Everyday technology moves at such a pace that some users are left at a loss to understand the most fundamental differences between all the choices that are presented to them. When it comes to television: 4K vs. UHD – What’s better for you?
Some people might want to buy the latest piece of technology even when they don’t understand it or know whether they will be able to use it and make the most of it or not.
Other people go simply by price or by what they are already familiar with. But what they do not realize is that they could be very well missing out on things.
The important thing is to have a solid understanding of what all the technical jargon. But the emphasis must always be on what terms like 4K and UHD actually mean in terms of the consumer experience.
Generally speaking, HD TVs are cheaper than their UHD counterparts. But this, of course, also depends on the specific brand/model and the screen size. There are many different factors that may come into resulting into lower or higher pricing. Therefore, it is extremely hard to make swiping generalizations about different standards and pricing.
If you are not sure whether getting a UHD is worthwhile. If you would like to know the difference between 4K and UHD. Or, if you are hesitating between getting an HD TV or a UHD, you have come to the right place.
In this article, we will explain the differences between UHD and 4 K. So, by the end of it, you should be able to understand all the differences and make informed purchasing decisions.
What Is HD?
Before we address the differences between UHD and 4K, we need to begin by going back to HD.
HD stands for High definition. Many people enjoy high definition television at home these days.
In the United States (and in most of the West and other parts of the world), many television channels now air HD programming. Anything from local news, to hit television series, talk shows, game shows, and other programming are both made and broadcast in HD these days.
“You just have to re-wire your brain when you’re shifting from the stage to the screen or the silver screen or the HD flat screen.” – Beau Willimon
Viewers need to have an HD-ready television in order to receive all this HD programming, which is why most channels still offer alternative feeds in SD (Standard definition). Otherwise, many people will miss out on their shows.
But what is HD? Well, strictly speaking, high definition is a video image that exceeds the standard definition 576 horizontal lines in European countries or the 480 horizontal lines in North American countries. Normally, there will be a lot more horizontal lines in high definition.
When we are talking about television, there are two versions: 1,080 horizontal lines or 720 horizontal lines. All HD TV sets will be able to pick and reproduce both.
1,080 is higher definition than 720 but there are also more subtle differences between the different versions of HD and also where in the world you are.
For example, the Hz (number of frames per second) is slightly different. In Europe, it is usually 50 Hz while in North America you would be more likely to get 60 Hz.
When it comes to HDTV, users do not really need to concern themselves with any of this but can be useful to, at least, know a bit about it.
The great thing about HDTV sets is that they are able to pick up and reproduce content in both HD (whether 720 or 1080) and SD definition. So, if you subscribe to a streaming platform you can choose between streaming in SD or HD if you have an HDTV.
Also, when it comes to television (regardless of whether you get it over the air, through cable or satellite), you would have access to channels that broadcast in SD and HD. If, however, you have an SD TV set, you will be able to get SD content. While most content is also available in SD, there are some channels (and also some streaming content) that are only available on HD and the number of HD-only content is only bound to increase in the future.
What Is UHD?
Now that we have explained what HD means and how having an HDTV is a way to get it, let’s talk about UHD.
UHD stands for Ultra High Definition. Strictly speaking, UHD is HD. But because of the number of pixels used in Ultra High Definition, HDTVs will not be able to reproduce UHD content.
The number of pixels in this extremely high definition greatly exceeds that of HD. UHD resolution is 3,840 x 2,160 pixels.
Do you need a UHD television set? The answer is probably, not. Although this does not necessarily mean that you should not look into getting one.
“By investing in diverse asset types from SD video to HD video to 4K video, we can satisfy the video needs of a wide array of users.” – Jon Oringer
As of 2017, it is still extremely rare for anything to be broadcast at a UHD standard. There is also still not news that any major networks or cable channels will adopt UHD as their broadcasting standard any time soon.
When it comes to streaming platforms, there is better news. Netflix offers some of its original content in UHD but only as an option. So you will not be really missing out on anything if you instead choose to stream the HD version.
If you do get a UHD TV you will still be able to watch stuff on SD and HD, so if you can afford it you will be able to make the most of what it is currently available out there and you will be ready for the time when there will be more content in UHD.
What Is 4K?
This is what it gets interesting because even though you will see 4K TV sets in stores or being advertised, no such thing actually exists. At least not, strictly speaking.
A more accurate description of those TV sets would be UHD or Ultra High Definition.
So, what is the difference between UHD and 4K? Basically, UHD is a standard for broadcasting or consumer display while 4K refers to production. In other words, someone can make a movie or a TV show in 4K and you would then watch that same content on a UHD TV.
So, 4K and UHD are related concepts but they are not exactly the same.
A while ago, a group of different film studios known as DCI (this stands for Digital Cinema Initiatives) got together and agreed on a standard both for production and for projection. That is when they came up with the 4 K standard, which is 4,096×2,160 pixels.
So, 4 K has more than 4,000 (or 4K) horizontal pixels and hence the name.
What this effectively means is that 4 K has a much higher resolution but that is not all. 4 K video has also been encoded differently.
So, if 1,080 horizontal pixels is what is commonly known as HD display, then 4,096 horizontal pixels is what it is commonly known as UHD display.
Is There Anything In Between?
You may be wondering why there is such a massive difference between HD and UHD. Well, actually, most TV sets marketed as 4K, UHD or, even 4K UHD, do not quite reach 4,000 horizontal pixels.
Many of those are only able to go to 3,840 horizontal pixels. Also, to make matters even more confusing, UHD or Ultra high definition can also mean 7,680 horizontal pixels; a lot more than 4 K.
It would, therefore, be a lot more honest for manufacturers to use UHD instead of 4K as a way to describe and advertise their products.
From the point of view of a potential consumer, the important thing is to know that whenever you see 4 K used to describe a TV set you should actually take that to mean UHD or Ultra high definition.
So, although both concepts mean different things within the movie and television industries, to consumers they should mean the same thing.
Why do television manufacturers insist on using 4 K? I don’t really know the answer to that. My suspicion is that a big part of it is that they do so in order to conform to the standard agreed on by the film industry (the movie studios). Also, I do think that part of it has to do with marketing.
In this article, I have used commonly asked questions as a springboard from which to explain the differences between HD standards, emphasizing the differences 4 K and UHD. I hope that this will help you make an informed decision on any potential purchases.
So, this has been 4K vs. UHD – What’s better for you. If you have any feedback for us, please leave us a message in the comments section below!