For many customers, the hardest part of buying a new TV is figuring out all the lingo. One of the terms you’ll see most often is “Ultra HD” or “4K.” What does this mean?
For a very long time, the best clarity a home TV could achieve was Standard Definition (SD), most often 720 pixels tall by 480 pixels across. This is typically expressed like this: “720x480” or simply “480p.”
With technological advancements and the development of flat panel TVs, higher resolutions were made possible. This is the resolution referred to as High Definition or HD. There are two main types of HD still in some use: 1280x720 (720p) and 1920x1080 (1080p). 1080p is often referred to as Full HD and both resolutions are still in limited use today: some of your older or smaller TV sets are likely 1080p or 720p.
The most common resolution for new TVs is 4K or Ultra HD (3840x2160). Most new content is being filmed and distributed in this format and it will be the dominate resolution for the foreseeable future. While 8K TVs do exist, they’re rare, quite expensive, and there is virtually no 8K content available for viewing.
An important aspect of 4K is color. As resolutions continue to get better, it’s going to get harder and harder to see “more sharpness.” So, TV manufacturers and filmmakers are focusing on enhancing the color and contrast of TVs instead. TVs like LG’s OLED can dim specific pixels all the way to black. Even though it isn’t technically sharper than a standard 4k TV, it looks far better because the contrast and color differences are much more dramatic and finely controlled. Similarly, Samsung’s NeoQLEDS use small, extremely bright LEDS and quantum dots to make bright highlights on the screen “pop,” again enhancing the color and contrast of the picture. Content filmed with this sort of processing in mind is typically called HDR or “High Dynamic Range.”
A modern 4K TV can display all of this content fairly well. 480p will look fine, HD will look better, and a full-on 4K, HDR movie will really shine!
As a general rule, most of the content on streaming services will be HD (1080p), with 4K content being easily found and more and more common. Over-the-air broadcasts, satellite, and cable typically max out at 720p. In terms of physical media, DVDs are 480p, Blurays are 1080p, and 4K Blurays are… 4k.
Thanks for reading and let us know if you have any questions!