What is 4K? A Practical Guide

 

Doesn’t it seem as if we just kissed our tube TVs goodbye? As the standard TV technology promised and delivered on a more beautiful picture, we moved to flat screens. It was also much more of an obvious upgrade due to the size, weight and design of the box that held the screen. As we start to move into the next realm of TV technology – 4K – the differences aren’t as noticeable by the average consumer. We’re not talking about an enormous difference in size and weight of a TV, we’re talking about millimeters difference in thickness and specs that are harder for consumers to decipher.

So how do we make the best choice when buying or considering buying a new TV? Although a lot of the specs are just noise, there are a few basic things you need to understand so you can tackle the technology head-on.

Resolution Matters

When we hear the term “resolution,” eyes quickly glaze over. Don’t fret – all this tells us is how many dots are on a screen to make up a picture. When it comes to high-definition televisions (HDTVs), you will see two numbers: the horizontal dot count and the vertical dot count, which is 1920×1080 when you’re talking about an HDTV. A 4K television cranks the dots up to 3840×2160, but we recognize it as “4K” because “3.84K” is lame marketing. When we have twice as many dots horizontally and twice as many vertically, we end up with four times the number of dots (resolution) than a standard HDTV.

A Noticeable Difference

The big question that people ask now is “So what?” When you crank up the number of dots available to create a picture, there’s an opportunity to make things look better. When you moved up from your basic camera phone to your first smartphone with a camera, you saw a jump in the quality of camera. Similarly, it’s possible to see a difference on a 4K TV, too. Movies and shows look incredibly realistic, text becomes even sharper and, depending on how powerful your computer is, you can use a 4K TV as a secondary computer monitor – fitting an incredible amount of programs on the screen at once.

The Lack of 4K Content

The struggle when moving to a newer technology like 4K is whether there is anything in 4K that you’d want to watch. The answer is a definite “maybe.” Some of the popular streaming services do offer 4K content, which means the content was filmed in a way for the television’s 4K capabilities to be maximized. Not all their content will be in 4K, but shows and movies that are in 4K will be denoted. Watching them will knock your socks off. And more 4K content is being added all the time. The other good news? Thanks to its processing power, a 4K TV is powerful and can make content that is not 4K look better than it would on a regular HDTV.

Fast Internet + 4K = Love

To watch 4K content, you’ll need a few key pieces of technology. First, you need to have a 4K television. Without a 4K TV, you will be limited to HD, at best. Your 4K TV will either need to be a smart TV with built-in apps to connect to your favorite streaming services or you will require an external 4K media streaming device capable of receiving 4K media. These 4K streaming devices can cost as little as $69. Finally, because buffering is the worst when you just want to enjoy a great episode or eight (no judgment here!), make sure you have a fast Internet connection, too.

4K Is the Present & the Future

No one likes the feeling of getting stuck with dead-end technology or buying too soon and paying too much. There’s great news about 4K: this technology is the foreseeable path forward in television technology. 4K is a technology that is not as monumental as the shift from tube TVs to flat-panel televisions, but it’s more of a gorgeous evolution of technology with which you are familiar.

Additionally, because it’s been out for a few years (seriously!), if you are in the market for a new television, give a 4K television consideration. These sets are frequently not much more expensive than their lesser HDTV counterparts. The prices have dropped tremendously, particularly in the past few months, so there are great deals to be found. And you’ll have a television prepared for the future, today.