4K Ultra HD TV - What is It?

I remember the first time I watch 4K TV in action, it was on my last trip to my local PCWorld.  The massive 65″ LED TV was propped just near the exit clearly to stop and stun customers on their way out.  I was one of those customers.

The TV, which turned out to be one of Sony’s latest Bravia 4K TV, was running a set of slide-show containing very colourful High-Def photos obviously designed to show off the clever screen prowess.

I’ve heard a lot about 4K Ultra HD TV throughout the year, but that was the first time I actually saw it in action, and it really didn’t disappoint.

But before we go further let’s start with what exactly is 4K Ultra HD TV, what’s the difference between this and the current Full HD TV and what’s in it for us.

What is 4K or 4K Ultra HD?

If you are an avid observer of digital technology, in particular digital display, the term HD (High Definition) wouldn’t sound strange.  In fact, for average consumers, a HD Television is nowadays a norm rather than yet another strange acronym TVs vendors slap on their product .  Today no consumer electronic store would sell TV that is not HD.

Of course when we are talking HD here, what we usually mean is a TV that has a horizontal resolution of 1920 pixels (1080p Full HD).  As a comparison, our old analog tv has a horizontal resolution of 480 pixels (Standard Definition or SD).

A 4K display device is a digital display that has a horizontal resolution of about 4000 pixels.  You can say that it is almost 4 times the resolution of the Full HD.  This also translates to about 8 million pixels in total (8 Mpx).

Comparison between Full HD Resolution vs 4K Ultra HD Resolution

Comparison between Full HD Resolution vs 4K Ultra HD Resolution

Now, I said that it’s about 4000 pixels because for Digital TV, the television industry has adopted a standard that is called Ultra High Definition Television (UHDTV).  This standard doesn’t give you full 4000 pixels but rather 3840 pixels horizontal and 2160 pixels vertical.  This is what it means by the term 4K Ultra HD.

What’s in it for us?

Today we live in a digital world that is pumping out High Definition all day every day.  Let’s take for example your smartphone.  I can bet that if you have the latest smartphone in your pocket that chances are that it will take a 4K resolution picture at the very least (an 8 Mpx).  Some smartphones can take twice, thrice or even 4 times that.  And some more are capable of taking 4K video.

Now, what would be a great way of enjoying these high definition photos or videos?  A 4K display would be a great start wouldn’t it?  That means, you can zoom an 8Mpx photo at 100% size and still able to see the whole picture in the screen!

And just like looking at a 2Mpx photo compared to 8Mpx one, with the 4K Ultra HD TV you will be able to see more details, in fact it is exactly 4 times more.   Also you won’t loose these details even if you have a bigger size tv than you would be getting with the Full HD one.

It also effect the viewing distance.  With the standard Full HD TV you need be a good few metre away from your TV (depending on the size of the tv) to get a comfortable viewing experience, any closer that this optimum distance you will start to see the individual pixels.

With the 4K Ultra HD TV, the optimum distance becomes shorter.

So, a much detailed picture, a bigger screen size and a shorter viewing distance translate to a much more immersive TV viewing experience.  Some people swear that it’s better than the cinema (and probably cheaper too in a long run).
Get more details with 4K Ultra HD

Get more details with 4K Ultra HD

What other digital advances we get along with this superb display?

Sony, one of the trailblazer in 4K TV arena, had the following Infographic to compare the past TV technology and what we can get in the present time.

TV: Past vs Present - Infographic

Courtesy of Sony

So reading from the above Infographic, at the Sony camp, along with the amazing 4K resolution, you can get:

1. A higher Dynamic Range (photography peeps, think about HDR photos), basically better contrast from the lightest to the darkest part of the image.
2. Wider gamut of colours.  Using the Triluminos display technology you can experience a widest spectrum of colours, shades exactly as they appear in the real world.
3. Advancement in the structure (body) design, giving the TV more space to be used for other feature such as better sound systems.
4. Multi-Gesture aware remote control that also NFC compliant.  Which means you can ‘send’ your photos you took from your NFC enabled smartphone just by touching it to the remote control.
5. Always connected to the net.  Who needs the tiny PC/Mac display when you can surf the net, watching Youtube, talk via Skype on your massive screen.  This is what people had been dreaming about a long time ago in Sci-Fi movies, and now the dream has been realised.

Triluminos Display Engine

Triluminos Display Engine

What’s the drawback?

Well, simply put, there isn’t enough ‘True 4K’ content out there yet.  TV Broadcasters are just about playing catch up with Full HD.  Only a hand-full Blu-Ray Disc carry 4K Movies, and most of them because of Sony’s ‘Mastered in 4K‘ initiative.

So we are practically back where we were like when we first encountered Full HD.  But this is a normal phenomenon for every bleeding edge technology.  Already some Movies and TV Broadcasts are created in native 4K.  As the price of 4K TVs comes down and more people have it, the content will follow, just like we have with Full HD TV and Blu-Ray.

In the meantime, technology like Sony’s X-Reality PRO will upscale your ordinary Full HD content to as close as it can be to 4K quality.

X-Reality Pro Engine will upscale your Full HD content to almost 4K quality

X-Reality Pro Engine will upscale your Full HD content to almost 4K quality


We are once again in the brink of a giant leap of a technological miasma.  But as usual, a few years from now, we would glance back to this moment and wonder, what leap?

Images sourced from Sony Website

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  1. Tanja
    March 12, 2014 at 1:19 pm

    I have not heard of 4K Ultra HD TV yet, but it sounds like a nice improvement. Look forward to see one of the TVs live and to compare it myself.

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