The 411 on 4K TV

Category: Television

If you've gone TV shopping lately, you've probably encountered what some are calling 4K or Ultra-High Def TV models. Perhaps you've wondered how “triluminous quantum dots” will enhance your viewing experience. These high-tech sets are definitely pricey, but do they really offer a noticeably better picture? Let's take a look…

What is 4K TV?

It seems like only yesterday that HD TV was introduced; actually, High Definition TV sets first went on sale in the U.S. in 1998. Today, “1080p” is a familiar TV standard. It means a picture that contains 1920×1080 or 2,073,600 pixels per frame in a 16:9 aspect ratio.

Now brace yourself for Ultra-High Definition TV, also known as UHD or “4K.” It’s tempting to assume that means “4 million pixels,” but in fact the UHD standard is 3840x2160 or 8,294,400 pixels per frame… four times the pixels of HD TV. That’s four times better, right?

4K Ultra-High Def (UHD) TV

Not necessarily, according to tests conducted by Consumer Reports on several HD and 4K TV sets. The test compared identical content displayed simultaneously and side-by-side on Sony sets of comparable quality.

While acknowledging that “the 4K films did show a noticeable bump in image detail compared to their HD counterparts,” Consumer Reports added, “These differences were not present on all movies, and were visible only when viewed less than 2 feet from the screen, and even then only on certain scenes.”

When viewed from a distance of 7 feet or more, the differences in picture quality between 4K and HD were “not discernable to any meaningful degree. In all cases, the differences between the two formats were in the very finest details in the image.”

So if counting the pores on the your favorite actor's face or reading the fine print at the end of the car commercials makes a big difference in your TV viewing experience, by all means go buy a 4K TV today!

4X the Price Tag, But Not the Content

Why do we say "TV Set" when there's only one? The answer takes us back to the early days of radio. "Radio sets" were comprised of a set or group of electronic components -- a crystal (diode), a tuning coil, antenna, etc. The term was also used for telephone "handsets" and eventually, TV sets. Now if only I knew why we wear a pair of pants...

Just bring plenty of cash. The smallest of Sony’s next batch of 4K TV sets, the 43-inch XBR-43X830C, will cost “only” $1,299 when it debuts in April. The mid-range of that crop, with features like Sony’s “Triluminous quantum dots” technology, will be priced from $2,199 up to $3,999 for 55 to 65 inch screens. The high-end 75-inchers will run $4,999 to $7,999. You can read more about the Sony and other brands’ 4K offerings at

4K TVs will be boons for mass storage device makers and banes for Internet Service Providers because four times as many bits will be needed to transmit and store a given video. But 4K content is proliferating online. YouTube has been streaming 4K content since 2010! Since June, 2014, Netflix has been streaming 4K versions of House of Cards; Breaking Bad; Ghostbusters; Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon; and some nature movies. Amazon Movies launched a 4K service in December.

Digital Trends Guide to 4K Content provides details on these and several other sources. Many movies and TV series are now available on 4K Blu-Ray discs, too.

Keep in mind that you'll need a high-speed Internet connection to stream 4K shows or movies. If your incoming speed is less than 15Mb/sec, you might experience hiccups or lower resolution. And don't hold your breath waiting for 4K content on live broadcast TV. That's at least a year away (and probably longer) from happening.

Personally, I’m going to wait at least until 2016 before seriously shopping for 4K gear. By then, prices will have returned to Earth and a lot more content will be available. Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...

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Most recent comments on "The 411 on 4K TV"

Posted by:

20 Mar 2015

is the 4k screens above the capacity the human eye can see? at what point do there screens become to the point its a wast because your eye can not take advantage of it

Posted by:

Qc City
20 Mar 2015

I saw a TV set at Costco in Canada for $626, that is $488 US at the current exchange. I could not analyse the details of the picture, but it seemed more fluid and less jerky than other big HD at near $2000?
I have yet to find a TV that will match my HP HDX 18 inch laptop screen which I bought 7 years ago. I just love to be looking at the picture's details, just as much as the story itself.
It must be quite beautiful to use a 4K TV with a 4K video camera!

Posted by:

Jay R
20 Mar 2015

A great article, but useless for me. I actually have a TV but alas, no antenna or internet connection. It sits and doesn't catch too much dust. I may have to unbox that Blu-Ray player and plug both in so I can watch the Mel Brooks movies I bot from the South of the Border retailer. I bot the set, 9 of them, knowing that I didn't have a Blu-Ray player. Talk about marketing skills.

Posted by:

20 Mar 2015

Pants - possibly due to 2 pant legs ?? So there is a pair of pant legs which becomes a "pair of pants" Not that you can normally get pants with just a single pant. Hmmm would you call that a pant - as in "keep your pant on" ?

Posted by:

Kenneth Heikkila
20 Mar 2015

My beef with this is that I live in a rural area that only got 1.5Mbps DSL a few years ago and that is not as reliable as it should be. I can rarely watch Netflix after about 8pm The time varies by +/- an hour but is pretty much a daily occurrence. Upload speeds of lower than 100kbps down to none at all. I have to switch off the wireless on my iPhone to play Words with Friends!

Posted by:

20 Mar 2015

The lack of difference between 4K monitors and current monitors is, mainly, due to the fact that most content is not primed or created for 4K. When those come about, the content WILL be Ultra-High Def.

Posted by:

20 Mar 2015

Great article! I agree with all your observations. I recently bought a 50'Samsung 4k UHD. I still have the 50'Samsung Plasma. I have watched the Nexflix Marco & House of Cards. I don't see much difference. Even my adult kids said they prefer my Samsung Plasma. The 4K nature videos on Netflix appear to be a little better, but not much. It's a great Smart TV. I don't regret buying the 4K. I may give it to my son and by another on later.

Posted by:

20 Mar 2015

I just don't see it.

Posted by:

20 Mar 2015

There are two things to consider before buying an ultra HD TV. One is your age. All eyes deteriorate with increasing age. I doubt that at 76 I would see any difference between UHD and plain HD. Two is what makes for a good movie watching experience. I think that an interesting plot, a believable story and great acting are what really matters. Rubbish in UHD is still rubbish. There is also a third. Familiarity! When you got your first wide screen TV the word wow often came to your lips. Does it still? Familiarity breeds indifference.

Posted by:

Mac 'n' Cheese
20 Mar 2015

If you don't like the thought of a PAIR of pants, simply cut one of the pant legs off. For that, of course, you'd need a PAIR of scissors.


Posted by:

20 Mar 2015

The 4K TV may be good for viewing digital pics
as one could view ~ 8M resolution pic instead of just 2M resolution as many digital camera have greater than 10 M resolution. However the limit of
human vision ~ 1 arc min or 1/60 of a degree or 0.000291 rad this means at 10 ft away the smallest pixel = 0.035 inches , for horiz dim at 3840 pixels
this is 134.4 inches so TV diag = 153.2 inches!
or alternatively use 77" diag TV at 5 ft away!

Posted by:

Mike Brose
21 Mar 2015

I love it. People go out and spend big bucks for a new HUGE TV set, get all excited, bring it home, get it all set up, turn it on, and all they get is the same old stuff.... only bigger.

Posted by:

21 Mar 2015

@ Chris,

I witnessed HD for the very FIRST time last week when my partner used the DVD player for the Lion King. I was astounded at the sharpness in definition and the fact that my interest remained
constant throughout (I normally do not see animated
films) and I am only a few days short of your age.

Posted by:

John James
21 Mar 2015

One thing to consider is that the 4K TVs are at the top of the line, so if you want the best TV 4K is probably the way to go. Another thing is that these 4K TVs aren't always fully 4K in that they don't do 4:4:4 chroma over HDMI 2.0. When considering a 4K TV it's a good idea to consult a chart to decide if you'll benefit. This will give you an idea.

I bought a Samsung 40" 4K HU7000 (US model HU6950) for my computer room as it sits about 4' from my chair and I'm pleased with it. It's on sale here in Canada for $700 so it isn't a big outlay to have a 4K TV.

Posted by:

23 Mar 2015

As Per " The Word Detective":

What we now call “pants” or “trousers” were originally known as “pantaloons,” after Pantalone, a stock character in 16th century Italian commedia dell’arte (theatrical comedy) usually portrayed as an old man wearing short, baggy pants. The Anglicized form “pantaloon” soon appeared in English meaning “a foolish old man” (as in Shakespeare’s “lean and slippered pantaloon” from As You Like It), but the term was also applied to the Pantalone style of trousers, eventually giving us the shortened form “pants.” But “pants” in the 16th century differed from today’s jeans in that each leg was a separate garment, donned in succession and then belted together at the waist. Thus it made sense to call these “two-piece britches” a “pair” of pants, and the usage stuck long after pants were unified. We speak of “a pair” of shorts or swimming trunks because of the precedent set by “pants.”

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