If you’ve been shopping around for a television recently, you may have seen the term “4K” thrown around. Unfortunately, the term doesn’t explain what it means all by itself; as such, many people may be confused as to why this is so important. So, what is 4K, and why is everyone talking about it?
What Does “4K” Mean?
If you stream videos online, you’ll probably see terms related to video quality. These will be numbers that end with a “p,” such as 360p or 720p. These represent the number of pixels in the video. A 360p video will have 480×360 pixels in it, while 1080p videos have a whopping 1920×1080 pixel resolution.
This matters because higher resolutions have more room for fine details. Imagine you’re making a tile mosaic of the Mona Lisa. If you made the mosaic in a 48×36 grid, you’ll lose a lot of the quality and things will look “blockier”. If you upgraded your workspace to a 192×108 grid, you’ll be able to fit a lot more detail in, and thus the end product will look better.
As you may have guessed by now, 4K relates to the number of pixels on the screen. So, if 360p has 360 horizontal pixels, and 1080p has 1080 horizonal pixels, that must mean 4K has 4,000 pixels, right? Unfortunately, it’s not that easy! The Digital Cinema Initiatives group define 4K resolution as 4096 × 2160 — which fits the 4K moniker. The TVs you buy in the store, however, are likely to have a 3840 x 2160 resolution instead.
Should I Get a 4K Television?
4K televisions are at their best when they’re displaying content that’s at a 4K resolution. You can use a 4K television to watch content at 1080p and lower, but it’s like purchasing a double-sized mattress while keeping your single-size sheets and bedding. It’ll work, but you may need to stretch things out or leave some of the mattress bare.
Thankfully, popular streaming services such as Amazon Prime and Netflix support 4K video resolution, meaning you’ll get the best quality possible with a 4K television. You can get a smart television to get Prime or Netflix on your screen, or make an existing television smarter with a Chromecast that will add online functionality.
Is 4K Required for the Future?
Fortunately, 4K isn’t like the big analog-to-digital switchover that televisions underwent a decade or so ago. If you don’t have a 4K television, you won’t see your current one get phased out anytime soon.
You will find, however, that 4K content will be more readily available as time goes on. On top of that, 4K televisions will come down in price. As such, while your current television won’t become useless overnight, it’s worth dipping a toe into the world of 4K and seeing if you can upgrade your viewing experience.
Paving the Way with 4K
While 4K is not a mandatory upgrade, it will provide better picture quality for your movies and games. Just make sure the content you watch is 4K compatible, else you may find everything looks a little stretched!