If you’re only just getting used to the clarity and detail of HD then we’ve got bad news for you. There’s a new high resolution format in town called 4K. If you thought HD had a lot of pixels, then you ain’t seen nothing yet. 4K (or Ultra HD as it’s also confusingly known) has enough pixels to fill four Full HD 1080p screens. With four times the amount of pixels it’s able to display four times the level of detail. This is especially helpful on television’s that are 50-inches and above.
Whereas traditional HD is limited to 1920 vertical columns and 1080 horizontal rows of pixels, Ultra HD has a total resolution of 3840 pixels by 2160 – a slightly smaller resolution than the 4,096 x 2,160 resolution seen on cinema screens (that, for the record, is called Cinema 4K).
Pure and simple, 4K means a clearer picture. It’s more pixels (8,294,400 to be exact) on the screen at once that creates images that are crisper and capable of showing more details than standard HD. This is called “4” because the images are around 4,000 pixels wide. And before you ask, yes, the industry named 1080 resolution after image height, but named this new resolution after image width. For extra added fun, you also might hear this resolution referred to as 2160p. Welcome to the future. It’s confusing here.
Are there differences between Ultra HD and 4K? Technically, “Ultra High Definition” is actually a derivation of the 4K digital cinema standard. However while your local multiplex shows images in native 4096 x 2160 resolution, the new Ultra HD consumer format has a slightly lower resolution of 3840 X 2160.
This is one reason why some brands prefer not to use the 4K label at all, sticking with Ultra HD or UHD instead. However, the numerical shorthand looks likely to stick. As a broad brush label it’s so much snappier!