What is 4K resolution?

In a nutshell, 4K refers to approximately 4 times the maximum resolution of current high-definition (HD) displays. Today’s hi-def displays top out at 1080 x 1920 pixels of resolution, often referred to as “1080P”. At this time, there’s no agreed upon standardized definition of 4K (therefore the “approximately” 4x resolution). The HDMI organization (the people who set the specs for the popular HDMI audio/video cable in use today) recently added two of the 4K formats to its latest specification: “Quad HD” (3840 x 2160 pixels) and 4K/2K, also called 4K x 2K (4096 x 2160 pixels). Quad HD matches the 16:9 ratio (screen shape) of modern television screens.

The graphic here shows proportionally the amount of picture information in various formats. You can quickly see how much more picture information there is with the “4K” formats.

Four times the resolution sounds amazing, and it does provide the clearest details we’ve ever seen, but for most people this doesn’t really become noticeable unless you’re either sitting very close to the screen or if your screen is very large (more than 80″). For the average media room, the higher resolution offered by 4K won’t make much difference at usual seating distances. But, if you have or are designing a high-end Home Theater and you want to have the same experience offered in the best digital cinemas, 4K resolution is the answer…kind of…

The current 4K dilemma (for now):

The key issue with 4K for now is lack of content. Sony has more than sixty features that were shot natively in 4K, and even more films that have been converted after the fact, but you can’t buy them today. Blu-ray discs don’t currently hold enough data, but studios are in talks with the Blu-ray Disc Association to offer them—most likely in the next year. Streaming, which could be another option, is probably farther in the future because most homes simply don’t have fast enough Internet access. Even though the means for delivering 4K resolution movies is still in development, your current Blu-ray movies can look amazing on a 4K home theater system.

This is due to a technology called “upsampling”, where the video display ‘resizes’ the video signal’s resolution to fill up the 4K display’s pixels. It interpolates the missing information, and when done right, the result is impressive. Again, the difference is mainly noticeable if you sit close to the screen.

As it exists today, the 4K experience is not very different from current HD resolution in the real world, unless projected on a very large screen or if you sit very close to the screen. However, a 4K home theater will provide you an amazing cinema-like experience.


About DSI Entertainment Systems

DSI Entertainment Systems is a nationally recognized custom audio video installation / systems integration firm. Learn more by selecting the links at the top of the page or the following bold text to discover high-performance home theater systems, media rooms, and home automation control systems for both residential and commercial applications.

Headquartered in Los Angeles, with offices in West Hollywood, Santa Barbara and Newport Beach, DSI Entertainment Systems performs custom audio video installations all over the globe.