“Ultra HD” 4K televisions have been on the market for a few months now, and with the promise of better picture quality at a higher screen resolution, what isn’t to find attractive about these sets? Regrettably, TVs have become increasingly more gimmicky over the past few years. 3D TVs and curved TVs have made their way to stores fairly recently, with both their worth and practicality coming under question. So, with the introduction of 4K televisions, one might be wondering: are they worth the purchase?
Rest assured: these products are not gimmicks like their 3D and curved brothers. 4K televisions are capable of displaying resolutions higher than what is currently known as “full HD”—1080p. By cramming a larger number of pixels in a smaller area, 4K televisions are able to achieve pixel density four times higher than a regular, “full HD” screen. These types of displays are already commonplace in many mobile devices and laptops. Unfortunately, the usefulness of these screens is debatable.
With a smaller device, such as a smart phone or tablet, these “Ultra HD” displays provide a very noticeable boost in picture quality simply because they are typically used closer to one’s eyes. With televisions, people usually sit a few feet away from their screen, making any perceivable upgrade in quality imperceptible. For someone to even notice the resolution of a 4K television from a usual viewing distance, they would need a TV over 80 inches big. While yes, those who own “Ultra HD” sets can simply sit closer to their screens, doing so would be impractical – these televisions are huge, and bigger TVs take up more of a person’s field of vision. Who’s going to want to watch a movie three feet away from their 84-inch 4K TV? It would have the same effect as sitting in the front row of a movie theater, and let me tell you: that’s an awful, awful experience. I wouldn’t wish it on even my worst enemy.
Another issue with 4K televisions is the amount of media content currently available for them, although this is a problem that will resolve itself over time. While some services such as YouTube and a few lesser-known streaming sites offer content in 4K, not many have embraced the higher resolution yet. Amazon Prime, Netflix and Hulu have all yet to fully tackle 4K content, with just a few Netflix and Amazon-exclusive shows available in 4K (and you’ll have to pay more for them). There are also currently no cable services that offer 4K-quality channels. Additionally, 4K content has yet to be offered in physical form: you won’t find any 4K Blu-Rays at the moment, but that should change fairly soon. HD TVs encountered this same issue when they first arrived on the scene, and it took a few years for high definition content to start rolling out in droves.
If you plan on streaming 4K media, you’ll naturally need a faster Internet connection for seamless, high-quality playback. If you’re barely streaming movies and shows at 1080p without buffering now, then you can forget about having a pleasant experience in 4K. It goes without saying that a faster Internet plan is going to cost you more, and it may not be worth it to dish out a ton of money per month simply to watch content in a slightly-noticeable, prettier resolution.
So, if you’re thinking about heading down to Best Buy and picking up one of those gorgeous, new 4K televisions, perhaps it’s best you wait – at least until content is more widespread and readily available. Unless you plan on just watching a handful of “Ultra HD” YouTube videos or streaming a select few Netflix shows, your money will probably be better spent elsewhere.
If you’re desperate for a new TV right away, you’re better off simply picking up a nice 1080p display. Not only will it be cheaper, but you’ll be able to bide time for when 4K TVs have hit their stride and have become significantly cheaper – probably in a few years. Until then, you’ll be left with an expensive screen with little to no application. But, hey, at least you’ll have an impressive status symbol on display for when your friends come over! That’s worth something, right? Right.