KEEP hearing about 4K TVs, but got no ruddy idea what it means?
Here’s a simple guide that explains everything you need to know about 4K, UHD, and Ultra HD televisions – and check out our best 4K TVs round-up for good measure.
What does 4K mean?
4K refers to the number of pixels on your TV screen – or the “image resolution”.
The pixels are the tiny dots of colour that make up the image you see on your telly.
A pixellated image is one where the pixels are really obvious, because there aren’t many.
But images with lots of pixels – like a 4K movie – generally look sharper and clearer.
A true 4K screen has 4096 x 2160 pixels. That means on your TV screen there are 3840 pixels across, and 2160 pixels vertically. That’s roughly 8.3 million pixels on the display in total.
4K gets it’s name because it’s got four times the number of pixels as a standard Full HD TV.
Full HD (or 1080p) screens have 1920 pixels across, and 1080 pixels going upwards – for around two million pixels in total.
So 4K just means your TV has many more pixels on the screen compared to a more common Full HD display.
Is there a difference between 4K and Ultra HD?
Ultra HD, or UHD, is basically the same as 4K.
If you buy a UHD telly in a shop, you’ll be able to watch 4K content on it with no bother.
But there is a small difference.
Almost every TV you ever buy has an aspect ratio of 16:9. That means for every 16 pixels horizontally, there are 9 vertically.
True 4K footage doesn’t quite fit in with that ratio, so you won’t often find TVs with 4096 x 2160 pixels.
Instead, to fit with the 16:9 ratio, most 4K TVs will have 3840 x 2160 pixels instead.
If it doesn’t make sense, grab a calculator and divide 2160 by 9. Then multiply it by 16, and you’ll get 3840. That’s the aspect ratio working its magic!
So when you see an Ultra HD TV, it just means it’s a 4K image with slightly fewer vertical pixels.
Do I need a 4K TV to watch 4K videos?
If you try watching a 4K video on a non-4K TV, the video will still play – but it won’t be in 4K quality.
To watch a 4K video in 4K quality, you’ll need to fork out for a 4K TV.
Similarly, if you’re watching standard or HD footage on a 4K TV, it won’t magically become 4K quality.
Some TVs promise “4K upscaling”, which converts your standard or HD footage to near-4K quality.
4K TVs – which ones should I buy?
Here are some of our favourite 4K televisions...
This works by using software to guess what colours would fill the extra empty pixels missing in HD footage, and then filling them in.
This creates a 4K-like effect, but it’s not true 4K.
Where can I find 4K TV shows and movies?
It used to be the case that there was a real shortage of 4K content, but that’s ancient history.
These days, you can find loads of great 4K TV shows and movies on both Netflix and Amazon Video.
You can also track down high-quality 4K videos on YouTube to watch, too.
And if you’ve got a 4K Blu-ray player (or an Xbox One) you can also buy 4K discs to play on your TV.
Is 4K worth the money?
4K televisions aren’t really that expensive any more, so you’ll be hard-pressed to find a decent TV that isn’t 4K.
Generally, we’d advise investing in a 4K TV now, because they’re cheap enough and there’s plenty of 4K content available online.
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Picking up a slightly-outdated Full HD TV in 2018 is a bad move in terms of future-proofing – although you could bag a bargain, especially if you’re looking for a telly for your spare room.
Have you got any tech jargon you want demystified? Let us know in the comments and we’ll try to tackle it in a future article!