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Just What is 4K and Should I Care?

While everyone knows that 4K is one of the highest resolution standards available for home video consumption, not many know just precisely what 4K really means. In short, 4K resolution refers to the approximated horizontal count of pixels (~4000) in any given display (television, computer monitor, projector, etc.).

ARGH! Why Does My Television or Display Only Have 3820 Horizontal Pixels?!

Many people have asked this question at their local Best Buy or other home theater equipment retailer. While yes, the standard terminology for the technology is “4K”, this is often just an approximate and rounded-off count of pixels. Many (read as MOST) displays have a horizontal pixel count of 3840 pixels (and a vertical count of 2160 pixels) This resolution scale is often referred to as 2160p as well.

What Does 2160p Mean?

2160p, or 2160 progressive scan, refers to both the vertical count of pixels and the method in which the image is “painted” onto the display. With a progressive scan display, the screen “paints” the picture (as a whole object) every 1/60 seconds.

However, progressive scan is not the only way a display can “paint” the image on itself. The second most common type of scan technology is called an interlaced scan. With interlace scan displays, the picture is sequentially painted onto the display one horizontal line at a time (think those older cathode-ray tube television sets).

Should I Care About 4K in Home Video?

The short answer here is: YES! YES! 1000x’s YES!

The more complicated answer is: yes, but it kind of depends on your situation. This chart below shows just precisely what size display the average person (person with average eyes with or without corrective lenses) should purchase based on how far away they will be able to sit from the set:

Chart depicting resolution versus view distance

As you can see from the chart above from http://carltonbale.com, not every situation is ideal for 4K. However, there are other benefits to many 4K displays that, in our opinion here at That AV Dude, are in-fact greater than upping your resolution.

Resolution is Not the End of the Story

Just because you may not benefit from the uptick in resolution from 1080p (2K) to 2160p (4K), there are several other benefits to upgrading your display to a more modern one. Some of the most common and influential benefits to upgrading to a premium 4K television or other display type include:

What About 4K for Gaming?

4K gaming on a PC

This is a slightly more complicated question that “is 4k worth it for home theater?”. When it comes to Gaming in 2160p (4K), the sheer number of pixels that need to be rendered frame by frame and in real-time can be a staggering task for GPUs (Graphics Processing Unit) to tackle.

That being said, however, doesn’t mean that Gaming in 4K is impossible or impractical. Both the Microsoft Xbox 1 X and the Sony PS4 Pro support native and upscaled 4K and HDR Gaming (depending on whether the game has those features baked into its code or not).  But for those that like to play their games on a dedicated Windows or Apple computer will have to spend a large amount of extra money on the hardware needed to render those crispy 2160p graphics.

So, is 4K worth it for playing video games? We here at That AV Dude say YES! Even at the increased price point for the necessary hardware, 4K and HDR Gaming is really one of the best experiences you can hope for as far as video game graphics are concerned.

Let’s Wrap Up…

So, to wrap things up in a nice and neat little package (well, it’s a list, but you get what we’re saying):

  • When something says it has “4K resolution” it is referring to the approximated horizontal count of pixels on the display
  • Sometimes 4K is referred to as 2160p
  • 4K is 100% worth the investment for home theater and films
  • 4K is 100% worth the investment for Gaming (if you can afford the steep pricepoint)

Have any questions or opinions not expressed in this post? Feel free to leave a comment below!

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