What is 4K TV?

4K UHD TVs are getting more affordable – and there’s loads of content to watch on them – including football. But what does 4K UHD mean? We explain its benefits (and leave out the techy jargon)…

4K Ultra HD TVs are fast replacing HD models as the TV of choice in our living rooms.

Not only do they offer amazing picture quality, they’re becoming more affordable – with increasing amounts of content, and different screen size options.

If you’re wondering which TV to buy, 4K UHD TVs are fast becoming the norm, but what exactly is 4K UHD? And how will it make watching TV more enjoyable?

How does 4K TV work?

Resolution is key when it comes to picture quality. It tells you how many pixels make up your TV’s picture. More pixels mean a sharper, more realistic image.

4K TVs have 4 times the resolution of Full HD sets, with more than 8 million pixels compared to 2 million on a Full HD set.


How will it look better than my HD TV?

Your picture will be packed with detail and have more depth on a 4K TV, compared to your Full HD set. It’ll be much sharper too, and have a wider range of colours.

High dynamic range, also known as HDR, features on many of the latest 4K UHD TVs. This gives you better contrast – brighter whites, deeper blacks and more vibrant colours. What is HDR TV?


What can I watch on my 4K TV?

Invest in a 4K model now and you’ll have a TV that’s future-proofed for years to come. With more providers and film makers getting on board with the technology, there’s already plenty of content for you to watch – with more on the way.

To get the full 4K experience, you need to combine your 4K TV with content recorded or mastered in the resolution.

Some of the 4K content available right now includes 4K streaming at Netflix and top-flight football in super-sharp UHD at BT Sport Ultra HD. To find out more, read our full guide - What can I watch on my 4K TV?

2016 also heralds the arrival of proper 4K Blu-ray, with Ultra HD Blu-ray players and special 4K discs becoming available. The first Ultra HD Blu-ray movies revealed

What about when I’m watching non-4K content?

One of the great things about 4K is that anything you watch on your TV will look better, even if it’s in HD (1080p). 

That’s because your 4K TV will upscale it to be much sharper thanks to a built-in processing engine. So you’ll still get greater depth and more vibrant colours.

Tip: It’s worth investing in a more expensive TV with a better processing engine if you want better upscaling.


What to look for when buying a 4K TV

There are a few things to think about to get the best setup for watching 4K:

  • Netflix-friendly – Netflix and Amazon stream content in 4K using the HEVC (High Efficiency Video Coding) compression format, so your TV will need to have a HEVC decoder to play this content.
  • Internet connected – to stream content from Netflix you’ll also need your TV to be connected to the web. Go for a 4K TV that’s already Smart, or use a 4K-enabled streaming device to cast content from your phone, laptop or tablet.
  • HDMI 2.0 – connect your TV to an Ultra HD Blu-ray player by making sure it has the HDMI 2 connection port. 


What is Ultra HD premium?

High-end 4K Ultra HD TVs from 2016 onwards will have an Ultra HD Premium sticker to show they meet certain criteria.

They include minimum requirements for resolution, colour bit depth, colour gamut (the range of colours it can show) and high dynamic range (HDR).

The idea is if you see an Ultra HD Premium logo on a TV, you know it’s future-proofed to give you the best possible 4K experience

The standards were created by the UHD Alliance - a group made up of names like Samsung, LG, Panasonic, Netflix, Walt Disney and 20th Century Fox.

 4K resolution

Is now a good time to buy a 4K UHD TV?

There’s not been a better time to buy a 4K UHD TV – says our large screen TV buyer, Daler Bhaker.

‘You have more choice, the prices are coming down,’ he explains.

You can now buy a 4K UHD TV for under £400, with 40-inch screen sizes available for smaller rooms, for example.

‘If you buy a 4K TV today you’re only going to reap the benefits more and more as time goes on and more content becomes available,’ says Daler.

And with the likes of LG, Samsung, Sony and Panasonic all getting on board with their own 4K ranges, you know you’ll be buying into the future of TV technology

Find the right 4K TV for you