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Decoding 4K

Making sense of all these letters!

Decoding 4K

4K, UHD, HDR…Practically every television you see an ad for, or find on a store shelf has these letters scrawled across it in bold, eye catching print. The young guy or gal working the electronics section of your local big box retailer tells you it is “way better” than the large flat panel you bought just a few years ago. Sounds like a really good script read to increase sales, doesn’t it? Well, the funny thing about sales pitches, is that there is usually at least enough contained within to convince people to not just buy it, but keep it. So with that in mind, let’s delve into the world of video beyond High Definition, sift through all of the buzzwords, and figure out if getting a newer TV is right for you.

So, what is 4K/Ultra High Definition (UHD)/Other unknown initialization?
The initial confusion starts because the market is constantly bombarded with all these new standards and formats in a relatively short amount of time. So, let us delve just deep enough to figure this all out. Both labels denote picture quality that is beyond High Definition. In practice, 4K and UHD are effectively the same thing. While they started off as two different resolution standards (with 4k coming in at a slightly higher pixel count over UHD), to the naked eye, this difference is effectively moot. 

Okay, so what makes it better than High Definition (HD)?
To put it simply, the image has about four times the detail. For every one single dot of color on an HD TV, you have four on a UHD set. What this does for the quality of the image is amazing, and allows for even larger screens and larger projection setups. Why? Because even with HD, there is a minimum viewing distance based off the size of the screen. Any closer, and the picture quality suffers. With UHD, there’s no such loss unless the screens are very large, or you are incredibly close. The level of clarity you get with a UHD TV is approaching lifelike at times, but that is also dependent on other technologies that are bundled with UHD, such as .

That’s all there is to it?
Not even close. UHD also includes other standards which make the pictures clearer and more realistic than ever before. Remember that other jumble of letters we just mentioned? If you aren’t familiar with it, High Dynamic Range (HDR) refers to a set of technologies and standards that effectively controls the depth of color that a screen can produce. Specifically, brighter whites, deeper blacks, and a significant expansion in the amount and vibrancy of greens and yellows.  This brings the color replication of screens significantly closer to real life, further making the experience more immersive.

Okay, so the image really is way better. Do I really need the upgrade?
Not that long ago when UHD kicked off, the amount of content available was slim. Now just about every major streaming service out there has 4k content available. 4K Blu-ray players littered the shelves for the 2017 holiday season, with their sleek black-cased 4K Blu-ray disks cascading down the aisles. You couldn’t walk through the electronics section for 10 feet without tripping over something with the logo proudly displayed on it. So, does that mean it’s time to take the plunge? Not inherently. If you enjoy movies, or TV series that are exclusive to the major streaming companies, then strike while the iron is hot! If most of what you watch is on broadcast or cable television, then you’ll see some benefit as many sets will upconvert HD signals to take advantage of UHD technologies. However, UHD broadcasts are very limited right now, and very little information is available as to when we will be seeing more. Whether or not you decide that now is a good time to upgrade, one thing is certain; UHD is here to stay.

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