UHD, Ultra HD, 4K – whatever you want to call it – the next stage of TV may not yet be in your home, but that’s just a matter of time.
What is 4K?
4K TV takes its name from the number of pixels. In reality commercial 4K is not quite 4,000 but rather 3,840 × 2,160. That makes it four times the number of pixels in your current HD screen. Ultra HD/UHD is technically slightly different but mostly the terms are used interchangeably (as they will be in this article).
Despite all the talk about pixels, that’s not really the best thing about the Ultra HD technology – in fact many say that a higher resolution is redundant on the size of screens most of us have at home. One of the more important evolutions is probably the additional range in colour it offers. The picture below maps out the differences between HD and 4K. For the viewer it means more colours and more lifelike saturation.
At MIPCOM 2016 – a TV market held annually in Cannes – Sony’s Peter Sykes explained that another new technology, High Dynamic Range (HDR), is equally as important.
HDR expands the contrast and colour range of the image, both really important factors in how a TV looks. For you, that means brighter highlights, deeper blacks and richer colours.
People have been talking about 4K for a few years now. Some experts, including Joe Nakata, Senior Producer at Sony Corporation Japan, say one of the big things holding back the large-scale adoption was the lack of content available. However in 2016 that has taken a leap forward. There are now around 60 channels offering Ultra HD and more and more are producing in HDR, including big names like Netflix and Amazon Prime. By 2025 there are expected to be some 785 4K services on offer.
Other factors such as industry standards for production and more TVs and projectors have also given 4K a boost this year, but if you’re waiting for the grand entrance you’ll probably be disappointed. 4K HDR TVs are more of an inevitable next step which will slowly make it into our homes as people replace old TVs and as more exciting, original content becomes available.