What is 4K Anyway?
Trying to understand the meaning behind the barrage of acronyms being thrown at you when it comes to televisions can be difficult. The latest buzz is all about 4K TV, which has many scratching their heads and thinking “didn’t I just upgrade to HD (high-definition?)”
It might seem like it was only just yesterday that HD was the technology du jour. But there’s plenty of interest in the latest evolution, called 4K: IHS forecasts that the worldwide 4K display market will reach US$52 billion by the end of 2020. These high-quality displays will become the norm not only for TVs, but for PC monitors, laptops, tablets, and even smartphone screens.
So what is 4K, exactly? And why do you need it?
Put simply, 4K represents four times the pixels of traditional HD. With full high-definition content, you get 1,920 x 1,080 pixels (i.e. tiny dots) displayed on the screen that, together, create the image you see. Naturally, the more pixels you have, the clearer, and better, the image can be. Think of it like a mosaic: the more pictures that are placed within it to make up the larger image, the clearer the main image will be.
With 4K, you get 3,840 pixels horizontally by 2,160 pixels vertically, resulting in a clearer, brighter, more true-to-life picture. A television capable of reproducing this resolution can also be referred to as a UHD TV, or ultra-high-definition.
Why would you need it?
While not every bit of content will realize significant benefits with 4K, and there are a number of components you need in order to experience it beyond just a UHD TV (we’ll delve into those in part 2 of this series), there’s plenty of reason to upgrade.
Better picture quality: 4K, as noted, allows for displaying a better overall picture because of the additional pixels. That includes more pronounced colours, and blacker blacks.
A more immersive experience: These days, we don’t just watch movies and television shows; we fully immerse ourselves in them. Our homes are like mini movie theatres, where we sit back and become immersed into the latest episode of Game of Thrones or The Walking Dead. Watching in 4K, when available, helps bring content to life through a more cinematic experience. You’ll feel like you’re part of the action rather than a mere spectator.
Future-proofing: While there wasn’t a lot of available 4K content last year, it’s coming out fast and furiously this year, on UHD Blu-ray discs, broadcast content (several sporting games on TSN and Discovery GO programming, including Canadian drama Frontier), and streaming TV fare. Having a 4K-capable television means you’ll be able to enjoy the enhanced quality, feeling like you’re right with Matt Damon, exploring space in The Martian, or on the basketball court with the Toronto Raptors for their next playoff run.
Improved HD content: Keep in mind that even if the content source you’re watching isn’t filmed in 4K, most 4K TVs and equipment can upscale that content (i.e. add pixels) to fit 4K, which can result in an improved picture.
When will you most benefit from 4K?
You’ll particularly notice the improved picture quality 4K can afford with content like sporting events (hello Super Bowl!) and dramatic films or television shows, like Discovery’s River Monsters or Planetary. You’d be able to distinguish between the broader range of deep reds, and slightly orange hues, or the light yellows and cream shades, without them being blown out (i.e. lacking highlighted details.)
4K content will also be especially realistic on larger-screened TVs. If you’re outfitting your home theatre with a massive 70-incher, you’ll want maximum resolution – particularly if you’ll be watching up close. Imagine seeing every bead of sweat dripping down a baseball player’s face, or minor details in a dark scene of your favourite dramatic film that may have been less pronounced without the additional pixels.
The bottom line
Just as HD was a big step up from standard definition and it’s now hard to imagine going back, 4K is the latest progression in high-definition. And it takes us one step closer to a true movie theatre experience right within the home.
So, are you ready to leap into 4K?