If you’re in the market for a new TV then that’s great! Technology is moving at a tremendous speed, so it’s a great time to buy. Unfortunately, most new televisions are packed with features that you might have little use for.
To make sure you don’t pay extra for something you don’t really want or need, I’m going to define a few terms to help you understand the jargon salespeople might use.
Resolution: this is the amount of coloured dots on your screen that, combined, produce an image. Resolution is measured in pixels(p), each pixel has the ability to create a colour and the more of them there are, the more information your TV can display.
Standard definition television is broadcast at a resolution of 704 x 576p, meaning that there are around 700 dots from left to right, and around 600 from top to bottom.
Full or high definition television is broadcast at either 1280 x 720p or 1920 x 1080p.
4K or Ultra High Definition (UHD): the hottest marketing tool in televisions at the moment is 4K/UHD. This is an even larger quantity of pixels than Full HD. UHD is 3840 x 2160p, or about four times the resolution of Full HD.
So ultra high definition sounds great right? Better quality is good news.
But where can you get this better quality content? Not as many places as you would expect.
While some other countries have already started broadcasting special events in UHD, Australia is behind the curve with not a single broadcaster announcing any solid plans to broadcast UHD content.
You will find a limited amount of feature films and documentaries for sale in ultra high definition at JB Hi-Fi and similar stores. New release titles retail for around $40 and on top of that you will need a special 4K/UHD Blu-ray player to play them (retail prices for these start at $400).
You will also find some 4K content available online. Netflix and Stan both offer ultra high definition on selected content.
Of course, you’ll need to be a premium subscriber to access this content.
On top of that you’ll need a download speed of 25 megabits per second (an expensive NBN plan) and each hour of content will use around 7GB of data per hour (so you’ll need unlimited downloads).
Sounds complicated and expensive right? It is.
But it’s worth it for the picture quality isn’t it? That’s for you to decide, but in my opinion (remember I’m not getting a juicy commission on that sale) it isn’t.
When you’re in the store standing a few inches away from a shiny 4K UHD TV, it can make high definition look like a cave painting.
But when you get home and sit down a few metres away from the TV, your eyes probably won’t be able to tell the difference. Here’s a note on visual acuity that explains why.
And if you don’t believe me, think about how great the image quality is at the cinemas. Would you be surprised if I told you that most cinemas use high definition rather than ultra high definition?
On top of that, UHD televisions use around 30 per cent more electricity than HD versions. The costs keep adding up, but the rewards are minimal.
There will be a day in the near future when ultra high definition or 4K content is as ubiquitous as high definition content is today. But without any idea when that date is coming, buying a UHD TV at the moment is a gamble and the only guaranteed winners are the electronics stores.
Do you own a 4K UHD TV or do you know anyone that does? What do you think about the picture quality?