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Do you remember the first time you experienced 4K technology? You may have been amazed by its incredible resolution and larger-than-life clarity. You may have also been shocked at the price tag. The retail price of a 4K TV in 2012 was about $20,000. Thankfully, this technology is far more affordable today.
Now that 4K displays are a common fixture in living rooms all over the world, most of us are familiar with the term. But how much do you know about 4K technology and whether you’re getting the most out of your TV? You may be wondering what does 4K mean, what is 4K video and where can you watch it? Let’s answer these questions by first looking at where HD technology began and working our way up to the latest technology.
High definition, or HD, is a general term for clear pictures on a screen. HD is a big step up from standard definition (SD). High-definition technology began at 720 pixels (720p) and is the most basic form of HD. It offers a resolution of 1280 pixels horizontally and 720 vertically. HD doesn’t offer sharp clarity, but it doesn’t need a lot of data – so it’s great for streaming.
Next up is full HD (FHD), or 1080p. Full HD offers a resolution of 1920 pixels horizontally and 1080 vertically. Full HD is a popular resolution for watching YouTube and Netflix. FHD offers pretty good clarity but doesn’t need a ton of data for streaming.
4K resolution has four times the number of pixels as full HD. This incredibly clear resolution offers 3840 pixels horizontally and 2160 vertically. One drawback of streaming in 4K is the high data usage. You’ll need a fast Internet connection to accommodate the large amount of data 4K requires.
The terms 4K and Ultra HD (UHD) are not the same. 4K refers to a digital cinema resolution of 4096 x 2160. UHD represents a resolution of 3840 x 1080. So when you talk about a 4K TV, you’re most likely talking about UHD. But consumers, manufacturers and the media use the term 4K and UHD interchangeably. Some manufacturers even take things a step further and call their products “4K Ultra HD.”
Most TVs with screens larger than 50” offer 4K resolution. You might think if you get a larger size TV, you can feel free to sit a little further back. But manufacturers suggest sitting closer to your 4K screen for greater immersion.
After you go out and buy a 4K TV, it won’t matter much if you’re not watching 4K programming. Some streaming devices offer a large catalog of movies and TV shows in 4K from different streaming apps. Broadcast TV doesn’t yet support 4K TV programming, but in the meantime, you can enjoy hundreds of channels in HD clarity.
You’ll also want to be sure you have enough Internet speed for streaming 4K shows and movies. We recommend a minimum speed of 20 Mbps for each user streaming 4K content. If you have three users in your home streaming 4K media, you’ll need at least 60 Mbps to avoid any slow-downs or hiccups in service.
4K is not just for TVs – you can find it in high-end monitors, too. 4K monitors come at an increased cost, but can be a welcome upgrade for gamers, media professionals and others who need rich, crisp resolution. 4K tech is even beginning to emerge in mobile phone displays.
High Dynamic Range (HDR), isn’t about resolution – it’s about contrast. HDR provides a higher level of contrast between the brightest whites and blackest blacks. Adding HDR to 4K technology creates a stunning visual display for watching movies, gaming, viewing photos and more. However, just like with 4K, HDR is best when watching HDR content.
If 8.3 million pixels just doesn’t seem like enough pixels for you, well, there’s good news. Manufacturers are beginning to deliver 8K TVs to the market with a resolution of 7680 x 4320 for a total of 33,117,600 pixels. 8K TVs are best paired with 8K content – which, right now is rare to find. Time will tell how long before 8K begins to replace 4K TVs as mainstream.