4K is big, and there is no doubt that one day it will be mainstream. With 4K TVs at surprisingly affordable prices (just this week Vizio announced a 4K TV for only $600), and Netflix and Amazon committed to delivering 4K content, the momentum behind Ultra HD 4K TV is gathering.
In laymen’s terms, 4K means more pixels – about 8 million pixels, which is around four times what your current HD set can display. More pixels means more information. More information means sharper pictures.
Is there a huge difference in quality between 4K and HD?
Without doubt, 4K content viewed on a 4K TV is impressive. The jump in resolution from HD to 4K is similar to the jump from SD to HD. And 4K sets have other properties that improve the picture; blacker blacks and whiter whites give images more contrast and snap.
In terms of an immediate wow factor, a jump in display size is more powerful than any resolution jump could ever hope to be. When many of us went to HD, we also made a big jump in TV size. With 4K, it looks like screen sizes are staying about the same, with the most popular models falling in the range of 40 to 70 inches.
Most importantly, though, you’ll only fully appreciate the resolution difference on a 4K set if you’re watching 4K content through it – and, apparently, if you’re sitting close enough.
So what about 4K content?
4K has been around for some time, and television networks eventually will broadcast in it. There is even talk of the next soccer World Cup being broadcast in 4K. Content has been filmed in 4K for years. Theaters project in a similar format; many of the films and TV shows we watch now were filmed in 4K but distributed in other formats. For the moment, 4K pioneers have limited content options to choose from; YouTube, Netflix and Amazon are testing the waters.
How much bandwidth does 4K use?
On the streaming side, bandwidth can be an issue. Streaming in 4K can use four times more bandwidth than in HD, so 4K streamers may have to become more selective in choosing content and a high-speed data connection is a must (note: TDS TV customers have some of the best speeds around!). Newer high-efficiency encoders and compression will help save the day. We will also see players that can cache or download content before viewing.
Why are we even talking about 4K then?
4K is amazing, and it will be big. But, there is definitely a chicken-and-egg situation here. No one wants to spend money putting out 4K content until there’s significant demand for it, which means 4K sets showing up in homes. But 4K sets are a tough sell if there’s nothing to watch on them except regular HD content. Which means we’re in a strange in-between time, waiting for significant numbers of people to buy an extra-expensive TV that will only look marginally better than their old one for the next year or two. And it won’t stop there. There’s already talk of 8K.
In the meantime, if you want the best TV you can get right now and don’t mind paying a premium, buy a 4K set. However, don’t expect to be watching most of your video content in 4K for another few years. If you’re happy to wait, there are some incredible 1080p HDTV deals to be found right now. If you never made the leap from SD to HD, maybe now’s the time.
Guest blogger: Claire, from BendBroadband.