What is 4K HDTV – and Should I Care?

What is 4K HDTV -- and Should I Care?Watch out! The aliens are about to attack, and this time in a never-before-witnessed format. “No way,” you say. “I have already committed my hard-earned dollars to the latest and greatest HDTV technology available. In fact, it was just this last spring that I spent my entire tax refund to purchase a new 1080p, 3D-enabled TV with a fast, 240 MHz output. I thought that this, with a Blu-ray player, would more than satisfy my needs and should continue to do so for the next decade. Now, however, I hear that this wonderful technology that I struggled so hard to buy is already on its way out and that there is allegedly a new and better way to watch TV that improves the quality of the video.”

Frustrating? Maybe. But before you run out and get the limit on your credit card increased or start to save for the new 4K HDTV, let’s examine this new technology and see if it will succeed. Remember, don’t underestimate the power that the consumer has over items that are introduced into the marketplace.

This fact has been proven over and over again as the latest and greatest technologies have been introduced. I must admit that even I have fallen prey to some of these great claims to originality only to find out that the majority of the public chose a cheaper alternative, resulting in my purchase being confined to the trash bin. Remember Beta? That was one example of my wanton spending. And then there was four signal radio broadcasting. This technology promised that the receiver I purchased was ready to go and that the quad signal was destined to eventually replace stereo. Needless to say, the technology needed for the quad signal radio to work never materialized.

So, what will happen with 4K HDTV, which promises to increase video quality up to two times the current resolution? In one article, the difference between the standard HDTV and 4K HDTV was said to be an upgrade from the quality of an Apple iPad 1 to Apple’s newest Retina display. For anyone who has seen a Retina-equipped device, you will immediately notice the clarity and color enhancements that it offers.

If, in fact, the 4K HDTV can provide this type of imagery, will it be worth the cost? Let’s take a look. A 4K HDTV would have 4,000 lines across with a resolution of 3,840 pixels by 2,160 pixels. For the average consumer, this means that a 4K HDTV will be similar to viewing a movie on the big screen at a movie theater that supports a digital format. But this is where the best part of 4K ends and the problems for viewing 4K HDTV content begins.

The first problem is going to be for those of us who enjoy watching movies at home since one 4K HDTV movie could require up to 200 Blu-ray discs. For the life of me, I can’t see any home owner storing or agreeing to change that many discs during the course of one movie. While I agree that 200 discs is probably an exaggeration, it has been suggested that even if compression software were used in an attempt to decrease the number of discs needed, the movie would still require somewhere in the vicinity of 50 discs, which is still not a satisfactory delivery system. Over all, this means that discs will not work as a storage medium for this new technology and, until someone devises one that will be more compatible, movie watching is not an option.

Another issue is that, while 4K HDTV would appear to be superior to our current offering of HDTVs, there is no content currently available that is geared to this type of technology. So why do you want something that you can’t watch movies on or that enhances your TV viewing experience? Additionally, one can only imagine the cost of purchasing this new technology which, like any new product, is destined to be cost prohibitive until it is accepted by the masses.

In my opinion, then, despite its better image and superior clarity, most of us would be hard-pressed to justify a 4K HDTV in our living rooms. This means that, if you have recently purchased a new HDTV with 3D content, you can rest secure in the knowledge that your current HDTV will not be obsolete for many more years. However, one can always keep in the back of their mind that this new technology is on the horizon, and will be coming after the money in your wallet once developers can overcome the hurdles and sand traps that are currently keeping it at bay.

After initially publishing this article, Ken Goldstein emailed us this feedback on the 4K HDTV:

Your article today gave me a chuckle. My wife & I were admiring an 80-inch 4K HDTV the other day, when I noticed something peculiar. The feed was standard HDTV (1920 X 1080), but the up-res (upconverting the resolution from 1920 X 1080 to 3840 X 2160) was giving some truly weird on-screen artifacts. In fact, the video was really quite uncomfortable for me to watch for any length of time.

So let me give you some info from a long-time video producer/director/systems integrator standpoint.

First, yes, 4K HDTV will almost certainly be here within a few years. But, second, there is nothing you will want to see anytime in the near future unless you’re a dedicated sports fanatic. Why, you ask? Well, it was just a few years ago when all TV stations were mandated to upgrade their entire studios from analog standard definition (720 X 480) to digital HDTV. I helped with the design of the very first station that got upgraded, KITV here in Honolulu, & let me tell you that it was not an insignificant job!! I won’t go into details, Chris, but just changing out the in-studio & ENG (electronic news-gathering or field) cameras & installing a brand new digital workflow took a ton of time & money – I think something just over $5 million was involved on that part of the project. Do you think that these same stations are now going to jump at the chance to upgrade everything again?

Right now, only Sony, JVC, & Red are building 4K video cameras that are available to the public, & at one hell of a price premium. The amount of available 4K HDTV material is close to zero, with exactly one (1) full 4K move, April Showers. Nothing at all is available for news, movies, or even sports. I give it a 90% chance that professional sports will be the first venue to start production in 4K, Chris, as their audiences are by far the most fanatical viewers. Everything else is likely to be 5-10 years away from being viewable in full 4K resolution. By then, your investment in “a new 1080p, 3D-enabled TV with a fast, 240 MHz output” will have more than paid for itself.

Oh, but don’t forget about the upcoming 8K UHDTV (7680 X 4320) that’s already being shown by NHK in Japan…

Your comments, as always, are welcome.

Source: Digital Times

CC licensed Flickr photo above shared by kire

Article Written by

I have been writing for Lockergnome for eight years.

  • Cosdis

    For now the HD is enough 😉

  • http://twitter.com/BlurNulled BitLocker

    4k? Pfff, I’ll wait for (8K)Ultra-high defintion televisions.

  • http://www.facebook.com/kslingo Kyle Christopher Slingo

    Yeah I agree for now the HD is enough, it took me a long time to be able to enjoy HD because I couldn’t afford the bandwith to use it

  • http://twitter.com/mjh483 Jun Hyeon

    There is always something better in the world of technology. Now, obviously there is no 4K content. But if there aren’t even any 4K hardware, nobody has any reason of providing 4K content. Right now, the 4K market has to grow, just like any other new tech that came before, before we can truly enjoy it.

  • http://www.sereant.net/ labanex

    In a few years, you may start seeing 4K video in the consumer market. Keep in mind that 50-200 blue-ray disk to support one movie is ridiculous. But remember, the industry is already working on a higher capacity discs or high capacity chips that can playback 4K.

    Also, 8K video is already out in some high-end theaters. 7680 × 4320p (33.2 megapixels)

    4K will be difficult over our current Internet connections, so for now, it may be enjoy as local media like disc or chip set.

  • Matt

    HD is fine for me as for now. I will probably break down and get this in the future, but for now HD is fine. We don’t need no fancy gizmos running our television.

  • Pol


  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1314545071 Bob Okeson

    Neglected to mention the fact that there are movie theaters employing this technique and superb picture. Can’t assume people know this.

  • http://twitter.com/coryrozell Cory Rozell

    This is crazy. I know definately that I do not want around 50 disks to change in a single movie. The whole 4k tv buisness is a joke to me. Just like 3d. Yeah I know it is nice to have, but really? Even though I’ve seen the difference between an ipad 2 and ipad 3, I don’t k it is nessisary.

  • Gadget

    It’s still just TV. Geez, how much is enough? There is life beyond the box! Everyone was pushed by the government to replace their TVs with HD TVs. Then only months later they were being told by electronics manufacturers that they couldn’t live without 3D TV. Now, only months after that, it’s 4K. When do we say stop? When is enough enough? The porn industry is what gave Beta it’s start. The porn industry drives most of the technical advances in video. Do you really wanna see those folks in any higher resolution or in 3D? I think not. Just say no. Walk away from the box. Have a life…. elsewhere.

    • http://www.facebook.com/tbanaski Tom Banaski

      Good point–the porn industry had a HUGE hand in the success of VHS over Beta. Considering how many aging porn stars had to retire once HD came along, I can’t imagine they will embrace this version of HD. It also won’t be good for the careers of the talking heads on our nightly news–have you noticed the median age dropping sharply from what it once was? Plus imagine how this will affect specifla effects in movies, making it potentially easier to see every little flaw in special effects.
      I imagine they will say thanks but no thanks, that 1080p is fine for now.

  • straybeat

    We have been discussing 4K tv’s for a couple of years now in another forum. There is supposed to be 8 or 9K TV’s after that, but I think OLED or whatever will make that obsolete by then? Persoanlly I can’t see buying 4K right now because there are only a couple movies shot in 4K at this time. Otherwise it stretches 1080 to 4K. That makes me worry about what 480p would look like stretched that far? Personally I would wait a couple years to buy 4K and see what happens by then. Ask anyone who bought a 1080i set, then 1080p came out a few weeks later? I have read a lot of angry posts.

  • Steve

    “So, what will happen with 4K HDTV, which promises to increase video quality up to two times the current resolution?” – it actually increases it by FOUR times…

  • http://www.caseyfrennier.com/ Casey Frennier

    I watched Star Trek: The Next Generation all weekend on Netflix. That’s not even HD. I can’t imagine streaming 4K or above content on my internet connection. Look at the crap on TV today. Mostly a bunch of unimaginative reality shows. I certainly don’t need 4k to watch storage wars and ice road truckers lol. Most homes don’t even have a blue ray player. I don’t see this taking off.

    Maybe if sports like NFL embrace it. I don’t see this happening for home movies and the crappy television programs they’re producing nowadays.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1292299949 Nino Brunori

      I watched all the Blue Ray episodes of the remastered TOS and I will honestly say that the HIRES RUINED TOS!
      You can see every defect as well as William Shatner’s stunt double.
      It’s like every fight scene was Who the hell is that? Then it cuts back to Bill.
      With HIRES you get to see how ugly the women of Holly Wood really are but the porn gets an A+. Then again, do you REALLY want that much detail especially when you are at a closeup of a vagina?

  • BigD37

    I guess I am an old stick-in-the mud as I don’t eben have Hidef yet, just digital.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1292299949 Nino Brunori

    I tell all my friends this and they are like so….
    I knew all this was coming years ago when I predicted the end of 640×480.
    Until recently I was surprised and frustrated that the virtual glasses were still in lores. Silicone Micro just released a full 1080p with 3D capability while all others are stuck in the past.

    Point is that I refuse to work off an hdmi induced 1080p screen. My screen is still a vga connected 1920×1080 46 inch television as a monitor. Vizio is so cheap they are less than $600 now so why does everyone still pay $300 for some rinky dink 22″ desktop monitor with no speakers, STILL 60 hz and no touch screen.

    I can’t play Skyrim at any lower resolution than that.

    Regardless in the next year the resolutions double the same as the graphics cards.
    Hard drives will probably be 8 to 10 terrabytes and life goes on.
    What is not mentioned are the plastic tv screens that roll up which are now, not the future.

    In Minority Report they had the animated cereal boxes and that’s going to happen you just watch. No doubt as everything that comes with a Happy Meal has those button batteries inside that are $3 at radio shack for 1 yet costs China .02 cents to light up a toy.

    All you people that predict the end to the desktop don’t consider that your not going to play a 4098×1920 photo realistic game on a tablet and consoles hardware never change until around 6 years later.

    The same as try and do productive work without more than 1 monitor these days.

  • UncleDoug

    When you brought up Quad in your article on 4L HD TV, you awakened one of my current annoyances with todays pop hits.

    Most but not all, are one speaker songs !

    Many hits from the 60’s thru the 90’s utilized the two speakers to stimulate your ears.
    I remember a hit from the Grass Roots called Lets Live for Today. In the 1st Greatest Hits album they walked from the left speaker to the right, then bounced back to the left. The next Greatest Hits album that sound bounced from left to right and then the next Greatest Hits album just had the left and right no moving no bouncing back and forth to tease your ears.

    Quad had the problem of too many record formats.
    Are / were there any good quad songs recorded on CD?

    And lets not forget AM stereo, I was driving down the highway one day and all of a sudden I heard the music on the left side and then the right again it was teasing my ears.
    Again the problem was there too many formats. The stations would broadcast but not all radio manufacturers would utilize it. Then it would be in more cars and the stations gave up on investing in it.

    When so many are 1 speaker songs why have 5-6 speakers ??

    Maybe when the audio board and speaker manufacturers honor and award records and songs each year for their accoustic variance to tease our ears, will record producers again utilize stereo and maybe even quad to tease our ears.