4K video has been talked about for years. It has encouraged many to go all-out and upgrade their home theater and computer systems to support the more detailed and advanced resolution. But, before hopping on the bandwagon and doing that yourself, it’s a good idea to take a step back, look at what 4K offers, and see if it’s worth it to you or not.
What is 4K Resolution?
UHD (Ultra High Definition) is the current 4K standard as far as consumer products like television and computer monitors go. It has a resolution of 3840 x 2160 and is commonly referred to as 2160p. You’ll notice that YouTube and the television industry has adopted the UHD standard, while the film and video production industry uses the DCI (Digital Cinema Initiatives) 4K resolution standard. This standard has a resolution of 4096 x 2160.
In layman’s terms, the 4K resolution produces a more detailed and higher quality picture, allowing the viewer to have a much better viewing experience than, say, 1080p.
If you’ve looked into 4K resolution at all, you’ll first notice that it’s not very common inside someones home. There are three reasons for this, with the first being that new technologies take a long time for the general public to adopt. In fact, Business Insider reports that it will actually take until 2025 for a little over half of US households to adopt the new technology. It’ll take even longer to get everyone on board, not to mention the rest of the world. There might be a reason for this, though. And that brings us to our second and third point–4K TV adoption is taking a long time because there’s hardly any content and it’s way too expensive.
Not Enough Content
Content actually filmed in 4K resolution is far and few between. As far as consumer-ready content goes right now, there are few TV shows and movies on Netflix that are available in 4K, not to mention other big players like HBO, Hulu, and so on. YouTube recently made 4K resolution available on its platform, but once again, there are very few consumer-ready videos filmed in 4K. Sure, there’s some content available, but not nearly enough to fully take advantage of a new 4K television.
Over the years it has gotten slightly better. Amazon launched a service dedicated to 4K resolution and Ultra HD movies and TV shows. It wasn’t until this year that Samsung and Panasonic launched their first 4K-compatible Blu-Ray players. Not only that, but there are very few Ultra HD or 4K Blu-Ray discs available. It will get better over the years, but for now, it’s still at a confusing stage.
With that in mind, thanks to the severe lack of 4K content, buying an all-new 4K TV isn’t attractive to those who enjoy watching a movie or TV every now and then.
The first 4K TVs launched in 2012, and as you can image, they were expensive. They still are extremely pricey. You’re looking at around $1400 or more for a decent sized 65-inch 4K TV. Some of the best 4K TVs get even more expensive than that, topping out at around $6300 from Sharp, a Japanese electronics company. It gets a little cheaper when looking at 40-inch 4K TVs, as you can usually find these for around $600, sometimes a little less online.
It goes without saying, if you’re looking for an affordable 4K TV at a decent size, you’re just not going to find it. Even four years after its initial consumer launch, 4K is an expensive technology. At those prices, it’s hard to justify a 4K TV with so little content available.
4K and Gaming
Employing 4K technology in your gaming is a great thing. Video games look phenomenal with it, though there are some pitfalls, and not all of it is with hardware. Windows in general seems to suffer from some sort of scaling issue when you start approaching around 200 pixels-per-inch (ppi). If you pick up a 30-inch 4K monitor, you shouldn’t have any problems, as the pixel density only sits at 146ppi. But, if you get a smaller, 24-inch 4K monitor, you’re looking at 184ppi. This can make a lot of things look weird on your desktop, such as icons, web pages, and so on.
Beyond that, there’s a big issue with refresh rates. 60Hz has always been a great refresh rate, but unfortunately, a 4K monitor is a whole lot more demanding. That said, many will recommend finding a refresh rate of 120Hz or even 30Hz, but at that lower resolution, you’ll never see anything above 30 frames per second. This problem isn’t nearly as bad as the first, as manufacturers are starting to implement technology that makes 4K monitors and a 60Hz refresh rate mesh a whole lot better than before (less of a demand, better performance, etc).
Now, a good 4K monitor can cost you upwards of $1000, but you’ll also need a GPU with a lot of video memory that can handle the demands of 4K. Two NVIDIA 780 GTX Ti’s will do you just fine for most games if you’re looking at a cost effective solution, but your best bet is heading for a pair of NVIDIA GTX Titans. However, you’ll be looking at laying out almost $2000 for those GPUs, not to even mention the possibility that your current hardware setup might not be able to handle those GPUs.
All in all, you’re looking at around $3,000 for a 4K setup, possibly more if you need to build a whole new PC. Is it worth it? It highly depends how dedicated to gaming you are. One thing’s for sure, it’s quite an investment and one that not everyone can make.
4K resolution is an amazing technology. Some would argue that it’s not worth it, showing numbers and different scientific-based reasons why 4K doesn’t make sense, but it really is a neat technology. And it’ll be interesting to see how TVs and Blu-Ray develop in the future. Unfortunately, right now it’s just too expensive with little reward involved.
We’ll eventually get to the point where 4K TV becomes the “norm,” but that time isn’t right now. Right now, 4K TV is a big technology enthusiast thing, and hopefully that will change as the technology gets cheaper and more content is offered down the line.