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  • Author Joe Cox
  • Published May 15, 2013

Ultra HD untangled

It’s the new screen technology that’s taking viewing to the next level of clarity and resolution – but who, how and why?


Just what is this all about?
Ultra HD (also know as 4K) is the latest generation display resolution and video format, offering four times the number of pixels of existing Full HD 1080p. Available only on the top end of the very latest TVs and projectors, Ultra HD delivers the next step up in picture quality for TV and film.


Want to get technical?
The Consumer Electronics Association has defined Ultra HD displays as those capable of showing native video at a minimum resolution of 3840 x 2160. This resolution is derived from the Ultra HD resolution used in digital cinemas and movie production – which is technically 4096 x 2160.


How can I watch Ultra HD?
LG began selling the world’s first Ultra HD screen in the US in October 2012, the 84in LG 84LM9600, an LED-backlit LCD screen. The LG 84LM960V TV then went on sale in the UK – but it comes at a price. CES 2013, the world’s largest Consumer Electronics Show, saw more Ultra HD screens announced and in smaller sizes, with LG announcing 55in and 65in models at lower price points later this year.


What can I watch in Ultra HD?
Films are already shot or mastered in Ultra HD resolution, European broadcaster Eutelsat launched the first Ultra HD TV channel at the start of 2013 and the BBC are looking to film and maybe broadcast this year’s Wimbledon and the 2014 football World Cup in Ultra HD.


One question is how to deliver Ultra HD movies and films, which require more storage space, to consumers. A new compression codec called HEVC could make it possible to store films in this higher resolution on existing Blu-ray Discs. Otherwise, hard drive based delivery systems, from a hard disk to a humble USB stick, is the answer.


The latest generation of Blu-ray players and AV receivers can also upscale existing HD content to Ultra resolution, making up the extra pixels to fit an Ultra HD display. There are also ‘Mastered in 4K’ Blu-ray Discs due for release this summer, which claim to make standard Blu-ray discs look even better on Ultra HD displays.


The future may lie in streaming – Netflix already shoots House of Cards in Ultra HD and has suggested it plans to deliver 4K content within two years.


The verdict
The technology is here already, and now it’s just a matter of waiting for more TVs at a wider range of sizes and more affordable prices – plus more content to make the most of them. One thing’s for certain, the Ultra HD revolution is on the way.


Joe Cox is the online editor for whathifi.com

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