The carousel of new TV technology seems to be never-ending. The latest iteration in the “best and brightest” in TV technology is 4K. This is a step up over the full high definition 1080p televisions that have been dominating the marketplace for a few years. The new 4K technology is sometimes referred to as Ultra High Definition (or UHD). In general, the consensus is that 4K is a much snappier name and most TV manufacturers stick with that for marketing purposes.

What is 4K?

Obviously, you know that 4K is better than the old 1080p resolution, but what exactly is it? For the most part, the main delineation between 4K TVs and 1080p TVs is the amount of pixels. In total, there are about 8 million more pixels on 4K sets than there are on 1080p sets. This allows for more information, richer textures, and brighter colors to be conveyed to the viewer.

The term “4K” actually comes from the cinema world. Movie theaters often display images in 4096 x 2160 resolution. You can think of it as being 4,000 pixels high and 2,000 pixels wide. 4K televisions, however, have a resolution of 3840 x 2160. So, they don’t quite attain the marker of 4,000 pixels, but 4K rolls off the tongue a bit easier than 3.84K.

Is It Worth It?

Perhaps the most salient question in the 4K versus 1080p debate is “how much better is 4K than previous generations?” We should start this off by saying that 4K is definitively the wave of the future. It is not going to be some passing fad like 3D TV, and it will be here for years to come.

That being said, if you’re looking for content that uses 4K technology, then you may be disappointed (at least for right now). Netflix and Amazon have started streaming select movies and television shows in 4K, and the best way to experience those streams is with a 4K TV. Even so, broadcast television is lagging behind when it comes to 4K technology. In fact, some networks—like ESPN, ABC, and Fox—still broadcast in 720p resolution. It may be more than 5 years before television catches up to the 4K wave.

On top of that, if you really want to experience everything 4K has to offer, then you’re going to have to sit between 37 and 75 inches (or roughly between 3 feet and 6 feet) away from the screen. The human eye is generally incapable of discerning the slight differences in resolution at distances that are farther away. Most people enjoy watching television at an average of 10 feet from the screen. The difference between a 4K screen and a 1080p screen at 10 feet is negligible.

Why You May Want to Invest in 4K

As noted previously, 4K technology isn’t a passing fad, and broadcasters, streaming services, and home media (Blu-ray players in particular) are going to catch up eventually. Content that plays at a 720p or 1080p resolution will still look better on a 4K television, especially if you sit within 6 feet of the screen.

Beyond that, prices are dropping rapidly. Vizio and TCL currently offer 50-inch 4K TVs for $1,000. Seiki has a model that will run you $1,500. Smaller screen sizes cost as low as $500. By 2016, 4K televisions are expected to be as affordable as current generation TVs. This is particularly impressive considering that when 4K TVs first hit the market in 2012, there were models selling for as much as $25,000.

As you might expect, 4K televisions are also on the cutting edge of other TV technologies. Samsung and Panasonic have the unique High Dynamic Range (HDR) imaging on some of their 4K models. Samsung, LG, and Vizio all have models that feature edge-lit LED backlighting for brighter and richer colors. Localized LED dimming is also standard on many 4K models.

If you’re looking to get ahead of the game, then purchasing a 4K model now might be a good invest. Over the course of the next year or two, however, prices will start to drop drastically, and sales are expected to skyrocket. Expect companies like Panasonic, LG, Sony, Samsung, Vizio, and dozens of others to report hefty profit margins associated with their 4K TVs in the near future.