4K: you see them in all the store that carry TVs Everyone wants it and no one knows why. It's the hottest techy buzzword of 2015, and it's a technology that's rewriting the rulebook when it comes to image quality.
It affects not just the world of 4K TV and cinema, but also cameras and image capture, smartphones and tablets, computer monitors and PC games - practically anything that displays images or records video.
4K TV sets are now available from most of the major TV manufacturers - i.e. Sony's impossibly slim Android TV or Samsung's SUHD series of TVs - but they're merely the tip of a very cool technology iceberg.
But before we get ahead of ourselves, let's make sure we all understand the basics. What the heck is 4K and why should you care?
What do I need to know about 4K?
In a minute we're going to explain precisely how 4K is defined, how it works and why you should care, but to tell you the truth, you only need to know one thing about it: 4K means more pixels.
How many more pixels are we talking about?
About 8 million. Which is around four times what your current 1080p set can display. Think of your TV like a grid, with rows and columns. A full HD 1080p image is 1080 rows high and 1920 columns wide. A 4K image approximately doubles both those numbers, yielding approximately 4 times as many pixels total. To put it another way, you could fit every pixel from your 1080p set onto one quarter of a 4K screen.
Why is it called 4K?
Because the images are around 4,000 pixels wide. And before you ask, yes, the industry named 1080 resolution after image height, but named 4K after image width. For extra added fun, you also might hear this resolution referred to as 2160p. Welcome to the future. It's confusing here.
Do all those extra pixels matter?
They matter very much. More pixels means more information. More information means sharper pictures. Sharper pictures are more engaging. More engaging content is more fun. And fun... well fun is the thing, isn't it?
So I'll see a huge difference?
That's where it gets sticky. We're talking about a similar jump in resolution as the one from SD (480 lines high) to HD (1080 lines high). And 4K screens are noticeably sharper than 1080p screens. But there are a few reasons you might not feel the same thrill you did when you upgraded your old CRT to a flatscreen.
When most people went from a 480 to a 1080p set, there was a good chance they were making a big jump in TV size as well. In terms of wow factor, display size is more powerful than any resolution jump could ever hope to be. Last time around most people got big jumps to both screen size and resolution. But this time screen sizes are staying about the same, with the most popular models falling in the 40 inch to 70 inch range.