If you’re looking for a new TV, you’re probably considering a 4K or Ultra HD model. Is there a difference and what should you watch out for when shopping?
Here’s what you need to know in the 4K vs UHD TV characteristics before you dive in.
What do the “4K” and “Ultra HD” labels mean?
Let’s start by defining “HD”. High Definition Television (HDTV) has been a standard that has been in use for over ten years, and you will be hard-pressed to buy a TV that is not at least “HD ready”, which means that it can display a resolution of 1280×720. (720p).
Most modern TVs are at least “Full HD”, which means they can display a resolution of 1920 x 1080 (1080p).
The “p” stands as “progressive,” which means the entire image is drawn in each frame. The option is “i” for “interlaced” (as in 1080i, another HDTV standard), which means odd and even lines are displayed in alternate frames. This results in lower image quality.
In this sense, the term 4K refers to any screen format with a horizontal resolution of around 4000 pixels. It’s a bit confusing because TV resolutions, at least up to this point, are mostly named by the number of vertical pixels. Televisions with that many pixels are abbreviated as “Ultra HD” or UHD.
This change is not entirely arbitrary. Unlike TVs, digital theatre standards have traditionally emphasized horizontal resolution. The Digital Cinema Initiatives (DCI) standards are the most common for digital production and require 4096×2160 resolution.
4K vs UHD vs 2160p
UHD-1 is the closest TV screen standard to DCI and refers to a resolution of 3840×2160. This resolution is four times the amount of pixels in Full HD.
Most modern TV screens are UHD-1 because the wider DCI 4K aspect ratio is not suitable for most TV content. However, the two are almost universally known as 4K.
UHD-1 is regularly referred to as 4K UHD or just 4K. Some people sometimes call UHD-1 2160p. When you see any of these phrases, they usually mean the same thing. When it comes to the TV, there is no variation between UHD and 4K.
Note: There is likewise Full Ultra HD, sometimes referred to as 8K, which refers to a resolution of 7620×4320. That’s four times larger than 4K pixels and sixteen times bigger than Full HD. But 8K is still in a comparatively infantile phase. When you see most of the Ultra HD tags on a Blu-Ray movie or elsewhere, you can think of it as 4K.
Can you distinguish between HD and UHD?
While the content situation has developed, most people probably won’t notice a higher resolution even when watching the original 4K content.
If you’re sitting within two feet of a 55-inch TV and have a perfect view, you might notice a difference. At longer distances, smaller screens, or a less clear view, they probably won’t. In most occurrences, the difference is negligible and may not be worth the cost of the upgrade.
However, there may be different valid reasons to upgrade. Higher resolution may not do you much good, but other UHD TV features may convince you. Yet, not all UHD TVs have them, so it is essential to act with caution.
Ultra HD Premium
The new Ultra HD Premium standard specifies greater colour depth (over a billion colours) and more fantastic dynamic range to make the picture quality exceptional compared to previous standards.
The Ultra HD Premium logo is a surety that the device adheres the standards and can display UHD content as it should. Manufacturers such as LG, Panasonic and Samsung have adopted the Ultra HD Premium standard, as well as content providers like Warner Bros., Netflix, and 20th Century Fox.
Sony does not use the logo even though it was a portion of the UHD Alliance that developed it, but multiple of its TVs meet or surpass the required specifications.
Do you need an Ultra HD or 4K TV?
4K content can be streamed to a 1080p TV. Ultra HD Blu-ray discs are played on older TVs. The most modern generation of video game consoles will also work. If you previously have a TV, you can still use it and keep watching whatever you want.
Ask yourself if 1080p seems insufficient. If you think HD content still looks good, you might be saving a lot. Most of the content is even done on the mind of the 1080p screen. And you won’t be doing yourself a favour by buying a 4K TV if you mainly watch DVDs with a maximum resolution of 480p.
But there are reasons why you want a UHD TV. If you’ve got a home theatre room where you sit further behind the screen or are looking for a new TV, whatever, it makes sense to go for 4K. If you like to play games at full resolution, you will need to get a 4K TV soon. You can still get a 4K TV for under $600.
4K vs UHD: Comparison of Standards
As you can see, while 4K and UHD are the two most well-known standards, this logo on the top of your TV indicates that 4K is not pure 4K, but UHDTV1. And even if you miss those few pixels, the point is 16: 9 is perfect for HDTV and its content.
Well, it’s all about 4K vs UHD, but I’d like to know what you think. Let us acknowledge in the comments section what you think of 4K and whether companies will continue to call it 4K UHD or openly share that they sell UHDTV1.
What Do You Have?
Right now you’re probably looking at that 4K monitor or TV you own and wondering exactly how much truth it contains. The point is, almost any display labelled 4K, UHD, or 4K UHD or 4K Ultra HD is actually UHDTV1.
The reason is that although 4K is of higher quality, it is only used for cinematic purposes, as it is easier to shoot at a 1.9: 1 ratio. Nevertheless, consumer devices use this 16: 9 ratio, so the UHDTV1 standard stands out.
So even if your UHD display is playing pure 4K content, such as Amazon Prime Video, the TV program cuts off the extra pixels or gets black bars at the top and bottom of the screen to keep the aspect ratio 16: 9.
Still, some displays have adhered to True 4K resolution instead of adopting the usual UHDTV1 standard, like 4K gaming monitors. The best way to check if the screen is 4K or UHDTV1 is to check the maximum resolution it supports.
While manufacturers can directly lie and mix up the terms 4K and UHD, the full resolution is the most practical way to ensure that you have a True 4K display or a 4K UDH display.
Some other points to consider in the 4K vs UHD TVs
If you dare to indulge in a new UHD TV, you may need to do a few more updates to get the most out of it. Your existing devices, cables, and services will continue to work, but may not allow you to view UHD quality images.
While HD content that has been upgraded to UHD looks good, the visual quality is not the result of content produced initially in UHD.
This means that you will have to experience 4K more than buying a new TV. Here are additional changes you may need to make as related to the 4K vs UHD TVs:
- You will need a speedy and reliable broadband network. 4K content requires more bandwidth than HD.
- You may need to replace your cable or satellite subscription plan to access UHD content. It will probably cost more.
- Your old Blu-Ray drive will also need to be replaced. UHD Blu-ray players will upgrade existing 1080p Blu-ray players and play higher (and more expensive) UHD discs.
- You may need a new HDMI cable. Although HDMI 1.4 is proficient of displaying UHD resolutions, HDMI 2.0 is required to display them at 60 frames per second.
Streaming platforms like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, and Disney + have growing catalogues of UHD content. To enjoy it, you’ll need a streaming device that can handle UHD (unless your TV has a built-in service).