Jan 16, 2015

4K, 8K, LED, OLED, HD, UHD

There are a number of confusing TV terms being thrown around these days to catch our attention and drive us to toss out our relatively new flat screen TVs. I decided to decode a few of the terms so we can make an informed decision - and then rush out to buy something to get the 'first on the block' medal.

4K has about eight million pixels which equates to about four times more than a current 1080p TV. Think of your TV like a grid, with rows and columns. A full HD 1080p image is 1080 rows high and 1920 columns wide. A 4K image almost doubles both those numbers, so you could fit every pixel from your 1080p set onto one quarter of a 4K screen. Recent 4K TVs are the same thickness as a smart phone, less than two tenths of an inch thick.

Since 4K contains four times the information of High Definition (HD or FHD), someone came up with the name Ultra High Definition (UHD). The bad news is the Internet providers have not opened up the pipes enough, so many 4K users see a lag time (that frustrating spinning circle) when watching 4K content. Netflix and Amazon currently charge more for delivering 4K content.

Currently, 1080 resolution comes from the image height, while 4K (3840 x 2160) is derived from image width. If it was described the same way as now, 4K would be 2160p. Seems that was not enough of a difference to command the increased price so they changed the definition to make it seem better to the uninitiated.

8K (7680  x 4320) basically doubles the pixel height and width of 4K to about 32 million pixels. The 8K standard is currently for exhibitions and movie theaters. Since 4K will not become the norm for a few more years, 8K is many years away from the home market.

LED comes from Light Emitting Diode. LED TVs are really LCD TVs, but the difference is how the screen is lit. Traditional LCD TVs use florescent backlights, LED TVs use smaller, more energy-efficient LEDs. LED screens produce great color, but the brightness of the lights can also wash out blacks on the screen.

OLED or Organic Light Emitting Diodes have been around for years, but producing big screens using this technology has proven to be prohibitively expensive until lately. The OLED elements generate their own light so the technology is stunning, with vibrant colors, deep blacks, and bright whites.

3D TV continues to die a slow death, even though some manufacturers are still trying to convince us we need it. Think of 3D as Three Times Dead.

Bottom line, OLED is better than LED, 4K is amazing when you can see 4K content, both 4K and 8K are Ultra High Definition (UHD), both cost twice as much or more than HD, both require faster internet to be useful. Since there is little 4K and no 8K content, people who buy theses TVs are stuck explaining the picture deficiency and Ultra High Cost to guests. When content arrives, these TVs will be awesome and, by then, the price will be much more affordable. Last thing, when it comes to TVs, bigger is better, OLED is much better, 4K is awesome, but too expensive, for now.