4K TV. The PS4 Pro does it. It’s coming to Netflix on the PC. Some YouTube vids can do it, too. But like all new technologies, it’s surrounded by confusion. Should you get one? How does it work? Will it change your life? Should you even care?
Okay, what is 4K?
4K is basically your HD TV on steroids. The name refers to the resolution of the TV—just like megapixels on a camera. For pixel counters, that resolution is 3,840 pixels by 2,160 pixels, or 4,096 pixels by 3,112—or roughly 4,000 pixels on the left side. Or 4K, get it?
In comparison your vanilla-flavored HD TV has 1,920 pixels by 1,080 pixels. That means watching a 4K TV is like getting four HD TVs and smooshing them into one TV to lick your eyeballs with 8 million gorgeous pixels all at the same time. This is a good thing.
4K TV promises the same jump in resolution from that time in the Dark Ages when we all upgraded from clunky Standard Definition TVs to flat-panel High Definition TVs.
Allow us to summarize: MOOOOAAAAAAR PIXELS!
There are so many names…
The 4K name was born from the Digital Cinema standard, which you’ll see when you watch movies in “digital theaters.” But different electronics manufacturers use different names for this next level of video resolution. 4K is fast becoming the name that sticks, but if you see a TV sticker that says UHD, or Ultra HD, that’s the same thing—give or take a few pixels here and there.
Samsung calls their OLED 4K TVs by the name SUHD, or Super Ultra High Definition. The resolution isn’t more super than ultra. It’s just the same, sorry, though OLED TVs are more super at other things, like contrast and black levels. Not sure if they’re super ultra better, but whatevs.
Sometimes, you will also see a video that says 2160p, and yes, this means it is a 4K video for your 4K TV. This time, 2160p refers to the second number in the video’s resolution. Just as HD TVs use 1080p video for best results, 4K TVs use 2160p videos.
Does 4K make a difference?
Yes, there is a visible quality difference in 4K TVs. Images will be “sharper” or more “crisp.” However, it may not be that obvious depending on how close or how far you sit to your TV. There’s some debate as to whether or not the eye can see all these pixels, but, as Apple proved with their retina displays, squeezing more pixels together is always a good idea.
What do I need to enjoy 4K?
We’ve all been here before. Just as HD TVs need HD content, you will need a source of 4K content to actually see all those pixels. Sure, the guy at the store will tell you that the 4K TV will upscale all videos to 4K, but don’t be fooled. Upscaled video is crap; it’s just repeating the same pixels. What you really want is a proper source of 4K content.
For video games, you’ll want something like the PS4 Pro, or the Xbox One S. Meanwhile, those with high-end gaming PCs, have been able to do 4K gaming for, like, forever now. (All hail the PC Master Race!)
For movies and TV, you’ll need a source of 4K video content. Right now, this is limited. Some videos on YouTube are in 4K, but these are rare. 4K streaming on Netflix is available on—take a deep breath—certain compatible devices and TVs, with a plan that supports Ultra HD, running on an Internet connection of at least 25 megabits per second, and only with certain shows/movies. There’s also Ultra HD Blu-Ray. Or you can always get 4K video from torrent sites, though availability is spotty—at least our um, pirate friend says, ahem.
Finally, you can just make your own 4K content. Many modern cameras are capable of recording video in 4K.
Can I watch porn in 4K?
The porn industry—bless their hearts—have always been on the cutting edge of technology. There’s Tiny4K, Naughty America launched a 4K streaming service back in 2014, and good old Pornhub has a 4K section, um, yeah, according to our friend again.
How does 4K work?
We could get technical, but let’s just say it works exactly like an LED TV. Liquid crystals are trapped between glass while blasted with LED lights from one end. Plug in a signal and the liquid crystals form an image. UHD/4K TVs work basically the same way except with bigger “pipes” to deliver more information.
Should I buy one now?
Knowing all this, the only thing left to do is go out, get your eyes on a 4K TV and decide if you want this in your life. The bottom line is simple:
If you need a new TV, it won’t hurt to future proof yourself. 4K content is coming, sooner or later.
If you’re a gamer, now is a good time to buy a 4K TV. Whether you’re a PC gamer or a console gamer, you’ll have lots of games to play in 4K.
If you’re a video hobbyist or professional with a 4K camera, a 4K TV is a no-brainer.
If you’re a torrent-crazy pirate who doesn’t mind downloading a 65GB version of Batman vs Superman, go for it, and yaaarrr, shiver me timbers!
If you’re one of those rare creatures who owns a Blu-ray player and regularly buys UHD Blu-ray discs, treat yourself to a 4K TV, weirdo.
If you’re everyone else, don’t sweat it. We can all Netflix and chill in regular 720p HD.