There's a new video image resolution on the march, and it's called 4K. If you aren't yet familiar with 4K video, it won't be long before you've become acquainted. The next quantum leap in high def, 4K is sometimes referred to as ultra-high definition (or UHD for short). You'll find many references to 4K video among the top-rated 3D Blu-ray players. Why? Because 4K is an inevitability that's going to transform your home theater.
First, the details. What exactly is 4K and how does it differ from the gold standard set by 1080p Full HD? In simple terms, 4K is four times the resolution. Or approximately four times, considering the pixel count (which represents the number of pixels that are displayed lengthwise across your screen) isn't quite 4000 but is actually 3840. Close enough, you're probably thinking, and you'd be right about that. All told, the total number of pixels displayed in a 4K video are around 8 million, compared to just 2 million with 1080p.
Sounds pretty good. Looks even better. So why are there still some who hold in question the ability of 4K to catch on? The reasons vary, depending on who you ask. Arguments as to whether the eye can even detect a difference between 1080p and 4K abound. Some swear by the immaculate visual clarity, others say you can only tell a difference if you plaster your face onto the displaying screen (for the record, this works but isn't quite the ideal viewing distance for optimum enjoyment).
Then there are those who say 4K is wasted on home theaters because most 4K TV screens are simply not big enough to display a difference at least not at the standard distances the majority of us sit from our TV sets. Still others say it's too expensive to be viable, citing low-end 4K TV prices in the neighborhood of $2,000 to $3,000.
Despite it all, 4K video is continuing its onward march. Already, the majority of big league TV makers and even some smaller manufacturers have dipped their feet into the UHD pool. Earlier this year, Netflix became the first streaming service to offer some of its programming in 4K, later announcing increased prices for 4K because of the high bandwidth demands. According to Netflix, a steady connection speed of 25Mbps is required on the user end.
4K has made its way into the Blu-ray sphere, as well. The ability to upscale Full HD to 4K resolution is a feature that a growing number of players are including to cater to videophiles eager for the arrival of actual 4K content. To this point, there's still remarkably little 4K content on Blu-ray but with industry predictions stating that 10 percent of North American households will have at least one 4K TV set by 2018, you can expect that to change rapidly.
So what impact will all of this have on you and your home theater? For one, it's going to require that you devote a lot more real estate to your TV room. How much more? As much as you can spare. When it comes to 4K, images become more clearly defined the bigger the screen is.
Next, expect to re-invest in all your favorite movies. Just as DVDs were replaced by Blu-ray discs, the arrival of 4K-mastered Blu-ray discs will surely create the need to go on yet another buying spree. Even with 4K upscaling becoming more widely available on 3D Blu-ray players, it's an imperfect technology that creates more pixels but doesn't drastically improve picture quality in the manner that a 4K-mastered disc does.
You're also going to need a faster, more stable broadband connection. As we stated earlier, bandwidth demands will require steady connection speeds of 25Mbps to adequately deliver the ultra-high def picture into your home and the more streaming movie services follow the lead set by Netflix by offering 4K video, the more widespread that need will become.
Last but not least, you'll probably also want to invest in a bigger comfy chair, all the better to keep you cozy for all the additional hours you'll likely spend planted in the midst of your home theater, immersing yourself in 3D worlds that come through in such crisp clarity you could swear you're actually there.
If all of this reads like the start of an uber-expensive holiday wish list, keep in mind the fact that technology costs invariably drop over time. In the last two years, prices for 4K TVs have dropped worldwide by 85 percent. At the rate things are going, it may only be a matter of time before having a 4K home theater becomes an affordable dream.