To 4K or not to 4K?

September 14, 2015

The advancements in display technology now allow us to enjoy a pixel-filled experience. But is it worth upgrading?

This was my home theater.

There was a time when I used to enjoy watch movies on my 21-inch TV – and back then I was satisfied with the screen size. That was almost 15 years back, and nowadays screen have not just become larger, they’ve also become more detailed.

Back when LCD TVs started to become popular, it came in various resolutions, either HD (720p) Ready or Full HD (1080p). It never really mattered since most of the content available at the time were DVDs, which offered a standard resolution and will look just about the same on any resolution.

Then came high definition (HD) content. Not only was HD now easily accessible through Blu-ray discs but it has also become available through cable television as well. High definition was a turning point in displays and content, and for the first time, there is a valid reason for you to get a larger screen for you to enjoy HD.

Look how clear that image is (scrrenshot from the Transformers Blu-ray).

Transformers was the first movie I saw in high definition and it was the first time I realized the true potential of the format. Not only is the image clearer, but detail is was spot-on. The image was so clear that even the small bumps on Megan Fox’s face that they try to hide with makeup are clearly visible.

High definition also made its way to smartphones and just lately, we’ve seen screen resolutions on mobile devices that offer more pixels than a normal high definition TV can offer.

The offer of more pixels makes sense in a way since it does makes text and other elements look sharper and more detailed. Remember when Steve Jobs first introduced the iPhone 4? It was the first smartphone that had more pixels than the human eye can see (hence the term Retina Display) and the result was a smartphone display that was competitors quickly followed suit.

4K televisions have now become mainstream.

More recent advancements in display technology now allow for screens with even more pixels on both televisions and mobile devices. Just in the past year, we’ve seen manufacturers introducing new 4K TVs or sometimes referred to as Ultra HD TVs. Along with that, Quad HD and even 4K displays have also started appearing on smartphones and tablets.

4K basically is four times the resolution of HD. That means that you have a massive 3840 x 2160 pixels of resolution available to you. I recently saw a demo of a new Sony Bravia TV showcasing 4K content and I must say, it is really impressive. To see is to believe as they say, since you really have to see 4K in person to appreciate its detail and clarity.

That being said, the video that was playing on that particular screen is a real 4K video, which brings me to another point: Content. 4K content is limited at the moment, but that content is slowly increasing. Amazon and Netflix in the US have started streaming 4K content, along with NASA also launching a channel that will broadcast in 4K. Just last week at IFA 2015, Samsung has already announced that it is launching a 4K Blu-ray player this year.

4K Blu-ray is coming.

Which again brings us to another point: Accessibility. Much like how high definition was introduced back then, upgrading to 4K would mean that you need to replace everything in your living for something that supports it. From your TV to your player, even some PCs should also be powerful to play 4K video.

Along with that, if you ever plan to start streaming 4K video, you would also need to have an internet connection that can support the huge bandwidth that it would require. Most sources claim that you need at least a 15 Mbps connection to stream 4K content without buffering.

Another point is the support of 4K on mobile devices. During IFA 2015, Sony has just announced the Xperia Z5 Premium, which is the first smartphone to offer a 4K display. While it was innovative on the company’s part, we soon found out that most apps still run on a full HD resolution and was only blown up to accommodate the extra pixels.

4K looks great on big screens I must admit – but on smaller devices? I don’t really get the point. Packing in so much pixels in a small screen would definitely make everything razor sharp but to be honest, comparing an iPhone 6 with a 750 x 1334 pixel resolution with the 4K screen of the Sony Xperia Z5 Premium barely showcases any difference.

Remember when this was a thing?

Which brings the question if you should upgrade or not. At the moment, I wouldn’t recommend to go ahead and change your entire living room to support 4K playback since we are still in the early stages of the technology.  To be honest, I still feel it is sort of a gimmick than an actual innovative platform (anyone with a 3D TV still use that function?). I’ve just started building my own HD collection of Blu-ray titles, and I can’t throw them out and start all over again.

So now I ask you, is 4K worth getting? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

by Victor Philip Ortiz
Tech Enthusiast and Movie Buff. When he’s not busy playing with the latest games, Victor usually spends his time collecting Blu-rays and building his own movie library. As the Online Editor for T3 Middle East, he develops and writes content for which includes reviews, features, and videos in addition to managing its social media and web content.