4K TV is finally a serious proposition, thanks to more 4K Ultra HD TVs in the market, a wider choice of screen sizes and a drop in the average price. And we finally have some 4K content. 4K Ultra-High Definition (Ultra HD or UHD) will define the future of television – a future that we take one step closer towards every day.

What is 4K?

You’ll see the names 4K, Ultra HD, UHD and even 4K Ultra HD being banded about – but they all refer to the same thing. This is a TV with a resolution of 3,840 x 2,160 pixels, more than 8 million pixels in total, which is four times the number in Full HD (1,920 x 1,080) which means more fine detail, greater texture and an almost photographic emulsion of smoothness.

4K Ultra HD is going to be a work in progress for years to come, but that doesn’t mean you should wait for the dust to settle before improving your image.

What’s so special about 4K Ultra HD?

  • Future proof viewing
  • Justice to your digital photography
  • 4K Blu-ray is almost here
  • 4K TVs aren’t just about more resolution
  • Supports faster frame rates, extended colours and insane contrast dynamics.
  • 4K internet browsing is amazing
  • 4K home movies and gaming are coming
  • A more cinematic, immersive experience
  • 4K is the future – it’s not just a fad

What 4K content is available for me to watch?

To watch 4K video you need a 4K screen, a 4K source and 4K content. The good news is your options have increased exponentially in the last couple of years.

The first big name to deliver 4K content to the home was Netflix, but Amazon similarly followed suit and came up with Vudu. When you open the Netflix app on a 4K TV, 4K content will stream automatically where ever available. Across the different streaming services there’s actually a groundswell of 4K content finally hitting our shiny new screens. From Netflix Originals to Amazon’s Pilot series, there is now more Ultra HD content around than ever before.

You’ll need a 4K-compatible player like the 2015 Amazon Fire TV or Roku 4 to actually see the content, but the options are out there.

How can you watch 4K on YouTube?

YouTube also has a selection of 4K videos, but unless you’re watching on a 4K TV, you’ll need to make sure you have a compatible 4K monitor. And for those who have the required hardware, there’s even an 8K video. YouTube uses the VP9 codec developed by Google, and it’s been running in the Chrome browswer since 2013. As with HEVC, you’ll need to make sure your TV or monitor support VP9 before trying to stream.

Gaming in 4K?

4K Ultra HD

We’ve had 4K gaming on the PC for a while now, but this year 4K took off in a big way with the announcement of Microsoft’s 4K Xbox code-named Project Scorpio. Alongside the Scorpio, Microsoft also has the Xbox One S which will upscale HD content to 4K as well as play Ultra HD Blu-ray discs. Microsoft isn’t the only console manufacturer with a 3840 x 2160 resolution on its mind, however Sony also has a 4K console up its sleeve which it’s calling PlayStation Neo. We’re expecting to learn more about the systems in the coming months and have our fingers crossed for an early 2017 – or even late 2016 – launch date.

What kind of cables will I need for 4K?

The two standard cables you’re most likely to use are either a standard HDMI or if you’re connecting a PC to a Ultra HD monitor, DisplayPort. HDMI cables now come in four flavors: high speed with Ethernet; high speed without Ethernet; standard speed with Ethernet and standard speed without Ethernet. Standard speed cables are capable of 1080i, but aren’t able to handle the bandwidth of 4K. High speed cables can do anything higher than 1080. Now, as long as you’re using the same class of cable, there is no distinguishable difference in terms of performance between one manufacturer’s set of cables and another’s. HDMI 2.0 increases bandwidth up to 18Gbps all thanks to Tributaries cable and supports 4K Ultra HD at 50/60 fps, with 12-bit 4:2:2 colour (you don’t need any special cables for HDMI 2.0 inter-connectivity, any current high-speed cable will work).

So should I buy a 4K set now or should I wait?

It depends. If you want the absolute best TV you can get right now and don’t mind paying a premium for it, it’s a 4K set. If you’re buying from one of the top tier manufacturers, you’re going to get a good product that’s reasonably future-proofed. As we said before, the sets look great. However, don’t expect to be watching most of your video content in 4K for another two to three years. And make sure any set you buy has HDMI 2.0 ports (the first wave of 4K TVs used the previous HDMI 1.4 standard).

Ultra high-definition has matured to the point that it’s ready for widespread adoption. It’s no longer an expensive category only for enthusiasts, and you can now find a 4K TV to fit nearly any budget. Performance has steadily improved as prices have dropped, and the technology to bring 4K content to the screen is relatively standardized. If you’ve been waiting to get a 4K TV, now is the time to do it.