What is 4K upscaling and how does it improve football?

Want BBC One HD and Sky Sports HD to look even better? They will with upscaling on a 4K TV…

Watching football

4K UHD TVs offer 4 times the picture resolution of an HD television yet when it comes to content they work in a very similar way. To watch content in proper HD you had to match your HD telly to a high-definition source – for example Sky Sports HD, BBC One HD or Blu-ray.

And it’s the same for 4K UHD TVs. To get the full benefit you have to have a 4K source. This is known as native 4K content. 

There’s plenty of that around – from Netflix and Amazon to Ultra HD Blu-ray, Sky Sports and Sky Cinema (through Sky Q). But terrestrial TV has yet to launch 4K broadcasts – though the BBC has been experimenting with 4K through Planet Earth II and the iPlayer. This means you’ll often be watching standard or high-definition content through your 4K UHD TV. This is where upscaling comes in.


What is 4K upscaling?

Put simply, it takes a regular broadcast or recording and makes it look better.

So if you watch BBC One on an HD TV and then on a 4K UHD TV you’ll notice an improvement – even though the source isn’t native 4K.Watching football

Most 4K TVs have an upscaling engine inside them that makes the magic happen. Not all TVs feature upscaling engines. But models from Samsung, Sony, LG and Panasonic do.

The more expensive the TV, the better it is at upscaling – as a general rule of thumb. Reviewers say premium Sony and Samsung TVs have excellent upscaling.


Why does it work best with high-definition content?

4K UHD TVs are made up of heaps more pixels than Full HD tellies – over 8 million compared to the 2 million of HD sets. This equates to 1080p for HD tellies and 2160p for 4K TVs.

This gap means there’s more screen space to fill when watching HD content on a 4K TV. Upscaling takes that HD image and makes it bigger. You’ll enjoy the best results with upscaling when watching HD channels or Blu-rays on your 4K UHD TV.

Programmes broadcast in standard definition (SD) are lower resolution than HD – 720p compared with 1080p. Because HD has more pixels than SD, there’s less work for the upscaling engine to do.

So when you’re watching BBC One HD, ITV HD and any of the Sky HD channels, you’ll get a better picture with your 4K TV.

This also counts the same for watching regular Blu-ray, though new Ultra HD Blu-ray has now launched with proper 4K discs.


How does this relate to football?

Once the new season gets underway in August, highlights of top-flight football matches will be shown on BBC One, with European highlights on ITV.Football

If you have access to HD channels through your TV’s built-in Freeview, set-top box or Sky box, you’ll be able to get BBC One HD and ITV HD – the high-definition versions of those terrestrial channels. 

So you can watch football highlights on your 4K TV with upscaling making them sharper than they would be on your regular HD television. 

It’s also worth pointing out that Sky Sports and BT Sport Ultra HD will be broadcasting top-flight matches throughout the 2017/18 season in proper native 4K.

Find out how to get Sky in 4K

Want the 4K match day experience? Find the right 4K TV for you