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What is 4K Ultra High Definition TV?

Learn about the new technology that provides four times the resolution of a typical HDTV

Samsung UN65F9000

A new generation of Ultra High Definition TVs is starting a high-resolution revolution. These Ultra HD TVs have four times the picture resolution of regular “full HD" 1080p TVs, and can display much more detail. Ultra HD TVs are often referred to as “4K" TVs, because they have a horizontal resolution of around 4000 pixels.

You've probably seen a movie in 4K without even realizing it — 40% of movie theaters use 4K digital projectors to display Hollywood’s latest hits with maximum detail and depth. Now, imagine how lifelike watching at home would be with that many pixels on a 55", 65", or 84" screen instead of a 30-foot theater screen. That's the reality of 4K Ultra High Definition TV.

More pixels = more picture detail

Whether it's a TV, a tablet, or a smartphone, the more pixels a screen has, the more seamless and detailed the picture will look. The ideal is a screen where the "pixel structure" is invisible. You already find that on high-end tablets and phones like those with Apple's "Retina" display. The new 4K Ultra High Definition models take television a giant step in that direction — you have to stand right next to an Ultra HD TV to notice any pixels at all. Because the picture is so clear and sharp, you can sit closer to a 4K TV even if the screen is larger than your old TV. And that adds even more to the sense of immersion.

4K picture resolution vs. 1080p

4K Ultra HD TVs have four times as many pixels as a 1080p HDTV, for a picture that's incredibly clear, detailed, and lifelike.

How close should you sit to a 4K TV? Most experts say you can get as close as 1-1/2 times the screen height, versus 3 times the screen height for a 1080p TV. That's much closer than most people sit to watch HDTV, but it really transforms the experience — the screen completely fills your field of vision, making you feel more like you’re in the scene. A darkened room and surround sound will further intensify this feeling of immersion.

Sony FMP-X1

Sony's FMP-X1 4K media player.

Is there any 4K content?

Because 4K TVs are still so new there's almost no true 4K content available. The same thing happened with the introduction of DVD, HDTV, and Blu-ray — the hardware arrived first, followed by the content. Sony has recently introduced a 4K media player that works with their TVs. It comes pre-loaded with ten 4K feature films, and can download more from a soon-to-launch online library of 4K films.

Other TV makers are developing their own 4K media solutions. And Netflix® began streaming 4K content over their service in the spring of 2014. To use it, viewers will need Netflix service, a 2014 Ultra HD TV with HEVC decoding, and a reasonably fast Internet connection — at least 15Mbps.

In the meantime, if you have a camera with at least 8-megapixel resolution, then you have a source for 4K photos.

Sony's 4K X-reality Pro upconversion

How will my current video sources look on a 4K TV?

Don't worry if you don't have access to true 4K video sources right away. All 4K TVs include built-in 4K upconversion, also called "upscaling," which takes the video signals from your Blu-ray player, satellite or cable TV box, or game console, and makes them fill the 4-times greater pixel count of the 4K screen. Without upconversion, a 1080p Blu-ray signal would appear as a small rectangular image at the center of the screen, with black bars on all sides. While upconverted 4K isn't the same as true 4K, the processing enhances the appearance of non-4K video to more closely resemble 4K.

Why aren't 4K TVs available in smaller screen sizes?

Most people find that 1080p resolution looks fine on screens 50" or less. From a typical viewing distance you won't notice the screen's grid of pixels — sometimes called the “pixel structure." But 55" and larger screens benefit from a much higher pixel count, making the grid virtually invisible. Ultra HD not only offers a more detailed picture, but also allows you to sit closer to a screen and/or view a larger screen while enjoying unprecedented clarity.

Sony 4K Ultra High Definition TVs

Sony XBR-65X900A

Sony has more 4K experience than any other TV maker. They build professional 4K cameras and cinema projectors, and Sony Pictures has a bigger catalog of 4K films than any other studio. This end-to-end approach helps ensure a truly theater-like experience at home.

Samsung 4K Ultra High Definition TVs

Samsung UN65F9000

What sets Samsung's UNF9000 series TVs apart is their versatility and future-readiness. A feature called Smart Evolution lets you upgrade the TV's main processor, graphics processor, and memory – to support future formats and features as they become available.

LG 4K Ultra High Definition TVs

LG 65LA9700

LG launched the world's first 4K Ultra HD TV late in 2012. Now their first 2nd-generation 4K TVs are here, with even better picture quality. In addition to 4K pixel power, these TVs use the company's most advanced backlight – the NANO Full LED full-array backlight with local dimming.

The era of 4K Ultra High Definition TV is barely under way. Stay tuned for further developments.

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