High definition television, also known as 1080P, has been the standard in video quality for some years now. Even inexpensive camcorders have high definition technology built in. If 1080 HD is creating so many quality videos and pictures, what is the need for 4K, or Ultra High Definition? Let’s review the differences as it pertains to resolution, viewing distances, scaling and dynamic range. The final answer as to whether you should consider upgrading becomes pretty obvious.
The main difference between HD and 4K is the resolution of the picture. The resolution of the 1080P HD video is 1920 x 1080 pixels, with 1080 representing the vertical resolution. This is considerably lower than the 4K UHD which is 3840 x 2160 pixels. If you think of a television screen in rows and columns, the picture is divided among the squares to create the full picture. The more rows and columns you have (or pixels), the more detailed the picture becomes as you look at it. Since 4K has nearly four times more pixels on a screen, the quality of the picture is more clear and crisp.
This is the main factor most people should consider when deciding to upgrade. 1080P HD displays require the viewer to be a certain minimum distance from the screen in order to get the clearest picture. This is because if you get too close to the screen, you begin to notice the individual pixels or a moiré effect which detracts from the viewing experience. With 4K (and four times the pixel count), you can get much closer to the screen without experiencing the same effects; so you not only enjoy a much clearer and cleaner image, but since you’re closer to the TV the screen image is therefore larger – and as you all know, size matters. But here’s the caveat you need to consider if looking into 4K technology – if you do not sit close enough to your 4K display, you will probably not see a difference in clarity to a 1080 display.
Since 4K has so many more pixels than 1080 HD does, the picture is clear on a larger scale, with less jagged edges and blurred details. With four times the number of pixels, it can fill four full HD 1080p screens. If you are going to scale it down, the picture just gets clearer. The details gain more attention and the viewer gets a more realistic experience. This really translates well on televisions that are 50 inches and above, as well as with projectors and screens that are used in home theaters.
The latest technology improvement, and found on most of today’s 4K TV offerings, is HDR. This technology dramatically improves the dynamic range of content and allows them to use a wider range of colors. This has quite an impact on picture quality when it is done well, making content look a lot more life-like. In fact, it is the implementation of HDR that really separates 1080P and 4K. Done right, sitting at the perfect distance, 4K is a dramatic improvement over today’s existing HD displays.
So the bottom line is a combination of viewing distance (the closer you are, the better the clarity and larger the image) and a wider range of colors. If done right, 4K HDR will immerse you into the scene and give you a better sense of what the director had envisioned.