A look at the future of digital television: 4KTV


What is 4KTV

This summer saw the launch of the first wave of 4K Ultra High Definition television sets – but what are they? Put simply, they’re the next generation of visual technology, capable of producing images that are four times the resolution of the HD we’re currently used to, and with passive 3D thrown in too.

It’s an exciting development for television, promising far superior passive 3D results than we’ve seen to date, but there are a few stumbling blocks in the way of 4K’s mainstream success at the moment – notably the costs as they are a lot more expensive than a traditional 42 inch TV.

The details

The new wave of UHD television is basically split into an upper and lower standard – 8K and 4K respectively. Both 4KUHD and 8KUHD are capable of playing footage at 24, 25, 50, 60, and even 120 frames per second.

In terms of resolution, 4KTV stands at 2160p, which is double the resolution of the current 1080p Full HD standard. Its display offers up an 8.3MP image, which is quadruple the 2.1MP image found on current HD, and at 3840 x 2160 pixels, 4KTVs are double the width and double the height.

The new sets unveiled in 2012 are testament to that, with Sony’s being 84 inches, and the smallest 4KTV announced to date being Toshiba’s 55 inch set – both significantly larger than even the biggest LCD screens we’ve grown accustomed to in recent years.

What about 8K?

Step this up to 8K, and you have twice the resolution of 4K, with a detailed display of 7680 × 4320 pixels, and a 33.2MP image. To put that into perspective, to match the bit count of a single 8K set, you’d have to stack up two rows of four of today’s HDTVs.

Does it really look that different to HD?

In a nutshell, yes. The images are pretty breathtaking, as you’d imagine, packing in all of those extra pixels. Incidentally, these extra pixels make all the difference when it comes to passive 3D, which cuts the horizontal resolution in half in order to create its 3D effect. This essentially means you’re not really watching a Full HD 3D picture. UHD TVs like the 4K and 8K fix this issue; however, 3D fans will be able to view 3D images in true HD for the first time, and all without the need to wear 3D glasses.

So where can I sign up?

4KTVs are on sale right now. Sony’s XBR-84X900 84 inch set launched this year with a $25,000 price tag. The cheapest set announced so far is Toshiba’s smaller 55 inch model, which still weighs in at a hefty $10,000.

There’s also the not insignificant matter of 4KTV content in that there’s very little of it indeed. However, movie companies have been scanning their archives in 4K for some time now, although 4K cameras and projection equipment remain extremely costly. As for broadcast TV, Sky, which is already home to one of the widest range of dedicated HD and 3D digital television channels in the UK, recently gave 4K its first big test during Arsenal’s last Champions League game. So the 4K future may not be so far away after all.


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