1080 HD vs. 4K UHD: Is There a Difference?

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Distance is also part of the equation. Right now, you are probably reading this article on a screen. Bring the screen close to your eyes and you may be able to make out individual pixels. If you do this on a standard HD flat screen TV, you can definitely see individual pixels. Pixels are less apparent on a UHD TV, even up close. Do you sit a few feet away from your TV? Probably not. Unless you have unusual viewing habits, UHD is superfluous.

The best thing you can do is to go to the local appliance or big box store and look at the TVs. This is how I bought my first HD TV. It’s not all about marketed specs. Modern TVs are computers, and like computers, processing power is important. You will rarely learn details such as a flat screen TVs processing power or what operating system it runs (usually Linux). You can still gauge a TVs processing power by comparing it to other TVs in the showroom. Make sure they are playing the same program, so you can compare. Cheaper TVs will exhibit visual artifacts and motion trails. This is because they simply don’t have enough processing power to produce the best image.

I came to the conclusion that HD and UHD are not very different by looking at HD vs. UHD models. My local Costco store had an HD and UHD model, side by side, playing the same program in both formats. I was surprised that I just couldn’t see much of a difference, even close up on 60″ screens. That’s because the human eye can only perceive a finite level of detail. UHD has four times as many pixels as HD, yet you probably won’t notice much of a difference. See for yourself!

UHD Uses More Bandwidth, Processing Power and Electricity

What’s the harm in buying a UHD TV? They’re really inexpensive, and even if one can’t tell the difference, it is better. There’s no disputing the fact that, in terms of specifications, UHD trumps HD. It simply offers much greater resolution. But this comes at a cost. It takes more bandwidth, processing power and electricity to deliver UHD content.

If you have a UHD TV, you may notice that there’s not a lot of content. This is because most television programs were not produced using UHD cameras. It’s starting to change, but there still isn’t a wealth of programming produced in UHD. What does exist takes up a lot of bandwidth when streaming, which is the main delivery mechanism for UHD content. On Netflix, UHD content uses up 5 times as much bandwidth as HD. An HD Netflix stream requires 5 Mbps, while the UHD version needs 25 Mbps. That’s a lot of bandwidth, and not everyone has it. Even if you do, you can’t multitask. If one family member watches something in UHD, it will choke off bandwidth for the rest of the household.

Netflix also charges more for a UHD subscription. After all, they have to stream 25 Mbps of data from their servers, for each UHD program. In general, UHD content costs more than HD, but most people can’t tell the difference.

Bandwidth isn’t the only resource hogged by UHD. The technology requires much more processing power, both in the TV appliance (streaming device) and television. Increases in processing power tend to use more energy. Even your WiFi router will be using more energy to steadily stream 25 Mbps of data for hours. (continue…)

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