What Is 4K TV?

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Though 4K TV may sound like the newest droid, this next-gen technology does not reside in a galaxy far, far away. In fact, 4K TVs are currently landing in homes across the country. Here’s what you need to know about this cutting-edge technology before you decide to buy.

What is it?
At its most basic, 4K means the screens of 4K TVs have four times the number of pixels (the points that make up a digital image) than current 1080p TVs. In other words, every pixel from a 1080p set would fit into one-quarter of a 4K (2160p) screen.

This technology isn’t limited to TV and the big screen. It’s being used with anything that displays images or records video — from cameras, smartphones, and tablets to computer monitors and PC games.

Why does it matter?
More pixels mean sharper, clearer images. A 4K screen reveals more image detail and nuance, which translates into a super-cool viewing experience. Put simply, the higher-resolution images of 4K are simply better. For example, when digital pics are viewed on a 4K TV with Ultra High Definition JPEG playback, they appear with four times the image information, making that vacation picture worth a lot more than a 1,000 words.

In addition, the increased pixel density of 4K allows you to get much closer to the screen without seeing the grid-like structure of an image. This means you can comfortably watch a much larger screen from the same seating position as your current HDTV.

What can I watch?
In order to see the eye-popping 4K image difference, you have to watch 4K content — the amount of which is quickly increasing. Providers like Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, PlayStation Video, DIRECTV, MGo, and others already offer a variety of 4K programming with plans for more. You can also still watch all the same programming you do now. These sets use a process called upscaling (or upconverting) to ensure that regular high-def content fits the screen. So no worries there.

Do I really need 4K TV?
Many major TV manufacturers already offer 4K TVs and 1080p TVs are being phased out. If you’re in the market for a new TV that will be high-tech for years to come, the 4K is your best bet for a set that won’t become obsolete anytime soon. Just keep in mind that 4K content is a work in progress.