According to CES 2014, 4k displays are the way of the future. They're sharper, more detailed, and will generally make our much-vaunted HD technology look like muddied nonsense in the years to come. That's the idea anyway, and it's an important one for any television manufacturer looking to combat cheap HD TVs with a re-invention of the high-end. 3D sure didn't work.
The current standard for HD is 1080p, measured by the number of vertical pixels. 4k measures the horizontal pixels instead, and any TV described as 4K will have a resolution of at least 3840 x 2160. The result is a picture with about 8.3 million pixels, or about four times as many as a standard HDTV.
Here's where things get a bit muddy. 4k and Ultra-HD are technically different things, but are sometimes used interchangeably, much to the consternation of the more numbers-conscious commenters on the internet. True 4k has a slightly different aspect ratio than most consumer displays, and runs at 4096 x 2160, whereas "ultra-HD" is the consumer term that technically refers to the aforementioned 3840 x 2160. Here's IGNs explanation:
"To put it simply, 4K is a standard for professional video production and cinema, while UHD is a standard for consumer displays and broadcast television. Both 4K and UHD refer to high pixel density video, but there is a slight difference: a 4K image (4096x2160) has 256 more lines of vertical resolution than UHD (3840x2160), and as a result, has a different native aspect ratio."
We're seeing a lot of people using 4K to describe their UHD TVs, so if you're in the market for a high resolution TV or Monitor, the two terms can be thought of as interchangeable, even if they technically aren't. Both resolutions offer a massive upgrade over current standards. In practical terms, this means a whole lot more detail in whatever you're watching. It's great for games, but only if you've got a couple of massively powerful graphics cards churning away.
The biggest impediment toward enjoying your 4K TV today isn't just the (rapidly falling) price -- it's the lack of 4K content. Sony spent a lot of time talking about this at its press conference, with the support of Netflix and the World Cup. There are already some movies available to consumers, and there's bound to be a lot more soon. If CES 2014 is any indication, the tech world is fully behind 4K, and it's going to be a smoother transition than the wobbly shift to 3D.
I find myself having a hard time caring, but I tend towards the luddite side of these things. I'd love to see sports in this format, but can't stand it when my fiction tries to be too much like reality. People without giant TVs will have a harder time telling the difference, but those looking to fill up their walls could stand to benefit.
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