When does 4K Matter?
Over the past few months, leading CE manufacturers began announcing the availability of new Ultra HD televisions capable of displaying 4K content. You might have already read articles either outlining why you should invest in an Ultra HD set, or on the opposite spectrum, why Ultra HD televisions are not necessary for the average consumer. So when does it actually matter if your television’s resolution is 4K versus standard high definition? The answer to this question is largely subjective and should also encompass other factors, so THX suggests you consider your viewing habits and environment, a long with the display’s ability to present “upconverted” standard HD content as the first steps to determine if you’re likely to benefit from this new technology.
Factor 1: Screen Size
As displays grow in size, and/or viewing distance decreases, the benefits of higher resolutions such as 4K become easier to identify. This reasoning is based on the fixed number of pixels that make up a display screen. A standard 1080p HD television has a total of approximately two million pixels which together display the on-screen image. This is true regardless of screen size, meaning that a 46-inch 1080p display and a 70-inch 1080p display both have approximately two million pixels. However, when you divide these two million pixels into the surface area for a 46-inch television, you end up with approximately 2,700 pixels per square inch. When you compute the same figure for a 70-inch television, the number drops to approximately 1,780 pixels per square inch. eight,
If your eyes glazed over when reading the technical explanation above – simply put, it is easier to see pixels on a larger screen because each of the pixels is physically larger in size. The larger the screen, the more likely you’ll recognize the image clarity and sharpness benefits of Ultra HD displays.
Your eyesight, quality of the display itself and various other factors influence the point at which a person can distinguish individual pixels on a display of a given size. Nonetheless, for the overwhelming majority of consumers with a home television viewing distance of six feet or greater, the benefits of increased screen resolution will be recognized when viewing 4K content on a display 55 inches or larger.
Factor 2: Viewing Distance
On a 50-inch 1080p HD display, most consumers can begin to distinguish individual pixels only when standing within six feet of the screen. Therefore if your viewing distance is 10 feet or greater, an Ultra HD 50-inch display will likely have little perceived benefit in terms of image clarity and sharpness – which can be attributed directly to the increase in pixel count. On the other hand, if you work in a field such as graphic design and sit approximately two feet from your 32-inch display, even at a screen size of just 32 inches, the benefits of 4K resolution will likely be noticeable as a result of the narrow viewing distance.
Factor 3: 4K Content
If you’ve been keeping tabs on all the Ultra HD chatter, you’ve probably heard someone complain about the lack of native 4K content. That is, content captured at 4K resolution (3840 x 2160 or 4096 x 2160 pixels), or existing HD content that’s been digitally transferred into a higher resolution. Until the content industry catches up, consumers who invest in an Ultra HD display are reliant on displays that are able to convert and present a standard HD image at 4K resolution – a technology commonly referred to as “upscaling” or “upconverting.” But proceed with caution. Although these technologies are meant to enhance your existing HD content, they can often introduce unwanted artifacts, making images look unnatural.
To address this, THX worked with Sharp to certify its new ICC Purios LC-60HQ10 as the world’s first THX 4K Certified display, putting it through 400 laboratory tests to ensure HD and Ultra HD images are presented pristinely and to the highest standard. The new THX 4K Certification program is an assurance of image quality and consistency, confirming that a display not only meets industry 4K performance guidelines, but that it maintains content accuracy true to the original HD image. For example, THX evaluates color precision and clarity, analyzing image detail to make certain essential film elements such as grain and texture do not disappear. Sharp uses a unique technology called Integrative Cognitive Creation (ICC) to upconvert the picture into a 4K2K image by analyzing reflections of light on original content. This unique technology is capable of reconstructing 4K2K images that look more realistic than other upconverted pictures.
In summary, when comparing an Ultra HD TV to a standard HDTV, the higher resolution display allows you to sit closer to the screen before being able to distinguish the pixels. Or if considering the inverse, you can purchase a larger size television without having to increase your viewing distance before individual pixels can be seen.
Whether sitting closer or viewing content on a larger screen, once you’ve seen the crystal clear and lifelike quality of 4K pictures it may be difficult to go back to watching content on a standard HDTV. For those considering an upgrade to an Ultra HD display, our recommendation is that armed with the knowledge gained from reading this blog, you measure your current viewing distance and visit a local home theater retailer. Only then will you be able to stand at the same viewing distance and compare the picture quality between various sizes of HD and Ultra HD displays.