Everything you need to know about 4K

Forget HD, there’s a new top dog in picture quality: 4K. Also known as Ultra HD, it promises better picture than ever. But what exactly is it? Should you upgrade? The O2 Gurus find out. 

So what is this “4K” thing?

Television makers are all about improving picture quality and 4K is the latest leap forward. With four times the resolution of HD, you can expect sharper pictures, better colour reproduction and smoother moving images from a 4K TV. But HD is already pretty good, so you may not really appreciate the difference until you’re watching on a bigger screen (55in and up).

You may already know 4K as Ultra HD: the two are essentially the same in terms of picture quality but 4K is technically shot at a wider aspect ratio.

I’ll be able to watch my favourite TV shows in 4K then, right?

Well, not just yet – none of the UK’s TV channels currently broadcast in 4K and not many programmes are actually filmed in 4K either. But this is soon to change: experiments have begun, with the BBC testing with the format during the 2012 Olympics and Sony shooting three World Cup games in Ultra HD this year.

Oh. So what can I watch then?

YouTube and Netflix both already offer some 4K streaming. The latter made a splash when it filmed and released season 2 of House of Cards in the high-resolution format. Unfortunately, although a lot of films are shot a the right quality, 4K Blu-ray discs don’t yet exist. But another4K option is to shoot your own video. A number of smartphones, including the Sony Xperia Z2 and Samsung Galaxy S5, can already film at 4K quality which you can then watch back on your Ultra HD TV in all its glory.

netflix

As for gaming, the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 don’t quite have the chops for Ultra HD graphics, but you can invest in a 4K-friendly gaming PC like one from the Nvidia Battlebox range. Be prepared to spend at least £3,000 on it though.

If there’s so little to watch, what’s the point of getting a 4K TV?

If nothing else, 4K TVs make the standard 1080p HD picture look better – that’s because higher pixel density creates smoother images and more intense colours. But the most compelling argument for getting a 4K TV at the moment is to future-proof yourself. Ultra HD will eventually become the norm just as regular HD has, so if you’re in the market for a new TV then it makes sense to upgrade.

Can I get a phone with a 4K screen?

Not yet – currently, the highest quality screen you can get is the LG G3‘s QHD display. There’s an argument to say that a 4K screen is kind of pointless on a smartphone or tablet that isn’t likely to get any bigger than 12-inches, but we wouldn’t be surprised if at least one phone manufacturer was working on a 4K phone as we speak.

How much do 4K TVs cost?

Ah, the million dollar question – although the good news is that 4K TVs cost significantly less than that. Prices have dropped down to as little as £650 for a 40-inch model, while a top of the range 65-inch backlit Ultra HD TV will cost you around £3,500. Big spenders can pick up an 110-inch Samsung 4K TV for around £90,000. We’ll take two.

What’s next after 4K?

You may not believe it but 8K TVs actually already exist. Sharp, for instance, showed off two 8K models at this year’s CES show in Las Vegas. However, considering the sheer size that 8K screens will need to be, don’t expect them to become a fixture in your living room anytime soon.

Are you excited about 4K or is HD good enough for you? Let us know on our Twitter @O2 or using the hashtag #O2Guru.

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