4K Ultra High Definition (4K UHD) is a revolution in resolution. It has delivered a quantum leap forward in picture quality when it comes to video projection.
But what is 4K and is it really as good as it’s cracked up to be? This guide explains the key benefits of 4K UHD and what to consider when choosing a 4K projector.
The first thing you need to know is that 4K UHD is that technically and visually it is a huge jump up from Full HD. Offering 3840 x 2160 pixels (or 4096 x 2160 in the case of DCI 4K) compared to Full HD’s 1920 x 1080, UHD images are potentially four times sharper than those you’ll see from a 1080p Full HD projector. The difference between 4K and HD is incredible; a 4K image is hyper-realistic and crisp, packed full of data and detail.
It’s obvious what the biggest benefit of 4K UHD is: picture quality! The pixel density is just remarkable; you can fill your field of vision and not see any of the image structure (actual individual pixels). This means you can sit closer, or opt for a bigger screen than you might normally do with a regular 1080p Full HD projector.
The images from a 4K projector also appear more natural than those of a 1080p device, which translates to a more relaxing and immersive visual experience. Textures and nuances that might have been missed suddenly become apparent.
Practically speaking, a good viewing distance for 4K projection is about 1.5x the screen height. This mimics the optimum seating position in a 4K commercial cinema, which is around 1.5 screen heights back.
Of course, this boost in image quality does come at a price, but when you see the corresponding jump in picture quality, it’s clear that 4K offers good value for money.
Some of the best Full HD projectors on the market almost top the £5,000 mark, so when you consider you could get your hands on a Sony native 4K projector, with four times the resolution for just a few hundred pounds more, the cost per pixel is put in perspective.
Of course, you’ll need to weigh up everything else the top of the range 1080p Full HD projectors are offering as well, but there’s no denying that 4K projectors have crept into the realm of accessibility.
If we’re talking about value for money and longevity, it’s also worth mentioning that 4K source content is rising exponentially. The latest media players and consoles are rapidly adapting to 4K with everything from Blu-Ray players to PlayStation 4 and Xbox One all catering to the format.
HD technology has been around for many years now, but now is the time for 4K to take off. So if you’re upgrading your consoles and input devices to 4K, it makes sense to upgrade consider 4K for your projector too if you want to enjoy your investment in top quality content for years to come.
So what can you watch in 4K right now? The amount of available 4K content is on the up and growing at a fast pace.
Increasingly, moviemakers are favouring 4K production and filming techniques. Blockbusters such as Oblivion, The Revenant, The Martian and the Amazing Spider-Man are just a few of the movies that have been shot in 4K recently, with many classic films now also being remastered in the format.
Here are some other places you will find 4K content readily available:
4K UHD BluRay Disc: An update to the Blu-ray format, has ushered in 4K UHD movie discs with next-generation 4K UHD BluRay players from the likes of Panasonic, Samsung and Sony now available.
Netflix: Netflix offers a subscription-based streaming 4K service but due to the huge amount of bandwidth required for 4K transmissions, the signal received is a compressed one. If your broadband speed isn't up to the minimum spec as outlined by Netflix, expect to see compression artefacts on the screen along with frequent picture dropouts and buffering.
Sky Q: Sky's SKY Q, again a subscription service whilst not quite ready for 4K broadcasting is set for a software update to their new set-top box to enable 4K UHD movies, sports and TV to be received.
Tempted by 4K projectors but can’t quite stretch to the cost? There are some 4K alternatives out there that will get you close. Ideal for those on a smaller budget looking to raise their image quality to above Full HD, these devices use upscaling to create the illusion of 4K.
Popular choices in the ‘pseudo-4K’ bracket include the Epson TW9400 projector, which uses their native HD panels in an innovative way to replicate to near a 4K resolution. These projectors secretly shift each frame of an image up or down by half a pixel which is not detectable to the naked eye but results in a seamless almost-4K image. It’s an amazing technical achievement and worth taking a look at if your budget isn’t stretching to a true, native 4K panel.
These projectors will take your image quality up a step from Full HD, but, as impressive as these pseudo options are, they’re not the real thing.
Finally, if you’re making the investment in a 4K projector, take the time to check everything else in your audiovisual setup is capable of delivering to 4K standards.
If you are adding a new 4K UHD Blu-Ray DVD player or projector to your set up the parts of the chain in between will need reviewing and possibly replacing to boost the resulting images. Pay particular attention to devices such as Audio Visual Receivers and HDMI splitters to ensure they are 4K compliant. It’s also important to ensure you have a suitable 4K projection screen in place to help elevate your images to the next level.
To take advantage of the new era of Ultra High Definition, the whole chain needs to be 4K UHD compliant. Your content, source device, cabling and display device – whether projector or TV – all need to support 4K UHD resolution and HDMI v2.0 standard. If you want to take advantage of HDR (High Dynamic Range) content then the HDMI connections on all of your kit need to be HDCP Version 2.2 (This will be labelled on the HDMI input of the device, if it is not then it's highly likely its Version 2.0 and will not support HDR)
We hope the above 4K UHD guide has given you a clear understanding of the basics in what to look out for. We understand there is a lot to take in and a lot of choices so if you still need help we're only a phone call or email away.
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