As you may have heard, the next step in high-definition video resolution is already here. The official moniker it will be known by is Ultra HD (sometimes shortened to “UHD”) , which stands for “Ultra High Definition”, a name adopted by the Consumer Electronics Association. Sony, being Sony, likes to be different and instead calls this new resolution “4K”. In a nutshell, UHD/4K video displays and projectors are capable of displaying 4 times the maximum resolution of the existing high-definition format we’ve enjoyed since 1998. Instead of 1080 x 1920 pixels of resolution, UHD offers 2160 x 3840 pixels of resolution. Yes, that is a LOT more picture information.
How “Real” Does 4K Resolution Look?
Watch these videos created by LG to tout the resolution of their 4K TVs and watch this TV strike terror into the viewers:
You get the point, though…the video of the meteor about to strike the city was real enough that the prankees all thought it was real enough to jump out of their chairs and run for the door. If the video was grainy, or you could see the individual pixels that made up the video, the prank wouldn’t have worked. To the TV’s resolution credit, the viewers were sitting fairly close to a TV of that size. Arguably, if that TV were a “regular” HD resolution (1080 x 1920 pixels), you would most likely be able to tell the video of the meteor was a fake.
Beyond the big increase in picture resolution, the UHD specification allows for a richer color palette, displaying more saturated colors and also finer color gradations. In plain English…a better, more realistic picture. Video frame rates are increased, too, up to 120 frames per second, which translates into smoother video. If you are tech inclined, you can read more details here at Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/4K_UHDTV.
Even though all UHD displays “upscale” all incoming signals to UHD pixel resolution, this should never be confused with true UHD content. You can’t add resolution that doesn’t exist in the source. So far, the cheap off-brand UHD sets that have appeared prove the saying “you get what you pay for”. One of the reasons these sets are so cheap is that they use inferior upscaling, so watching a Blu-ray or any other standard high-definition content on these TV’s looks worse than a good quality (name brand) regular high-definition TV. As you might have guessed by now, it’s not a “no brainer” decision to purchase a UHD TV. .
If you are planning a dedicated home theater or a media room and want more of an “IMAX-like” experience, then UHD resolution makes sense. The new IMAX Private Theatre offering comes with dual 4K projectors (yes, two of them) and a very large screen to create the immersive experience IMAX is known for. In these cases, the seating deck will be much closer to the screen than a “normal” home theater. Also, gamers often sit closer to the screen than most casual TV watchers, so they’d appreciate the smoother, less pixelated picture. Most of the major manufacturers are making UHD video displays now, and you’ll see more and more video projectors offer it soon. Sony is a major proponent of UHD, and I saw a demonstration of one of their 4K projectors at the recent CEDIA Expo held in Denver last month. Watching native 4K resolution on a large screen (front projection system) was an eye-opener. Yes, the future is bright (and colorful…and sharp…and full of detail).
Plus, keep in mind that if your seating area is far enough away, you will not notice the resolution increase. This chart shows that you will have to sit very close to the display to notice the resolution increase. Like the transition to today’s 1080p high-definition standard, in the not so distant future most likely every TV larger than about 50″ will automatically be UHD resolution. Until then, as said before, call a pro before you dive in.