Should I buy a 4K TV? Find out if UHD is worth the extra

Be in the know when it comes to television technology.

Is 4K a waste of money?

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?


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    COMMENTS

    To make a comment, please register or login
    Rosret
    2nd Aug 2017
    1:28pm
    Of course you do. :) What are you thinking!
    ccfandango
    2nd Aug 2017
    8:55pm
    In my experience, if you only use your TV for watching TV then no a 4K TV is certainly not worth it at the moment. If you watch a lot of DVD and especially blu ray discs then it may be worthwhile but only if you have probably a 65 inch plus screen. If you do get one make sure you get one with HDR (high dynamic range) which will add increase colour depth when eventually you buy that 4K player and play 4K discs. Most good quality blu ray players will upgrade the signal to 4K anyway and viewing this on a 78 inch 4K TV is pretty good. Some older DVDs are a bit iffy but otherwise all discs are watchable. However I rarely watch regular TV on this as unless it is broadcast in high definition the picture is terrible and even high definition is not great.
    Eddy
    3rd Aug 2017
    8:43am
    I have noticed little difference between Standard and High Definition on my 50 inch TV. This may be due to my less than perfect eyesight. I often wonder what all the fuss about HD is all about, to my eyes there is little perceivable difference between HD and SD. I can understand that Ultra HD may have it's uses in medical, industrial and surveillance video to give a much cleaner picture , but for home entertainment use is probably not really much better that HD.
    ccfandango
    3rd Aug 2017
    8:57am
    On a 50 inch screen at normal viewing distances you are probably right Eddy. Hence my comment re bigger screens....you really do notice the difference on a 65 inch plus screen between SDand HD and HD and UHD especially if you view from around 2 metres of the TV. The changes to the latest 4K TVs are more around colour depth (HDR) which apparently makes a bigger difference to the picture.
    Julian
    3rd Aug 2017
    1:08pm
    Good point eddy; what's the point unless you have perfect vision. TVs have improved so much in the last decade. Tech seems to be only edging forward slightly, more so to generate income with the next gimmick we all must have but don't need.
    JohnS
    3rd Aug 2017
    9:02am
    Before I bought my 4k smart TV last December, my research made be totally agree with your article. But I bought it with a deal where it cost no more than no UHD. I then realised my previous belief as you put it was totally misguided. Its not often I get something so wrong.
    Human Eyes: Yes the human eye may not fully utilise 4K but even if it gets half way there it is a massive vision quality improvement.
    Available 4k content: Again you are right and wrong. A 4k TV usually has software to upscale lower resolution video content. I had read that it was often problemeatic. On mine it is extraordinarily better than HD and even far better than most content on regular DVDs which is SD only.
    Power: I am useing only one third of the power of my previous LED HD TV.
    My new Samsung TV was one of best purchases in years and has greatly improved my relaxation quality. I am not connected with any TV related industry or retailers. This is just a real consumer saying he was so glad to have got a 4K TV.
    But make sure you read reviews as some are not as good as others but you don't have to buy an expensive one. Mine has a drawback of not being really Smart as Samsung does not use Open Android system so I felt its Apps availability was very poor. But I already had a media box to solve that issue.


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