The number of 4K movies and shows you can watch in ultra-high definition is always increasing and if you're in the market for a new TV it should definitely be a 4K set.
You'll also see names like Ultra HD, UHD and even 4K Ultra HD being bandied about - but they all refer to the same thing. This is a TV with a resolution of 3,840 x 2,160 pixels, more than 8m pixels in total, which is four times the number in Full HD (1,920 x 1,080).
Watching 4K you'll see everything on screen in crystal-clear clarity and sumptuous detail. There's a level of detail and depth that HD sets simply cannot achieve – at times, it almost feels 3D.
You'll generally find that 4K TVs are big-screen models of 40 inches or more. This is because to really appreciate the higher picture quality you need to watch it on a large TV, as it's rather lost on a small screen.
Our highest rated 4K TVs are outstanding, and you’ll be getting a great TV if you buy one. However, bear in mind that just as with HD in its early days, we’re still a way off settling down to our evening's viewing in 4K quality.
There are some big challenges ahead before 4K is a staple of most households’ TV watching. But content is becoming more widely available, be it through broadcast TV, ultra-HD Blu-rays and internet streaming:
Since most of TVs released by the big manufacturers are 4K, they tend to make up the bulk of the top rated sets our lab uncovers, while Full HD is typically only available only on their cheaper sets. Plus, 4K TV prices continue to drop, so if you’re looking for a new TV, we’d recommend buying one with a 4K display.
But with HD still forming the bulk of content available to watch, if you’ve got an HD TV that you’re happy with, you shouldn’t feel the need to rush into replacing it.
That said, our testing has found that 4K sets are better than at displaying HD content than Full HD sets. The graph below shows that no matter the size of the TV, 4K sets have the edge in terms HD picture quality.
New technology is emerging that can compress the huge amount of data involved in 4K into forms that are easier to distribute not just on television, but also on Blu-ray discs and over the internet.
Although it took HD TV more than a decade to become a mainstream after the first HD TVs launched in 1998, we don't think it will take so long for 4K ultra HD. You certainly won't be wasting your money by going for a 4K TV, but just bear in mind that you won't swimming in 4K content just yet.