Is Your Home Ready For 4K?
Consumer electronics has always been a fast-moving field that is rife with simultaneous evolution and revolution. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the field of home video and visual entertainment. It doesn’t seem like very long ago at all that your good old fashioned CRT TV and VCR were the height of technological sophistication. Then along came DVD! Suddenly, not only did the home video market offer a sharper and more cinematic image, but it also meant that we no longer had to rewind out cassettes after watching a movie! It seems as though DVD had barely made itself comfortable when the HD revolution began. Suddenly our big and boxy CRT televisions were a chunky embarrassment, and sleeker sexier flat LCD and plasma screens were the new way in which to watch our movies. DVD gave way to Bluray which presented viewers with an opportunity to enjoy their favorite movies in crystal clear high definition.
Surely it doesn’t get any better than this? Or at least… that’s what we all thought. Sure, HD is now the dominant format for home entertainment whether we choose to enjoy it through rental streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu, through digital platforms like iTunes and Google Play or whether we still prefer to buy physical and opt for Bluray. But as of 2016, there was a new kid in town. A precocious kid that promised to take our home entertainment experience to the next level once again. We’re talking of course about 4K. In the 2 and a half years since its inception, many households have proven indecisive about the adoption of 4K. While the early adopters have embraced it with predictable glee, most of us have done some hand-wringing when it comes to making the jump. With the rumblings of a 6K format on the horizon, many are wary of investing in a new format that might just prove the next Betamax or HD DVD.
If you’re still on the fence about upgrading to 4K, here we’ll take a closer look at the format in a way that will hopefully provide you with enlightenment and clarity…
Is making the jump to 4K worth it?
So, let’s get the most obvious question out of the way. Is upgrading to 4K worth the investment. While you may expect the answer to be pretty cut and dry, the unfortunate truth is… well… It depends. 4K, also known as UHD is an Ultra High Definition format. While HD has an impressive resolution of 1080 of 1920×1080 pixels 4K offers, yup you guessed it, 4,000 or 4096×2160 pixels. So, that’s a lot more pixels making for a sharper and crisper image, but there’s a lot more to 4K than clarity.
4K formats also have HDR or High Dynamic Range and WCG Wider Color Gamut allowing for much more lifelike and vivid colors and textures so real that you can reach out and touch them. Walk into any major electronics store, and they’ll most likely display not big-budget Hollywood movies on their 4K TVs but nature documentaries. That’s because the combination of higher resolution and a broader range of colors makes for much more lifelike images and showing nature documentaries on these TVs really does look like you can climb right through them to a faraway land.
That said, how noticeable the improvement of 4K over HD really depends on many factors. Assuming, of course, that you have 20/20 vision or close to it, the difference lies in the size of your screen and how far away from it you and your family sit. While some eagle-eyed viewers may be able to see the difference on a smaller screen, in most cases, your screen size needs to be at least 50” while your sofa or armchair needs to be 5 feet or less away from the TV for the difference to be truly noticeable. This chart provides a useful rule of thumb guide.
So… if you’re a seasoned movie or home video buff, since 4K TVs are becoming much more affordable, making the jump is more worth it than ever. If you’re only a casual viewer… maybe not so much. Still with us? Okie dokie…
Choosing a 4K TV
With so many 4K TVs on the market, it can be difficult to know which to choose. While there are no right or wrong answers here, it’s worth noting that first generation 4K sets from 2016 may lack High Dynamic Range, so if you see a TV with a price that’s too good to be true, it probably is. At the very least your new TV should have;
- A resolution of at least 3840×2160
- High Dynamic Range (this will be clearly visible on the specs)
- 10 bit display
- OLED is not an essential, but it does provide deeper blacks
- High refresh rate (60Hz), especially if you will use the set for gaming.
Movies and TV on 4K
If you want to watch movies in 4K, there are a range of options available to you. Sticklers for physical discs will want to get a 4K UHD Bluray player. There’s simply no better format for watching movies at home. While the difference between discs and 4K streaming may be negligible to some, for those who have to watch their movies in the best possible format UHD disc is the way to go.
If you prefer to stream, make sure that you have a robust internet connection to handle the requisite bandwidth. If you do not have this check out this inclusive service provided by Suddenlink. If you already have a 4K ready Apple TV set the good news is that the movies you have bought on iTunes will automatically default to the best available format which in many cases is 4K.
Gaming in 4K
Finally, those who want to play their games in 4K will find that the gaming industry hasn’t quite advanced in 4K technology as much as the home video market. While you may play many newer AAA titles in 4K on the PS4 pro, these represent a significantly larger investment than the bog-standard PS4. The same goes for the X Box One X. For PC gamers, your rig may need a hefty upgrade, with a robust new graphics card like the GTX 1070 and 16GB of RAM.
Hopefully, this post will help you decide whether or not your home is ready to make the jump to 4K.