If you replaced your old TV with an HD model, there was no question that the picture was much better. It was sharper and lost that grainy fuzziness. In technical terms, you increased the number of pixels in the TV image to 1080 high by 1920 wide, and for a screen the same size, the pixels were smaller. Your eye couldn’t see the individual pixels and you saw a sharper picture.
Ultra HD repeats this process by increasing the number of pixels to 2116×3840 to get four times the resolution, but you may not notice the difference. Other factors come into play and you have to consider everything that influences how you watch TV to determine whether a UHD or 4K TV makes sense for you. TechRadar explains the technology behind the new TVs while CNET has reservations about whether the new televisions make sense.
How Does Ultra HD Work?
Manufacturers are introducing ultra HD as a new development and claiming that the technology introduces a new generation of TVs, but they are actually just making existing TVs bigger. TV screens come as huge sheets that manufacturers cut up to make the different sizes of TV. Instead of cutting a large piece into four parts and selling four small TVs, they keep the large piece and sell it as a UHD TV. The smaller TVs would each have 1080 x 1920 pixels and the large piece has 2116 x 3840 pixels. While that is the basis for the higher resolution TVs, manufacturers such as Samsung and Sony have also improved the electronics that create the picture to deliver better overall quality.
What You See
To evaluate whether you will see any benefits from ultra HD you have to look at how you watch TV. If you go up to one of the new TVs in a store and look closely at the screen from a distance of a few inches, the quality of the image is striking. You can see details you never previously saw in a movie or video. But most people watch TV from a distance of nine or ten feet. At that distance, a 60-inch HD TV delivers a sharp picture for people with average eyesight and they would not notice the higher resolution of ultra HD. For screens bigger than 60 inches viewed at nine or ten feet, viewers see a better picture quality from a UHD TV.
On the other hand, if you watch TV from close up, you are more likely to see the better picture quality of the new TVs. At a three-foot viewing distance, you can see the pixels of even small screen HD TVs, such as 24 inches. For close-up viewing, a UHD TV makes sense, even for small screen sizes.
Space Requirement and Cost
Since the new TVs deliver better value in picture quality at larger sizes, you have to have plenty of room to accommodate one of these units. The screens themselves are still quite thin but they need wide stands to give them stability, and a typical unit will take up a good part of one side of a room. For example, the Samsung 85-inch model is 6.5-feet wide with a stand that is almost two feet deep, and the Sony 84-inch model is about 7-feet wide with a stand having a similar depth.
This size of UHD TV is expensive. Prices vary a great deal and are falling, but you can still expect to pay between $25,000 and $40,000 for one of these models as of October 2013. Smaller models cost much less, but the difference to simple, and HD models is less pronounced as well, unless you sit very close to them. With the larger TVs, you’re no longer placing a TV in a room, the room is defined by the TV. This makes sense for home theatre enthusiasts who are willing to spend a lot of money to create an environment dedicated to their movie and video experiences. If you just want a really good TV to put in a corner, you have to evaluate all these factors before making a decision.
A final consideration before getting a UHD TV is what you are going to watch. It took a few years before HD programs were common on TV although you could play HD movies and video off DVDs. The same is true of the new technology and it will continue to limit what you can watch on ultra HD. The TVs can upscale lower resolution material to play on their screens and the picture is marginally improved, but that process is no substitute for native ultra HD programming.
Since the availability of ultra HD material is constantly improving, your best bet is to check whether what you usually watch is available in the new resolution at the time you are making a purchasing decision. To take full advantage of such a major investment, you have to be sure that you can play a substantial portion of your programming in ultra HD.
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