Previously I wrote about 4K technology for Business 2 Community. Unfortunately, I assumed that everyone was aware of the technology and how it was going to be the next “big thing” in television. After writing the piece in early April, friends and family began emailing me asking for more information. It was then that I realized 4K is not as known as I though and as such, I thought I would get a little more in depth for those looking to invest in 4K technology.

4K is not actually 4K:

The term 4K comes from the movie industry. Theatres play movies in approximately 4000 x 2000 pixels, earning it the name 4K. 4K television is actually a little bit smaller than the 4000 pixels used in theatres and comes in at 3840 x 2160. Although it’s just short of movie theater quality, the term 4K has still been adapted by the industry by both manufacturers and retailers of 4K televisions.

TV Resolution Chart

The real name for 4K is “ultra-high definition.” If you are familiar with HD technology (I think I can assume on this one), think of ultra HD as going just a step further. A standard 1080p HD television has 8,000 pixels less than 4K. As television is clearer depending on the number of pixels (1080p is clearer than 720p and so on), it stands to say that 4K is clearer than standard HD.

It’s absolutely the latest and greatest:

4K technology has only been around for the last few years, with more and more television manufacturers starting to offer it as part of their television lineups. “4K has been around commercially since about 2010 before it hit the consumer market around mid-2013,” said Richard Li, founder of website 4K.com. “Although 4K is relatively new, people are still upgrading once they see the quality difference,” added Li.

Geoffrey Morrison ran a piece in cNet in 2013, stating that ultra HD 4k TVs were “stupid.” Morrison cites the price versus the benefit (“bang for your buck”). “The flood of TVs with higher resolution than 1090p is inevitable, but at typical TV sizes, quadruple the pixels makes no difference in picture quality and are not worth the extra price,” wrote Morrison. His argument is compelling, but thanks to market fluctuation, prices of 4K television are now resembling those of 1080p a few years ago.

“Prices of new technology are always high,” added Li. “Once the market adjusts, prices of newer technology become more affordable for consumers and the market correction allows for a steady flow of purchases on the consumer end.” Li’s website 4K.com tracks pricing of 4K technology and also reviews various manufacturers and retailers of the technology. It also covers everything newsworthy about 4K and is distributed by Google News.

Is it better than 1080p?

Being better is not always, well…..better. Based on resolution, 4K tops 1080p, but is spending money so soon after upgrading to 1080p worth it? “It all depends on what you like to watch,” said Ben Thompson, a sales manager from Best Buy in Kalamazoo. “Many people who buy 4K are those who are familiar with the technology and come here specifically to buy a 4K TV. Many people cannot see the benefit in it as they have no experience with it.” Thompson make a great point as many consumers base purchases from experience. For example, someone visiting a friend who purchased a brand new 1080p television is likely to purchase the same or similar product if they are in the market for a television. As 4K is not yet in abundance in homes throughout the United States, many consumers have not experienced the quality difference in person except for in retail locations such as Best Buy.

According to 4K.com, programming in ultra-high definition is limited but growing. Amazon, Netflix, and even YouTube have streaming services that offer 4K content and manufacturers such as Sony are entering the market to bring customers more 4K content. What it comes down to is if you are willing to upgrade today for content that may not be fully realized until tomorrow. Programming is constantly changing according to Li. “While Amazon and Netflix have more HD content than 4K content, their offerings are growing by leaps and bounds. Netflix was the first to stream in 4K and many of its television series such as “House of Cards” are now available in 4K.”

So, yes, 4K is better than 1080p, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it is worth it to upgrade unless you want to watch clearer television than HD. It comes down to how you view television programming and what size television you have. If you are a tech person who already streams your television services from Netflix or similar companies, then 4K may be something to look into.

Pricing of 4K:

I previously touched on pricing coming down for 4K technology. However, what exactly is “down?” Once of the most expensive 4K televisions available on the market is the Samsung UN105S9. It has a 105 inch screen and comes in just shy of $120,000 but don’t let that discourage you. Joseph Palenchar from Twice.com reported pricing for Samsung 4K televisions for April 2015 ranging anywhere from $949 to $9,999 depending on curvature and screen size. While not rated the best brand, 4K.com lists the Seiki 55” as one of the most affordable 4K televisions out there, coming in between $699 and $939.

While 4K technology is newer, consumers need to start embracing it. With the prices of the technology starting to mirror that of 1080p, it make sense to upgrade if looking to purchase a new television. Despite programming being limited at the moment, providers are rapidly expanding their offerings and making 4K a desirable and affordable part of the future of television.