4k Resolution – What it’s all about

Plasma vs LCD. Standard Definition vs High Definition. High Definition vs Full High Definition. LCD vs LED. Passive 3D vs Active 3D. Smart TV. LED vs OLED. And we wonder everyone’s confused? We are in 2012 now – and gearing up for yet another standard, 4K, which will make our recently purchased 3D Full HD Smart TV seem out of date as soon as it hit the shelves. All the big boys like Samsung, LG, Sony and Panasonic are lining up to bring us products which will herald the start of a new High Definition Standard – Ultra HD or 4K.

If you’ve just purchased a 3D TV you will know that here in Australia, besides a solitary Foxtel IQ2 channel – as we speak there is no broadcast in 3D for us to enjoy this technology. This certainly might evolve in the future, but right now it’s this lack of content which has failed to excite most consumers. Will this be the case with 4k resolution too?

The resolution story so far..

To this point, Full High Definition 1080i/p (Full HD 1080) is the highest resolution available for Movies on Blu-Ray, while High Definition has been with us for around ten years or so. There are three stan, Quad Hdards of HD – Full High definition 1080P, 1080i and 720p. The latter is simply referred to as High Definition.

Any DVD we watch, along with the vast majority of free to air programming are Standard Definition. This is the reason why you hear a lot of customers say “I can’t tell a difference, they all look the same to me” when faced with a slew of HD and Full HD Tvs lined up side by side in a shop playing Free to air TV.

Now 4K is in line to replace 1080i/p as the highest available resolution standard – for movies and, perhaps further down the line, television. Just like we stated earlier, there are three standards of HD, and there will also be several different standards of 4k. 4k in general will be associated with a resolution of 4,000 x 2000 – making it the equivalent of about four times 1080p screens.

The need for a higher resolution stems from the movie theatres. Resolution, or lack of, is a lot more apparent when the screen you are watching is dozens of times bigger than you are! In the movies, the closer you sit, the more picture degradation you will see – you may even notice the grid of pixels which can be very distracting. Working on the same principal and advice given when choosing a suitable size TV for the home, the movie theatre industry needed a standard that presumes viewers will be sitting one and a half times the screen height from the screen – and this requires the resolution to be greater than 1080p on such large screens. So the 2k and 4k formats were born – as a digital standard formed by DCI (Digital Cinema Initiatives).

Is 4k really necessary for the home?

While there was and is a very noticeable difference between SD to HD content on our home screens, there are question marks over 4k making any noticeable difference over 1080p. While that may be true for our current screen sizes, primarily from 40” – 55”, there are a slew of much bigger panels on the not too distant horizon.

This year, many manufacturers such as Sharp, LG and Toshiba have shown off Mega-Sized Screens of up to 80” in size. As the price of technology drops, bigger sized panels become within reach for consumers and it looks like there will be panels available bigger than the 60”-65” sizes we have seen up until now. With the screens ballooning in size, so does the pixel size – and the next obvious progression is higher resolution than our current 1080P. 4K Quad-Full HD TVs have been produced by LG, Samsung, Toshiba and more.

You may have noticed on the packaging of some HDMI cables the addition of two supported resolutions – 3840×2160 and 4096×2160. These are respectively Quad HD and 4K/2K resolutions – and this is in preparation for TV and Blu-Ray manufacturers who are already lining up to bring you products.

If you read our article, Passive 3D vs Active 3D, you will know that there has been debate over the 3D picture quality between Passive and Active 3D. While Passive 3D does deliver 1080 resolution, Active 3D delivers a higher resolution. The resolution disadvantage of passive 3D Tvs could be improved further by doubling the number of horizontal and vertical pixels, allowing 4K passive TVs to deliver 1080p to both eyes – just like the Active Shutter system does now.

Am I going to need new Players to suit my 4K TV?

Without any 4K content produced or broadcast, our players and displays will need to upscale 1080p or SD content. Brands such as Sony and LG have already announced new 4k upscaling Blu-Ray players. This development of 4k will be very valuable because at some point in the future 4K will be added to the Blu-Ray specification. Sony is rumoured to have the upcoming Spiderman reboot become the first 4k Blu-Ray Movies. We will need to have both a 4K TV and a 4K compatible Blu-Ray player in order to play this content, so sadly that does mean another equipment upgrade!

Conclusion

A lot of people haven’t upgraded from DVD to Blu-Ray yet – but technology companies are already preparing for the next stage, with TVs, players and Blu Ray discs that offer ‘Ultra HD’ resolutions. As larger screens become more affordable, the temptation to purchase a larger than necessary TV becomes greater and this is where 4k will provide the greatest benefit. With the screens increasing in size, so does the pixel size – and the next obvious progression is a higher resolution than our current 1080P. Passive 3D will also receive an increased resolution, and may cause a little more excitement about 3D technology than at present. With major companies such as Sony pushing for content to be released soon – we may be reaching for our wallets again in a year or so…

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