Seriously, stop buying 4K TVs

“So why wouldn’t I want to buy a 4K TV?”

“Well, anything less than 65″ for a 4K TV is a waste of time” he said.

He, at the time, was the guy in charge of broadcasting the small TV channel I used to work for in Grimsby, Estuary TV. He knew everything about every picture format available. My brother was in the market at the time for a bang up to date TV, he wanted 4K, I’d advised him not to, but we have to rewind a bit for my reasons why. I was seeking this expert’s opinion, it was the same as mine.

In April 2013 I was fortunate enough to attend the National Association of Broadcasters convention in Las Vegas, Nevada. NHK, the Japanese Public Service Broadcaster were there, and they were showing off their latest broadcast technologies.

Let me tell you now, there is no point in buying 4K, because 8K is already on the horizon.

At the show, they had two models sitting in a living room, they occasionally walked around, picked up objects and interacted with things. To the side of them, we had a 4K TV, to the right of that, an 8K TV. Both screens were repeating the living room scene. You don’t get any prizes for guessing which one had the better picture.

The thing is, looking at an 8K TV is actually just like looking through a window. It was hard to believe the image I was seeing was manufactured. I almost wanted to get as close as I could to the display and touch it to check that it was actually 2D. When you’re dealing with picture clarity that high, you end up with a situation where you don’t even need 3D TVs, your brain thinks it is 3D because there’s so much detail to look at.

So this brings me back to my original point. Buying 4K is a waste of time now, you might as well bide your time with excellent 1080p offerings from Netflix (which are delivered acceptably through most British internet speeds). The basics mean that unless you’re using Virgin Media at their top tier packages, you’re not going to get 4K without a lot of stuttering and buffering. Even with a fast internet package, your wireless hub probably wouldn’t support it. Hello ethernet cabling.

Yes, but what about Sky launching channels in 4K?

This is a valid argument. Sky have always been ahead of the curve in new broadcast technologies, even when they were an absolute, complete and utter waste of time. The thing is, there’s now HDR 4K, which actually is the only technology which would sway me to buy a 4K TV while waiting for an 8K TV.

HDR is High Dynamic Range. It’s a term professional photographers have long since been aware of. It means that the camera picks up details in the excessively dark and light areas. It’s the difference between seeing what’s through the window on a sunny day in Downton Abbey or just seeing bright light coming through. It means picking out darkened buildings on a night time street scene where every other building is lit up like a Christmas tree.

So, what’s the problem? Well, not every TV that is 4K is HDR. In fact, most aren’t. Many 4K TVs being released this year are going to adopt the new standard, even though there isn’t really one yet. The UHD Alliance has agreed on the catchy “Ultra HD Premium” branding, this means 4K and HDR, but even that doesn’t seem to specify that it will be compatible with all 4K HDR content.

This reminds me of that absolute minefield that was left behind in the wake of “HD Ready” vs. “HD Ready 1080p” around 2010.

If you’ve already bought a 4K TV, don’t kick yourself. Too hard. Next time though, patience is a virtue.

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