Home > Home Theater > 4K Ultra HD Buying Guide

4K Ultra HD Buying Guide

4K Ultra High-Definition television, or 4K Ultra HD, is the next generation of display technology for the home, offering an incredibly immersive viewing experience with superior picture quality. With more than eight million pixels of resolution, more colors, and higher contrast, 4K Ultra HD is the closest thing to bringing the 4K Digital Cinema experience from movie theaters to the home. The latest models sport the most recent technical enhancements for an even more “you are there” viewing experience.

With 4K Ultra HD becoming so popular, there’s a huge array of choices from multiple brands to consider. We’ve provided some tips, definitions and other tidbits and outlined our top recommendations to help steer you in the right direction. Below you will find the absolute best from each brand, along with outstanding value and exceptional picture quality.

What Is 4K UHD?

On a 1080p TV, you get 1,920 pixels across, and 1,080 pixels top to bottom, which works out to over 2 million pixels on screen. Sure, that’s a lot, but 4K UHD has four times that.

3,840×2,160 Resolution

Get Closer

For every one pixel on a 1080P HD TV, there are four pixels in the same space on a 4K UHD TV. That means sharper lines, smoother curves and lots more detail, especially on big-screen TVs, which you can also sit closer to without seeing the little pixels. So go big if you want, it’s gonna look great.

What To Watch

Good news! 4K UHD TVs are entirely backward compatible, so you can use your existing cable box or DVR, DVD or Blu-ray player, or standard HD TV antenna, and your 4K UHD TV will make whatever you’re watching look even better than before. But to get the most out of your new 4K UHD TV, you’ll want to turn to streaming services and new 4K UHD equipment, and the content providers highlighted below. UHD Blu-ray will be coming out soon as well, so keep an eye out for players and software.

For more details on available 4K content, check out our complete content guide.

  • Netflix

    7 Movies
    4 TV Shows
  • M-GO

    23 Movies
    0 TV Shows
  • UltraFlix

    38 Movies
    0 TV Shows
  • Amazon Instant Video

    33 Movies
    5 TV Shows
  • Vudu

    0 Movies
    0 TV Shows
  • YouTube

    10,000+ Streaming Videos
  • DirecTV

    Videos

  • Xfinity

    Videos

  • Blu-ray

    Videos

Available 4K UHD Televisions

With many brands and screen sizes to choose from, now is a great time to buy a 4K UHD TV. Manufacturers and retailers are embracing the term “4K UHD” championed by the Consumer Technology Association to describe this new generation of television. Some also are participating in CTA’s voluntary logo program that uses the same term. Regardless of what they call them, Ultra HD or 4K, major brands all are now offering a range of 4K UHD TVs at a range of prices.

Ultra HD Premium specifications

In January 2016, the UHD alliance (UHDA) issued the specifications for the Ultra HD Premium tier. With this specification, premium 4K Ultra HD TVs are no longer classified simply by offering higher resolution than 1080p TVs, but must now comply with performance metrics for high dynamic range (HDR) peak luminance levels, black levels, and color gamut, among others. In short, an Ultra HD Premium TV will not only offer the best possible viewing experience, but will be prepared for developments in Ultra HD content coming down the road. It’s as future-proofed as a TV can get in this day and age of rapidly evolving tech.

Glossary Of Terms

4K ULTRA HD

In television, a display resolution that is four times that of 1080p HD. A 4K Ultra HD TV’s pixel resolution is a 3,840 x 2,160 grid in a 16:9 aspect ratio, resulting in nearly 8.3 million pixels. This increase in density adds striking detail and realism to an image and allows larger screens to be viewed from closer distances without individual pixels becoming visible.

4K UHD
1080P

High Dynamic Range (HDR)

High dynamic range is probably most familiar to people through the HDR mode on their digital cameras. It’s designed to deliver a picture that has greater details in the shadows and highlights and a wider range of colors. HDR in televisions pursues the same goal. The color palette is wider, blacks are deeper, and whites are brighter.

Full Array Local Dimming (FALD)

Refers to an LED TV’s backlighting system. A FALD display contains an array of LEDs spread out in a grid behind an LCD panel, rather than just at the edges of the TV. This LED array is broken up into zones that can be dimmed when necessary to achieve better black levels. Another benefit is more uniform brightness across the screen.

Wide Color Gamut (WCG)

The expanded color reproduction abilities of a 4K Ultra HD TV — closer than ever to what we see in a digital cinema. By approaching the Digital Cinema Initiative’s P3 color specification, a 4K UHD TV can produce billions more colors than a 1080p HD TV.

Quantum Dots

A layer of film loaded with tiny nano-crystal semiconductors that is placed in a TV’s display panel to help produce a wider array of colors. Quantum dots work by altering the light coming from a TV’s backlighting system before it is passed through the TV’s color filter.

Phosphor-coated LED

An alternative to Quantum Dots, phosphor-coated LEDs have a chemical coating to alter the light’s output. When used in a TV, this results in a purer backlight that’s more easily manipulated by a TV’s color filter, resulting in a wide color gamut and increased color accuracy.

HDMI 2.0a

The latest version of the HDMI spec. Compliance with this standard assures a 4K Ultra HD display or source is capable of providing all the digital information needed for 4K Ultra HD resolution, HDR, and Wide Color Gamut, all at up to 60 frames per second.

HDCP 2.2

The latest version of the High-Bandwidth Digital Content Protection technology, which provides copy prevention specifically of 4K Ultra HD content. Any source device that requires HDCP 2.2 will require a 4K Ultra HD TV with an HDCP 2.2 compliant HDMI port for a compatible connection.

HEVC (H.265)

Stands for “High Efficiency Video Coding.” A new compression technology developed to make large 4K UHD video files smaller and, therefore, easier to stream over broadband Internet connections. HEVC is said to double the data compression ratio over H.264, the predominant encoding technology used today for 1080p videos, while retaining the same video quality. A smart TV or streaming set-top box must be able to decode HEVC in order play back 4K Ultra HD video from sites like Netflix and Amazon Instant Video.

VP9

An alternate to HEVC developed by Google and used predominantly for encoding 4K Ultra HD YouTube videos. In order for a smart TV or streaming set-top box to play back 4K Ultra HD YouTube videos, it must be able to decode VP9 videos.

Caleb is a professional musician, amateur chef and A/V electronics guru. Growing up, Caleb was the guy you would find in the garage tearing apart vintage electronics while other kids rode bikes or played football. His early immersion in consumer electronics led to countless car stereo, home theater and live audio installations which laid down the foundation for his current work.