You’ve no doubt heard a lot about 4K TV in the last year or so, and you’re going to be hearing more about it. Consumers are making the move to 4K more and more. In fact, research firm IHS reports that shipments of 4K TVs reached a record high of 3 million units in April.  The report says that of all TVs sold around the world, 14% were 4K-capable. That share is expected to rise to 20% of all TVs sold by 2015, the firm said.

So what’s all the 4K fuss about? Let’s hit the basics first. (And for more in-depth info about the technology, read my previous blog, 4K Brings your television to life.)

What is 4K, again?

The short story: 4K TV is the best quality picture on the market today. Why? Allow me to dazzle you with the numbers: The ‘4’ in 4K TV comes from the approximate number of horizontal pixels; there are about 4000; a regular HD TV has only about 2000 pixels. So with over eight million total pixels, Ultra HD gives your choice of video entertainment life-like colour, vivid brightness, and authentic, realistic detail. I’ve vastly oversimplified the tech explanation, but you get the idea. So what are those 8 million pixels doing for you? They supply more detail, more sharpness and more colour options; in all, a much more realistic image on your screen. One where you can see every nervous twinge, every grizzled wrinkle, and every tension-fuelled bead of sweat.

One other note: the terms 4K and Ultra HD are interchangeable when talking about this technology. While at one time a panel of experts approved Ultra HD or UHD as the “official” name for the technology, the term 4K has been in use far too long for people to give it up.  (It also takes up far fewer characters on Twitter.)

4K means go BIG

There are some great plusses to 4K technology. For starters, it makes getting a huge screen much more worthwhile. Will you really see a difference in video quality?  In a word: yes. The difference in HDTV and 4K TV is huge. It’s similar to the jump in resolution quality and sharpness from SD (480 lines high) to HD (1080 lines high) back in the day. That sharper resolution means that even if the screen is huge, you won’t be able to see the pixels, and you’ll have a gorgeous, seamless video picture. Want an example of a great 4K TV? Fellow blogger Hootie is loving the 60″ LG 4K Smart TV. Read the review here. That LG 4K TV also comes in an eye popping 70” size too. 

samsung 4k.jpg

A bigger 4K TV also affords you another advantage. You can get closer than ever before. Yes, ignore what your mother told you as a child, and pull your chair in close to your giant 4K TV. Let the screen fill up your field of vision. As TechRadar explains it, “sitting closer allows the same sized screen to fill more of your visual field, which yields greater immersion. The up-close factor is one of the reasons 4K computer monitors have become one of the technology’s fastest growing sectors. 4K monitors remain pin-sharp even when you’re just a foot or two from the screen, as you are when you’re sitting at your desk.”

What to watch in 4K?

The chief complaint about 4K is the lack of programming out there to run on your spanky new Ultra HD TV. I’ve talked before about Netflix, which is leading the way with great 4K content, but even then, they have less than a handful of shows in 4K, House of Cards being the top one. Of course you can access your Netflix account using a Roku Streaming Stick or wait on the next gen stick, since Roku announced earlier this year its newest streaming sticks will be 4K. Roku is also taking this further, announcing it’s licensing its TV technology out to hardware manufacturers, who will soon be able to build Roku 4K streaming capability right into the sets.  That means you can expect show and movie producers to follow suit eventually, since they’re starting to have more options for getting that content to you.

gopro hero4.jpgOf course you can always make your own 4K video content and play it back on your UltraHD TV.  GoPro Hero3+ and the GoPro Hero4 cameras are 4K capable, and rumours abound that the next generation of Apple iPhones will have 4K cameras and recording capabilities too. That’s putting epic-level technology in all our hands, making it potentially the new gold standard in home videos. 

Gaming is Great on 4K

The appeal of TV and movies in 4K is obvious, but gamers are already well ahead of the rest of us on the 4K front. Computer monitors have been available in 4K for a while, though they have some drawbacks

But we’re talking about 4K TVs for gaming, and because TV and movie content is so sparse, the truth is, “gaming is one of the most commonly mentioned uses for 4K TVs,” according to CNET. That same article also notes that while 4K gaming is not perfect yet, there are still pros: “One of the main arguments for 4K gaming is the ability to sit closer, still have a detailed image, and get a massive field of view. Potentially, if you sit close enough, the screen fills your peripheral vision so much that only a VR headset like Oculus could do better.”

One of the chief complaints about gaming in 4K has been the lack of 4K support on consoles. 4K is much more widely available in streaming games, but things may be about to change. Rumours are out there that PS4 and Xbox One will add 4K capabilities to their boxes when the expected biennial hardware refreshes happen later this year.

call-of-duty-advanced-warfare-walkthrough.jpgSo in the meantime, what games should you try out in 4K? TechRadar recommends Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, saying “warfare’s high-octane firefights are nothing short of stunning in 4K thanks to its sharp visuals, Exo-llent (sorry) character models and highly detailed weapons. Another nice effect of playing in 4K is having an eye-poppingly crisp HUD, which is the closest you’ll get to wearing an Exo Suit (short of strapping on an Oculus Rift, anyway). 

Gizmodo echoes that pick, and also loves Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.  
“Improved 4K textures and pin-sharp definition lend the ice-covered world of Skyrim renewed beauty, and the fact that it’s not a cutting-edge release means you’ll be able to hit 4K, 60 fps performance without having to spend a fortune on new PC hardware.”

There’s all kinds of things to love about 4K technology. And whether you want to be an early adopter, or just watch your video entertainment in the best possible format, 4K is becoming more available, more popular and more affordable every year.

It’s time to check out the options.

Want to see what 4K technology is available in Canada? Check out Best Buy’s 4K page.

What game, platform, TV show or movie would you love to watch in 4K? Share your picks in comments below.



Editor TV and Home Theatre
Erin is a journalist, writer, and TV producer with a fascination for technology and a love of gadgets. Check out her blog