4K has become more mainstream now all thanks to the computer monitors supporting this technology and HDTVs becoming more affordable. However, there are two terms when it comes to this that have been conflated with each other for far too long. These two terms are 4K and Ultra HD or UHD. The term has been used interchangeably by everyone from TV manufacturers to bloggers to even broadcasters however neither did these term start as meaning the same thing and technically they are not the same thing. However, if we keep in mind the common people and the viewers, they won’t find a lot of difference in the two and to them, 4K will be the same as UHD. We are seeing a rapid increase in the use of 4K as compared to UHD but let’s take a deeper look into it and discuss how these two are a bit different from each other.
What does the 4K offer?
Before we go into the detail of 4K vs. UHD lets just take a look at what the industry is claiming as both 4K and UHD actually is. 4K adds clarity and better definition to the picture quality because it is essentially adding extra resolution to your picture. The picture becomes so clear that it feels like you are looking outside your window instead of looking at the television screen. Most people assume that on very large screens, the effect of 4K resolution is more visible but the fact that the effect of 4K can be seen on the screen of any size. The logic behind this is that you are essentially putting 4 times the number of pixels that were previously on that screen so the picture will denser and have much more finer detail.
4K vs. UHD
One of the simplest ways in which the difference between 4K and UHD can be defined is that UHD is a broadcast and consumer display standard whereas 4K is a cinema and professional production standard. To understand the mix up of these two terms and how they became so confused let’s take a look at a little history of these two terms.
Digital Cinema Initiatives (DCI) which is a consortium of different motion picture studios, introduced the term 4K. The main objective of DCI is to standardize the specs for projection and digital production of content. As defined by DCI, 4K is 4096 x 2160 pixels which are exactly four times the standard that was previously being used to create content. The previously used standard was 2K which was 2048 x 1080. The term 4K signifies that the horizontal pixel count in this type of production is roughly equal to four thousand.
UHD which is short for Ultra High Definition comes next in line from what is being referred to as full HD. These are the official names of display resolutions. The full HD is the name of the display resolution that displays 1920 x 1080 pixels. The UHD multiplies this resolution by four and in this resolution, you get 3840 x 2160. Now this is very close to the resolution we get in 4K but it is not exactly the same. Another thing that complicates the matter, even more, is the fact that UHD is further split into two more branches. There is the general 3840 x 2160 resolution and the next big step up which is 7680 x 4320 is also being referred to as UHD. Right now both of these variants are being referred to as UHD, however, some manufacturers are now labeling them as 4K UHD and 8K UHD which is more appropriate. Another suggestion is on the table and that is to rename 8K UHD as QUHD which stands for Quad Ultra High Definition and some manufacturers have already started working on this change. Once completely implemented this will play an important role in clearing out this confusion.
The TV manufacturers clearly know the difference between 4K and UHD but, keeping in mind the marketing strategies and following the trend which clearly shows that the word 4K has become more famous, they have used it to advertise their products. To avoid the conflict with the actual standard set by DCI some manufacturers are even using these both terms together as a phrase “4K UHD” to describe their products.