‘Ultra High Definition’ officially replaces ‘4K’ as name for next-gen TV standard

lg-4kIf you thought the term “4K” referred to some sort of distance race, you aren’t alone. Though more and more TVs and projectors have started adopting the high-res format, most folks still had no idea that 4K was the name that had been adopted to describe what industry experts assert is the next stage in high-definition television. To end that confusion — and tackle legal and marketing issues as well — the consumer electronics industry has settled on a new name: Ultra High Definition.

On Wednesday, during a CEA-sponsored industry forum in San Francisco, a board of industry leaders convened to discuss and vote on a new name for what has been consistently referred to as “4K TV,” officially arriving at Ultra High Definition. 

You can read an in-depth report about the technology here, but here’s the crash course version: 4K refers to a television display capable of producing 4K HDTV relative sizesmore than 8 million pixels of resolution. It is doubles 1080p “Full HD” resolution in width and height, with at least 3,480 pixels running horizontally and at least 2,160 pixels running vertically. It could have been called a number of things. We could call it 2160p (1080p, doubled) or we could call it QFHD (an actual term for resolution, though it lacks a certain…zing) but, 4K has never been an accurate descriptor.

 But there are marketing concerns as well. 4K doesn’t mean anything to most people, and QFHD, what the heck is that? If the industry wants to make this new technology recognizable and understandable on its name alone, it needs its name to resonate with the public at large. If HD is good, then Ultra HD, that must be better, right? Why? The term 4K infers the number 4,000. And if you’re still awake after all those numbers we just threw down, then you may have noticed that 4,000 wasn’t among them. While this may seem trivial, it isn’t. Manufacturers have taken a lot of heat and some big financial hits via class-action lawsuits over misrepresenting the size of their screens. Some TV’s advertised as “40-inches” were actually measuring as little as 38.5-inches. That works out to almost 49 square inches of missing screen real estate. The last thing TV makers need is another reason to get sued. 

Also, this decision needed to take place now — in the technology’s infancy — and swiftly, too. The last thing we need is another Blu-ray vs. HD DVD kerfuffle.  Granted, that industry nightmare involved two different types of technology, not just a name. Still, the amount of confusion it generated among consumers and their resulting reluctance to jump on board resulted in a slowed adoption of high-definition disc-based media that has resulted in a rough road for Blu-ray.

It is the industry’s hope that a clear naming convention will lead to greater mind-share and, therefore, more rapid adoption of Ultra High Definition as the technology becomes more available and, eventually, more affordable. Of course, there’s plenty more work to do to make that happen. A delivery system for Ultra High Definition content needs to be settled on and then there’s the matter of creating content in Ultra HD as well. This is just the beginning, but Ultra High Definition is on the way and we can expect to see plenty of it at CES 2013. 


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