In the tech world a general rule is: more is usually always better. And that’s certainly the case with Ultra-HD TVs which have 4 times as many pixels than current HDTVs – but before you considering spending a cool £25,000 on one (yes, the price of a medium saloon car) there’s a few things you should probably be aware of.
Before the term Ultra HD was decided upon, they were originally known as 4K, thanks in part to Sony, but the CEA (Consumer Electronics Association), a group of industry experts, was setup in 2012 to inform and educate consumers on the new screen technology, and decide on a roadmap for the new tech.
When HDTVs first made their way into homes 5 years ago, there was a lot of confusing newfangled terms like HD, HD-Ready and High Definition being banded around. Basically, it took a couple of years to get a unified minimum standard that all manufacturers would need to adhere to for their TVs to be labeled as HD-Ready, much to the confusion of consumers.
The recent decision to rebrand 4K came about after the CEA conducted research into what term would be best to differentiate between current HD and 4K. The research found that the term “Ultra-HD” was the best performer in terms of helping consumers understand the technology compared to current 1080p HDTVs.
The CEA decided for a 4K screen to quality as Ultra HD it must have at least 8 million pixels at a resolution of 3,840 x 2,160 in a 16:9 aspect. It would also need at least one digital input able to handle a full 3,840 x 2,160 resolution without relying solely upon up scaling.
So why is Ultra HD So Important?
Well, there’s no denying that a TV with 4 times as many pixels is going to produce a mind-blowing picture compared to current TVs. But it’s actually 3D that going to see the biggest benefit from the extra pixels.
When viewing 3D content, the new resolution will to be able produce two 1080p pictures for each eye, which will make a significant difference to the illusion of 3D, eyestrain and the overall quality of the picture.
There are, of course, pros and cons for Ultra High Definition TVs, but it seems as if this new technology has already begun to overshadow 3D in recent months.
But before anyone should consider an Ultra HD TV there’s the small matter of content. There actually isn’t any content available to consumers yet. Another major stumbling block in future is distribution. Will Ultra HD films come on a new physical disc medium or will consumers download content? No one really knows. It’s thought that a new revision of Blu-Ray will finally be nailed down next year, but until then, no one really knows how content will be delivered.
But that doesn’t necessarily mean that Ultra HD TVs have no place at the moment. Most TVs today are 1080p, but spend comparatively little time actually outputting 1080p content.
This is mainly because our time is spent watching cable, satellite or basic streaming services like Netflix or LoveFilm. That’s all medium-high definition at resolutions of 1080i or 720p. Then your TV up scales that video to 1080p, and if they do it well, the results can be incredible.
For the first crop of Ultra HD TVs to succeed they need to be fantastic at up scaling and several manufacturers at CES seem to recognise this, and are touting their products’ video processing prowess as key factor to their early success.
The most important reason Ultra HD TVs will be more significant than 3D is because is it will have a greater potential to impact upon image quality. 3D isn’t out of the picture by any means, but it will take Ultra HD TVs for 3D to truly realise its potential.