Big picture is a big part of our everyday experience; for over a decade we have been progressively pushing the boundaries of televisions and computer monitors to give us brighter, crisper, more clean picture. The move from SD (480p) to HD was an impressive increase in quality, first to 720p then to 1080p, something that went hand in hand with the upgrade from DVD to Blu-ray. The next step is an interesting one because it has been littered with industry terms: 4K, UHD, SUHD, Super UHD, OLED, and HDR. Understand the difference between 4k and the rest and simplify your buying decision. Read on to get started.
There are a number of things to consider when you step above 1080p as a resolution. A quick sidebar: in computing there is a mid-step between 1080p and 4K, called 1440p; it’s picking up steam as a popular option as manufacturers split the difference between resolution and natural refresh rate. Many gamers are choosing 1440p and a 144Hz (or greater) refresh rate attached to either AMD FreeSync or Nvidia G-Sync monitors. If all of that felt like a mouthful and you’re mostly just interested in 4K computer monitors or TVs, don’t worry: it really doesn’t affect you.
4K Basics and the truth about resolution
So let’s get down to brass tacks with 4K. First of all: to appease the nerds out there like myself, yes it’s disingenuous that 4K was termed 4K, which is why some manufacturers are choosing to call it something else. Why is it a bit disingenuous? To understand that we need to think about how resolutions are typically measured. There are two numbers: the first is the number of horizontal lines of pixels, the second is the number of vertical lines of pixels. The higher those two numbers are, the higher the resolution and the sharper the image. Let’s look at the previous two standards
- 720p is a resolution of 1280 horizontal lines by 720 vertical lines
- 1080p is a resolution of 1920 horizontal lines 1080 vertical lines
Reasonably speaking, 4K should be 4000+ vertical lines, right?
4K resolution, along with UHD, Super UHD, and SUHD, currently all mean a horizontal resolution of approximately four thousand lines. In fact, the resolution of most “4K” displays is 3820×2160. This is known in broadcast as UHD-1. There IS a 4K specification that reaches 7680×4320 known as UHD-2, but currently there aren’t any consumer level displays that support that specification, and there isn’t any readily available consumer content to view it on.
I guess the marking folks thought that 4K sounded better than 2160p. So does that mean that 4K isn’t worth it? Far from it. I’m typing this on a brand new 4K monitor, and in my living room there’s a 4K TV. Even with 1080p content on my 4K TV I am always astounded at the improvement in quality, and 4K resolution on your computer is something of a double-edged sword; it’s absolutely beautiful, but once you’ve experienced it you’ll never want to use anything else.
Deciphering UHD, SUHD, Super UHD, and more
There’s one other 4K resolution out there: 4096×2160. The professional term for it is “DCI 4K” resolution and it’s used by the film and television industry to produce and master high resolution content. Because this resolution is typically termed “4K” due to it being twice the horizontal and vertical resolution of 2K video, many manufacturers are stepping away from identifying their displays as “4K” and instead using other names.
So that’s the big deal! A case of mistaken identity as brands are looking to help consumers decide which TV to buy. The downside: they’re starting to muddy the waters a bit more. So let’s break it down:
UHD is a term that many manufacturers were using to describe 4K TVs from 2014 through to now. UHD TVs are 4K, which means their resolution is 3840×2160.
- Samsung calls their standard 4K displays “UHD TV”
- LG calls their their standard 4K displays “4K Ultra HD TV”
- Sony calls their standard 4K displays “4K Ultra HD TV”
- Vizio calls their standard 4K displays “4K Ultra HD TV”
It was at CES in 2015 where Samsung first started using the term SUHD; there were a lot of questions at the time as to what the S stood for. Some speculated it meant “Super” while others argued for “Spectacular”, “Stupendous” or even the very on-the-nose “Samsung”. In an effort to differentiate themselves in the market, Samsung took the high end set of their 4K displays and designated them as SUHD. The hallmarks of these displays included Samsung’s implementation of Quantum Dot display tech, offering wider colour gamut and a richer visual experience. SUHD TVs, 4K HDR TVs, Super UHD TVs, and Ultra HD HDR TVs are all 4K, so they too have a resolution of 3840×2160.
Everyone else is jumping on the bandwagon too, so much so that LG has dubbed their higher end non-OLED 4K displays as “Super UHD” this year. Given that UHD means Ultra High Definition, Super Ultra High Definition feels like a title that would be given to a Street Fighter game from Capcom. Nonetheless it helps to designate displays that have enhanced colour technology. Going forward from 2016 this technology will include High Dynamic Range as a feature (HDR).
- Samsung calls their higher end 4K displays “SUHD”
- LG calls their higher end 4K displays “Super UHD”
- Sony calls their higher end 4K displays “4K HDR”
- Vizio calls their higher end 4K displays “Ultra HD HDR”
Where does OLED fit in all of this
Most televisions (whether 4K, SUHD or whatever else) employ an LCD screen where the “liquid crystals” get illuminated from a strong LED backlight. These screens can be amazingly thin, light (so you can easily mount them onto most walls), and very bright. OLED TVs are quite different. OLED stands for “organic light emitting diode” and each organic pixel illuminates itself. That allows for more precise illumination where you need it, more precise colours, and, best of all, no need for a backlight. These screens are extremely thin and light. For example, the new LG W7 “wallpaper” televisions are less than 1/2 a centimetre thick. They have 4K resolution too! But without the need for a backlight, they have better colours, better blacks, and are thinner than non-OLED TVs.
You can learn more about OLED TVs in this article.
Don’t be intimidated by difference between 4K, UHD, etc
Despite the fact that there’s a lot going on in 4K right now, it’s not that scary. 4K/UHD tends to be used to describe standard models that offer amazing picture quality and great colour. Stepping up to 4K Super UHD/SUHD/4K HDR gets you the same resolution but with better colour features.
Should you be upgrading to 4K? In my opinion yes, and I’d recommend giving HDR a lot of thought; I think it’s worth the extra money now, and will continue to be in the future. Want to learn more and find a 4K TV that fits your needs? Check them out on bestbuy.ca here.
Excellent article. Informative and funny.
Have a LG OLED and Samsung SUHD. i could not appreciate the difference in detail until I got the Apple TV 4K. I’m super pleased with the quality of everything I watch and love when our guests tell me how amazing our TV image is, and how they always look forward to watching movies at our house.
4K means x4 times.
Simply HD x 4 = UHD in square fileds.
3840 x 2160 = 8294400 pixels
1920 x 1080 = 2073600 pixels
8294400 / 2073600 = 4
Great article thank you!
Currently I have a Samsung UN55D7050XF TV (1080p) with a Sony STRDA1800ES home receiver that says it does 4K. I recently traded my XBox One in for an XBox One X, which outputs at higher resolutions than my original XBox One. I’m thinking about upgrading my TV to take advantage of the 4K gaming. My questions are:
1) Is there any kind of bottleneck with my current A/V Receiver?
2) Is the TV upgrade worth it?
Graham thanks. So I first bought when Samsung introduced a 4k tv in 2014. It has a label says UHD tv .so these days the ultra HD boy rayvsics come out .so if I buy a Ultra hd Blu Ray player will this tv support the designed output it has to give .will it first play the video ? I’m concerned. Forget the amplifier stuff I’m not going to talk. And yes the UHD tv had an option HDR enable like calibration some kind in the menus and the model is Samsung 55 HU7000 . Kindly clarify if it will provide the output when a utrahd Blu Ray player of connected. Sorry for long story.
Hi @aravind, I sent your question to the home theatre team at Best Buy Canada’s head office. They sent this reply:
customer will need to purchase Samsung’s SEK 3500 UHD 4K Evolution Kit in order to upgrade his TV to the latest UHD standards. However, this Kit will not provide HDR playback but it will provide the TV with the necessary upgrades to decode HEVC and VP9 so you can enjoy 4K streaming through Netflix, Amazon and YouTube.
Thanks 4 the info, well written much appreciate
Well, to add to the confusion, I found that while shopping for a 4K tv this holiday season and a BluRay player to pair with it to enjoy 4K BluRay, apparently 4K BluRay players do not support 4k UHD discs.
The catch is that 4K Blu Ray players will play BluRay discs and upconvert to 4K while also providing streaming apps that will play 4K streaming content.
That being said, there are 4K UHD players out there that will play 4K UHD BluRay discs in the native 4K resolution recorded to the disc. Those units were typically around twice as much as the 4K BluRay players and didn’t even advertise their ability to use streaming apps (although they did, some wired, some wireless). And that twice as much cost was cut down from the 4 times the cost due to Black Friday specials, before they were closer to $300, marked down to $150 for Black Friday…sitting right next to $70 Sony 4K BluRay players that did not play 4K discs.
Best bang for your buck is going to be the Xbox One S – it does 4K UHD and HDR… and plays games. I’d prefer a PlayStation 4, but unfortunately Sony hasn’t added 4K BD Playback to either the PS4 slim or the PS4 Pro 🙁
What about the QLED tvs?
QLED is the type of lighting technology used by Samsung; it’s a bit of a misnomer designed to distract from OLED – OLED is Organic Light Emitting Diode – which is a fundamentally different (and better, in my opinion) technology than LED. QLED is Quantum Light Emitting Diode, which is just an LED with some of Samsung’s tech and marketing spin.
QLED TVs are great, but they aren’t comparable to OLED in my opinion. The rich black levels of OLED need to be seen to be believed, and once you’ve seen them it’s hard to go back to LED.
720p is horizontal, not vertical. 720i is vertical
The p in 720p stands for progressive scan, the i stands for interlaced. 720 is the vertical lines of resolution, not the horizontal, no matter if it ends in p or i. The difference is the progressive scan can display all the lines in one frame, whereas the interlaced scan takes two – one for the top half, one for the bottom half, which makes it less suitable for fast action since your brain interprets the two part scan as blurriness.
720 are the horizontal lines not vertical (in either p or i). You could say that 720 pixels is the vertical resolution, but not vertical lines.
Not top and bottom: interlaced means odd number lines in one frame and the even numbered lines in the next.
As for the meaning of 720, it represents the number of horizontal lines, which Karl seems to call the “vertical lines of resolution”, which would mean the same thing. The number of horizontal lines is less ambiguous, however!
>720p is horizontal, not vertical.
This, as pointed out by some people above, is fundamentally incorrect. dojinho has it right.
We rarely deal with interlaced content anymore, outside of cable TV (people still have cable tv, right? I mean, I don’t… but…) and I haven’t checked into any of the 4K offerings from our major cable providers but I’m fairly sure that their 4K signal is progressive. It’d be rough if it wasn’t. Apologies for not having more detailed information there, but I stopped caring about cable a long time ago #cordcutterforlife
Anyways, we shouldn’t be bothering with 720p anymore. 4k or bust!
Question: does it mean all the higher end UHDs (SUHD,Super UHD) are all using HDR? And if there is a link to explain HDR further?
Isn’t Super UHD same as Dolby Vision ?
Hi Ari: I sent your question to the Best Buy TV team and this is their response
Super UHD is not the same as Dolby Vision.
Samsung was the pioneer of the term SUHD (there was no meaning for the S, though I don’t know if this has changed recently). It was to refer to their line of Televisions with Quantum Dot technology. If you scroll a bit down in this overview, you can see a comparison image for their conventional TVs vs SUHD (quantum dot) TVs.
They have moved on from SUHD as a term and have replaced it with their QLED TVs which refer to the increased colour and usage of Quantum Dot technology.
Super UHD was a term announced by LG, which refers to their more feature rich UHD TVs.
Dolby Vision is a HDR standard created by the Dolby Laboratories and has no relation to the terms UHD, Super UHD. LG currently has TVs with both Super UHD and Dolby Vision, which you can find on our site here.
More info on Dolby Vision can be found at https://www.dolby.com/us/en/brands/dolby-vision.html
I found articles stating that LG TV (even non OLED ones) have HDR10 and Dolby Vision, like LG 65SJ8500
At the end of the day, those were the features I am looking for. Marketing name is probably to confuse consumers.
Will just wait for a devent price drop to get this one.
Really enlightening and helpful article about all the fancy term.. thanks alot..
Thank you so much Graham! This was a very helpful article as I have been so confused about this. I am in the process of buying a TV from Best Buy and am glad I stumbled across your article! 🙂
Thank you, really helps with my purchase decision
HI Graham, thanks for this article. Very helpful for me who is totally confused; this article make it all clear.
I’m looking for a TV that will pass through the HDMI 5.1 sound to its optical output at same quality. Would you say all SUHD etc. would do that? Thanks very much.
Most of them should, yes. Check the specs on the Best Buy Product Detail page, but it’s fairly standard now.
Wanting to buy a new TV and trying to decipher the crazy changes happening so quickly, came across another one between 4K VS OLED:
Your thoughts on recommendations ?
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