The 4K resolution, also known as Ultra HD, is the next big step in screen technology. If you are shopping for a new TV right now, 4K is the dominant standard you will find in stores.
Essentially denoting that that particular TV screen can display a resolution of 3840 x 2160 pixels.
But technically, the term actually refers to one of the three main high-resolution standards that are currently in use in media. All have a horizontal resolution in the order of 4,000 pixels, bring pretty much twice the horizontal and vertical resolution of currently the most popular 1080p HDTV format.
In other words, four times as many pixels as Full HD, which can massively improve the picture quality.
However, unlike that Full HD format, 4K is seeing a much faster adoption, thanks to continuously falling screen prices and wider availability of media. Ultra HD Blurays are now finally a thing, game consoles like the PlayStation 4 Pro and Xbox One X offer support for 4K, newer graphics card on PCs can now handle this resolution with relative ease, and TV manufacturers have shifted focus to 4K for their newer models.
Before we get to the different kinds of options available to you, it’s worthwhile to spend a little time talking about the technical details of the resolution to get the big picture of exactly what kind of improvements 4K can bring to your home theater and media consumption experience.
All about pixels
Broadly speaking, resolution is basically the level of detail that your eyes can resolve, or see on the screen. The resolution of video systems like TVs and monitors are typically described by the vertical number, which is the smaller of the two. Most modern displays, unlike the traditional CRT tube TVs, have a fixed display resolution — meaning, they are physically built with a certain number of pixels.
Obviously, the higher this number is the more improved picture quality you can expect.
And while the industry has already defined three different 4K standards, in the real world you will mostly deal with the 2160p resolution standard, which is used for both television and computer monitors. It has a resolution of 3840 x 2160 pixels, translating to a now common 16:9 aspect ratio.
Or as the movie folks like to call it, 1.78:1.
This is called the UHD-1 standard, and is by far, the most prevalent of the three. The other two other standards are UW4K, the ultrawide 4K standard with a resolution of 3840 x 1600, and the DCI 4K standard, which has a resolution of 4096 x 2160 pixels.
Here to stay
At the end of the day, you can have as many standards as you want, but their success will ultimately come down to adoption. The good news is that the television industry, monitor makers, and online media sources like YouTube and Netflix have settled on UHD-1 as their 4K standard of choice.
3840 x 2160.
And this means that Ultra HD content is increasingly being made available by broadcasters, gamer developers, content creators and movie studios in this 4K resolution. A lot of films, games, TV shows, and web videos that you find these days are being offer in, or offer support for, 4K. In fact, most new media that is created is.
With the falling prices of these televisions and monitors, this fresh new standard is well on its way to becoming the dominant standard of the future. 4K and Ultra HD seemed like buzzwords a few years back, but in a very short amount of time, this resolution has become the new standard. Nearly every 40 inch and above TV model these days features Ultra HD resolution, even budget ones. So much so that it is estimated that, in just seven years from now, by 2025, more than half of the US households are expected to have a 4K capable TV.
If you’re excited about 4K, then buckle up your seatbelts, because it promises to be quite a ride!