The world of television has changed a lot in recent years. There are new technologies and certifications, all for the next leap forward, nothing more than 4K TVs.
All of them carry rotating abbreviations like HDR10+, Dolby Vision HDR, and 8K. For now, the main thing you need to know is 4K.
4K is no longer something for new adopters, but its size is now increasing as studios, broadcasters and streaming services support it.
Both Netflix and Amazon have put a lot of emphasis on 4K on their streaming platforms in recent years, and the latter also offers several devices that support 4K. There’s also Sky Q which accompanies 4K to a whole new segment of regular UK viewers.
With all of that in mind, here’s everything you need to know about 4K to save a lot of time and effort when buying a new 4K TV.
What is 4K?
4K, also identified as Ultra HD, refers to a TV resolution of 3840 x 2160 pixels. That’s four times as many pixels as on a Full HD TV, for a total of around 8.3 million pixels.
Having that many pixels mean higher pixel density and you should have a clearer, more defined image. It’s not necessarily about sharpness, but missing out on more detail and texture.
What is the contrast between 4K and Ultra HD?
4K is used more often, but you’ll also find people calling it Ultra HD or UHD. The same goes for the mediocre consumer who buys a TV. But there is a small difference.
In its proper use, true 4K refers to 4096 x 2160 resolution, which was first introduced in digital theatres. UHD refers to 3840 x 2160 resolution, which is the resolution you get on the TVs you take home.
So, technically 4K is a misnomer for 3840 x 2160 displays and content, but the two terms are so often said to be interchangeable.
What does 4K offer?
Simply put, the extra 4K resolution adds better definition and clarity. The result is images that look real, closer to looking out the window than watching TV.
4K TV is particularly effective on giant screens, so ideally you should be happy with a 55-inch or even larger TV. The effect is most noticeable when switching to 4K from a TV of the same size.
Let’s say you have a 50-inch HDTV and you upgrade to 4K – you put four times as multiple pixels in the same space, which makes the picture much denser with sufficient detail.
8K has appeared on the market, although it is still in its infancy there are 8K displays available for purchase. However, they are expensive and will need a screen of at least 65 inches to get the most out of them. There is currently no original 8K content to watch.
8K won’t hit mainstream (or affordable) acceptance for a while, so you can buy your 4K TV if you’re not desperate for the features 8K brings with it.
How long do I have to sit in front of the TV?
To get the most out of 4K, it is recommended that you sit closer to the screen than in HD. Thanks to the extra resolution and higher pixel density, you can sit down later to get the most out of your TV. And if you fill your field of vision more, the experience becomes more shocking.
While sitting up close gives you the most impact, we reject the idea that remote viewing positions have no advantage. The lines are always drawn cleanly, you ever notice more depth, the colours always seem more subtle and displayed smoothly, and the objects in the image still appear solid and three-dimensional.
What do I need to start watching 4K TV?
Although your 4K TV goes down to standard definition and HD images to 4K, you’ll still need a primary 4K source if you want to enjoy your TV.
Examples include 4K streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon, various 4K streaming devices, Apple TV 4K, as well as Ultra HD Blu-ray devices.
Where can I watch 4K content?
There are several ways to record 4K content. If you’ve ditched the physical and settled into streaming services yourself, your main options are Netflix and Amazon Video. The former has a growing library of streaming TV series and movies in 4K for £9.99 per month.
In terms of TV, you have contents like The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Maniac, and Narcos. The original Netflix movies offer significant efforts, including Apostle, Okja, and Mute. You can also watch movies from other studios, as well as comedies and documentaries.
Amazon Prime Video gives 4K content as part of its video streaming service, which includes original Amazon series such as Homecoming, Mozart in the Jungle, and All or Nothing: Manchester City.
BT also has a 4K TV channel on BT Sport Ultra HD. It features Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League football as well as Aviva Premiership rugby. You will need one of BT’s Ultra-HD frames to use the service.
Next, there’s the Sky Q service, where you can watch a vast catalogue of movies and TV shows streamed in 4K, and most Premier League football matches are streamed in 4K as well.
Do all 4K TVs support 4K streaming?
These days, yes. The first 4K TVs released in 2013 could not support 4K streaming from Netflix. Netflix adopted the HEVC video format, and no TV could decode it.
These days, you’ll be hard-pressed to discover a 4K TV that can’t stream and doesn’t have access to 4K streaming services.
What internet speed do you require to stream 4K TV?
Amazon and Netflix require speeds of at least 15Mbps to stream 4K content. The speeds should remain consistent at or above this value; as soon as you leave, for example, due to the high retention rate at the peak, the picture will come back to HD.
And don’t worry if you start with a blurry image – it’s common for streaming services to run a low-res show and then scale it up to HD and UHD after the initial clipboard.
To try to cover this possibility, Netflix says on its website that it needs a minimum of 25 Mbps, but with Netflix, we’ve confirmed that a constant 15 Mbps is sufficient.
Interestingly, this means you need 15-25Mbps of backup bandwidth, so if someone else is using your Wi-Fi, they’ll need to have such free bandwidth after charging the use of another person.
Compression techniques are continually improving, so you will need a little less bandwidth in the future to enjoy 4K on Netflix or other competing 4K streaming platforms.
But keep in mind that high compression levels can negatively impact picture quality, so if you’re serious regarding 4K, a fast broadband connection is a must.
What connections do I require to watch 4K?
We want to say “HDMI port” and leave it at that, but unfortunately, it is not that simple.
The problem here is that not all HDMI sockets are the same. Since the onset of digital connection, there have been several versions/standards of HDMI, with the latest HDMI v2.0 specification expressly set for 4K signals.
The most notable advantage of HDMI 2.0 is that it supports higher data rate and therefore enables reproduction of 4K signals with colour sampling (called 4: 4: 4) at frame rates up to ‘at 60 fps. Upper HDMI 1.4 supports 4K power up to 30 frames per second.
Most major 4K TV brands now have HDMI 2.0 in their current TVs – LG, Sony, Panasonic, and Samsung are now on board, as are Philips.
Can I create my 4K content?
You can. There are home cameras that can produce surprisingly good 4K quality without costing you a lot of money. The two best examples are the Sony FDR-AX700 camera at £1500 and the Sony A6400 camera (body only).
Many modern smartphones are also capable of recording 4K video, including Apple’s iPhone 8 and iPhone X.
Of course, 4K recording has long been supported in the high end of the Android Market, and 4K video recording is present on current flagships like Samsung. Galaxy S10+, HTC U12 + and LG G6.