New Ultra HD: 7 Buyer-Friendly Facts


From CES (Consumer Electronics Show) events to announcements and promotions from big brand names like Sony and LG, you have probably noticed the rise of ultra HD. That’s the new HD technology that promises to vastly improve on traditional HDTVs with lots more pixels and — well, that might be as far as your knowledge goes.

Yes, the new age of HD is here and has come under terms like “4K” and “Ultra HD,” but beneath these names is new technology that really can make a difference — in the right situations.

7 Things to Know About Ultra HD

If you want to know about this new ultra HD, if it is worth buying, and how out of date your current screen really is, these facts are for you:

1. Ultra HD is the TV-Friendly Version of 4K

The term “Ultra HD” is sometimes used interchangeable with 4K, and sometimes used as something different. This is confusing until you understand the source of the differing definitions.

You see, the 4096×2160 resolution, 4K quality refers strictly to cinema screens. Typically, HDTV screens found in the living room only have room for a 3840×2160 pixel version of 4K. It is the same technology used in the same way, just automatically downsized a bit for the TVs we have.

For this reason, “Ultra HD” may refer to the TV version of 4K, while “4K” may be reserved for only the cinema version. Just remember that, whatever term is used, the pixel numbers are a bit different between the movie theater and the HDTVs we have at home.

2. 4K is Twice as Good as Older HD

Traditional HD is known for its “1920×1080” lines of pixels with progressive scan technology (which is why the term 1080p has become synonymous with real HD and is used to spot pretenders). And 4K is a similar type of shorthand used to indicate a new number of pixels. It refers to 4096×2160 pixels, which you may recognize as roughly twice the number as traditional HD.

The first reaction is often, “Wow, that’s a lot more resolution!” However, as we will see, while the image is improved, twice as many pixels does not mean the picture is actually twice as good.

3. You Need a Larger Screen to Appreciate the Difference

Pixels can only do so much. Traditional, 1080p HD crams a whole lot of detail into a small space. The twice-as-many pixels of 4K create even more detail — but you may not be able to notice it.

Smaller HDTVs simply do not have enough room to show off 4K images. You will want a TV that is at least 60 inches (diagonal) to appreciate any Ultra HD content. Otherwise, you probably won’t be able to tell the difference unless you sit a lot closer.

4. Content is Limited, But Due to Grow

Companies are working on creating 4K and Ultra content, but it is a slow process. Sony, for example, is offering unique content on its media players. But it is going to take cable, disc-based video, and media players a while to catch up. Expect a slow rollout of 4K in all the traditional video sources over the next couple of years.

5. Upscaling Still Applies

“Upscaling” is that trick that takes a standard quality video and upgrades it to 1080p. It is not full 1080p, but it still looks great. Fortunately, Ultra HD TVs will have the same capabilities.

6. Prices are Steep — But Probably Not as Steep as You Think

Of course, a new version of HD is going to have a higher price tag than older versions. But do not make the mistake of thinking that the new technology is far beyond your reach. It is actually surprisingly affordable, with prices in the  $3,000 to $5,000 range. If this still makes you wince, don’t worry.

Manufacturers understand the problem, and are working to drop their prices into more manageable ranges. Keep an eye on the market for changes.

7. Don’t Forget About HDMI 2.0

Ultra high-definition TVs will work with the HDMI 1.4 standard, but only at around 30fps (frames per second). But modern 4K TVs are designed to work with cables that use the HDMI 2.0 standard, which can support 60fps video quality, which creates smoother action and a movie-like feel. If this matters to you, then remember to upgrade your HDMI 2.0 cables.

Ultra HD will find its way into more and more homes over the next decade, and now, you should have a better idea of what that means!