4K Ultra High Definition Television Starter Guide

You may have heard new televisions described as "4K" or "UHD" TVs. But what do these terms mean, and how can you know whether a 4K TV is right for you?

What is a 4K UHD TV?

If you read our HDTV Resolution Guide, you know that TV resolution is measured by the pixel, the smallest element of a picture. The HDTVs you're familiar with have a resolution of either 720 or 1,080 horizontal pixels.

By contrast, 4K Ultra High Definition (Ultra HD or UHD), a newer standard of HDTV resolution, comprises a minimum of 3,840 x 2,160 pixels. That gives a 4K television at least 4 times the resolution (over 8 million total pixels) of an HD television (which has about 2 million pixels).

All current 4K consumer models are LED LCD televisions. So if you're also considering a plasma or non-LED LCD, you should read up on the differences among the three to make sure an LED model fits your needs.

About resolution

Because a 4K TV has as many pixels as four HDTV sets put together, it can display details that escape even a full-HD 1080p television set. Motion looks clean and crisp.

Another advantage to 4K's ultra-high resolution may be for viewing passive 3D television. A passive 3D picture splits the TV's total resolution in half (making alternating lines of pixels viewable to each eye). Because 4K quadruples the TV's total number of pixels, it can deliver a passive 3D picture with better-than-HD resolution to each eye. This results in a more lifelike, immersive 3D experience.

What can I watch in 4K?

Fortunately, filmmakers and television manufacturers are working to increase the number of 4K movies being produced. For example, you can purchase the Sony FMPX1 digital media server for Sony's new XBR65X900A & XBR55X900A TVs that contains ten 4K movies & more you can download. While this media server will only work with Sony TVs, similar devices for all other brands are expected soon.

For everything else you watch, you'll be relying on your TV's processor to upscale SD and HD content to 4K resolution. High-quality 4K upscaling allows you to see TV shows, DVD and Blu-ray movies, YouTube® videos, and even clips from your smartphone in gorgeous, razor-sharp 4K resolution. (Note that you'll need a fast HDMI cable to transmit those Ultra HD signals to your TV.)

What other 4K-compatible gear is available?

Manufacturers have already begun developing, and in some cases selling, 4K-compatible projectors, receivers, and Blu-ray Disc players.

With more 4K electronics entering the market and fresh Ultra HD content on the way, the future of video is clear—Ultra HD is here to stay.