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Is 4K Worth It?

Is 4K Worth It?

Back when 1080p televisions first hit the market, the leap from standard definition to high definition was noticeable. One might go as far as to say "staggering." The shift from HD to 4K Ultra HD, however, hasn't hit with quite the same impact. And why not? There could be several reasons for this.

You may have a large HD TV at home, and as far as you can tell, the picture is crisp, clear, and colorful. When you see all those televisions lined up on the wall at the store, you don't notice a lot of difference between what you see there and what you see at home. 

And then you remember when 3D TVs were going to be the next big thing. And that didn't exactly pan out, did it? So, it's understandable that someone might be wary about jumping into the next upgrade. But 4K has been around for a while now. More importantly, content producers are supporting the format much more (especially compared to the amount of 3D content that was produced).

In the early days of 4K, the technology was fairly costly, which is why a lot of people put off the upgrade. And then they heard that the human eye isn't even capable of distinguishing all those new pixels. It can make one wonder if an upgrade to 4K is worth it.

This question has mostly resolved itself over the last couple years, as prices have come down and, in general, the majority of televisions coming from producers will have 4K technology. Even TVs that would be considered "mid-range" are likely going to be 4K.

So, the real question is whether this is the time to stop telling yourself that 1080p is "good enough," and make the move to higher definition. Let's take a closer look at what you're getting with 4K Ultra HD.

Facts About 4K

Display Capabilities – An HD display gives you 1920 pixels by 1080 pixels (hence "1080p"). That totals up to around 2 million pixels on the screen. 4K displays, however, are 4x that. You get 8 million pixels on your screen – four pixels for every one on your current HD screen.

The actual resolution for Ultra HD is 3840 pixels by 2160 pixels (which is why it's sometimes referred to as "2160p"), which is just short of the best cinema resolution (which clocks in at 4096 x 2160). In other words, 4K resolution is about as close as a home can get to the cinema experience right now.

The Difference is More Visible on Larger TVs – When you're talking about millions of pixels, it shouldn't come as a surprise to learn that the human eye might not be able to distinguish between four and eight million. At least not on smaller screens and not from a distance.

The closer you are to the screen, and the larger the screen, the more you'll be able to see the increase in sharpness and clarity. This is why most store displays keep you up close and personal to the TVs on display, and why computer monitors were fast to adopt the technology.

Media Matters – While most 4K Blu-Ray players offer some upscaling for your non-4K discs, you will see a difference when you play media that was specifically created to deliver a 4K experience.

It's About More than Pixels – If it's so hard to distinguish so many pixels, is 4K worth it? The fact is there's more to a modern Ultra HD TV than pixels. In fact, the UHD Alliance (a group comprised of 35 companies, including LG, Sony, Samsung, Sharp, and many television production companies) has specified what technologies must be included to call a TV "Ultra HD."

The UHD Alliance qualifications include:

High Dynamic Range (HDR) – This is what gives you more details in the shadows and highlights. It expands the range in which a TV can create lights, giving you brighter brights and darker darks.

Wide Color Gamut – This expands the range of colors that the TV can produce. The sheer number of colors available through this technology means that you can see the colors as they were meant to be.

What about Streaming in 4K?

Most of us consume at least a portion of our entertainment through a favorite streaming service. However, most of us have also experienced sudden drops in resolution as our Internet providers struggle to deliver a consistently high definition.

So, if this is how you get most of your entertainment, will you still be able to enjoy a 4K experience? It depends. Many streaming services offer at least some kind of 4K or UHD content, but 4x the pixels means 4x the data. If your ISP isn't up to delivering that much data at a consistent speed, you may not get the highest resolution.

For now, then, just be aware that you'll probably get a better and more consistent experience by using media that isn't dependent on consistent data speeds, like physical media or full 4K digital downloads.

Is It Time to Upgrade?

If you're starting to feel like your 1080p HD TV isn't quite as great as it could be, this might be the time to invest in something new. The prices of 4K televisions have come down to an affordable level, and the standards have been set to ensure you're paying for more than just pixels.

When you combine a large screen with this technology and the right media, you can start to create a real theatrical experience at home. Contact us today at Atlanta Home Theater to learn how we can help transform your home entertainment space.