuals out of your TV by watching real ultra-high-definition content. Some of the current options include streaming websites like Netflix and YouTube, as well as sites like Amazon and MGO, which allow you to purchase and rent downloadable films. There still isn’t that much out there, but with 4k Blu-rays on the way and streaming and downloading offerings continuing to add more content, the future is looking brighter.
Are Ultra High Definition TVs future-proof?
Yes and no. There are always new technologies on the way, but most 2015 models will have the fundamental specs that are necessary for 4k. New 4k TVs have two very important technical elements, and will be future-proof. Older 4k TVs, including some released in 2014, may not be. Here are the tech specs you want to see on a UHD TV before buying:
The first is HDMI 2.0, an upgraded version of HDMI that allows for higher amounts of data to be trafficked to the TV and which is crucial for delivering the large amount of information in an ultra-high-definition signal. Most existing 4k TVs have HDMI 2.0 ports. Be warned, though, that manufacturers occasionally lie and list HDMI 2.0 even when the TV doesn’t support the full spec. Be sure to double-check for this.
The other is support for HDCP 2.2, which is an update of the High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection standard. HDCP is used to prevent the illegal copying of digital material, and 2.2 is geared specifically toward upcoming 4k devices and media. Many 4k TVs that have already been released do not support HDCP 2.2 on their HDMI 2.0 ports, and therefore could have some trouble playing real 4k content in the future.
To confuse things further, all other devices in a setup chain will need to be HDCP 2.2 compliant as well. For example, a setup involving a 4k TV, a 4k Blu-ray player, and an A/V receiver would require that each of those components supported HDCP 2.2 in order for the content to be able to play. In other words, not only should you make sure your TV supports HDCP 2.2, but you’ll also need to be sure that any 4k playback devices or receivers are, too.
What about 8k? Should I wait for that?
No. Realistically, 4k won’t fully become the mainstream option for another couple of years, and content availability is likely to remain a problem for a while. Proper 8k support is even further away, and 4k’s delivery issues will be made even worse with 8k – we’re talking a resolution that is four times greater than 4k, and 16 times bigger than 1080p. What’s more, you would have to sit ridiculously close to an 8k TV to notice the improvement.
There is plenty to think about when considering buying a 4k TV, and the added price tag means it’s nothing to rush into. Apart from the higher resolution, UHD doesn’t present better picture, so look before you leap: even if you’ve got room in your budget, consider your setup and your potential access to 4k media before making your choice. You might find your money is better spent on a higher-quality 1080p TV.