Most people have now heard about 4K even if they are not exactly sure what this new iteration of television will offer them or how widely available it is. This year has seen a big push to move to this enhanced format, not just by the television manufacturers themselves, but by the broadcasters who want viewers to watch their content in the highest quality possible.
In the same way that HD was rolled out, we will see rapidly increasing amounts of 4K content becoming available over the next 12 months, and 4k has already overtaken 3D as the must-have technology. What’s clear is that the availability of 4K content on Sky Q box, Netflix and Kindle Fire TV, and the commitment of film studios and broadcasters to 4k will take the technology mainstream.
What is UHD/4K?
You will often see the terms UHD and 4K used interchangeably, however, there is a distinction between the two. UHD, or Ultra High Definition, is derived from the 4K digital cinema standard which is 4096 x 2160. 4K has a slightly lower resolution of 3840 x 2160. When you are making your choice of which TV model to buy, whether it is referred to as UHD or 4K, it is worth checking with the manufacturer exactly what the resolution is.
Either way, this additional resolution makes the television image more lifelike and increases depth, detail, and colour resolution. To be seen at its best 4K should be viewed on a large screen, upwards of 65 inches, and the viewer should sit closer to the screen than with HD for a more immersive experience.
What Content is Available?
At present, there isn’t a huge amount of true 4K content available but this is fast changing. Netflix is probably the leading provider of 4K and its library of titles is growing. Amazon Prime Instant Video offers a few titles and you can also find a limited amount of content on YouTube and a few other dedicated 4K sites. Sky’s Q silver box and Sky Q service will be offering a selection of 4K sports and movies in the near future.
What Broadband Will I Need for Streaming?
According to Netflix, which is the only service streaming content at the present time, you will need a broadband connection which delivers at least 25Mbps. The rate also needs to be fairly consistent, otherwise, the image will return to HD mode. As compression techniques improve this streaming figure may drop, however, it’s important to remember that the more compression takes place the less high quality your image will be. Therefore, the faster your broadband is the better from an image point of view.
How Else Can I Watch Content?
As 4K becomes mainstream the arrival of UHD Blu-Ray won’t be far behind. These discs will offer a much greater capacity than current blu-rays as they will need to store all the data required for 4K images. Once the players are released, the discs will follow, but it is anticipated that new titles will cost around £30 and there is no consensus yet on how quickly older titles will be converted.
What Connector Will I Need?
While there are some older HDMI sockets which will support 4K it is better if you have HDMI v.2.0 as this supports increased data bandwidth and allows playback at 60fps with full-colour sampling. Models being released now will include this connector as standard.
One manufacturer, Samsung, has opted for an external box, so connectivity can be further upgraded in the future. Other manufacturers could potentially also choose to do this to keep models as up-to-date as possible.
Naturally, because 4K is at the early stages of production, the prices for television models are still high. However, we should see a reduction in price point as the technology achieves a greater take-up rate. While there are always early adopters in every field, some people like to hold off until all the kinks have been ironed out and they become sure of what they are getting.
4K technology will be a game-changer in terms of picture quality and being able to watch movies, sports and television programmes in the highest quality yet in the home environment. What is clear, once you have experienced 4K TV in all its sumptuous glory, it’s very unlikely you’ll ever again be satisfied with high definition! You have been warned