The 10 Best 4k Televisions
Four Times As Relevant
I waited a dog's age to get my hands on an HDTV, and now it's verging on obsolescence.
That's 3,840 pixels for the kids in the back of the classroom, and 2,160 top-to-bottom for the kids in the front.
On a recent move, I found myself staring into boxes filled to the brim with DVDs. There were classic films, foreign dramas, relics of the early days of cinema, and a potentially embarrassing amount of anime. Regardless of what the discs contained, however, they all shared one thing in common. They had all become rather useless.
I still have a DVD drive, but I can't remember the last time I used it. The plain fact is that the resolution I can get out of these old discs is laughable at best and unwatchable at worst. If you think your HDTV and its corresponding collection of Blu-Ray discs aren't susceptible to the tide of change–and, specifically to the tide of 4K–you are sadly mistaken.
The good news is that producers of film and television content keep putting out more and more 4K material. Streaming will soon catch up, and the prices of 4K televisions continue to drop. Of course, that doesn't mean you should hold out too much longer. I waited a dog's age to get my hands on an HDTV, and now it's verging on obsolescence.
The difference between 4K and HDTV is simple, in the end. It's all about the resolution. The "1080" you see associated with HDTVs is an accounting of vertical and horizontal columns of pixels. HDTVs have 1,920 columns of pixels when counted left-to-right, and 1,080 columns (rows, if we're being mathematically accurate) of pixels when counted top to bottom. The designation 4K comes from a doubling of the 1,920 pixels counted across your screen. That's 3,840 pixels for the kids in the back of the classroom, and 2,160 top-to-bottom for the kids in the front.
Viewing The Distance
If you did a little research before buying your HDTV, you might have heard a little something about viewing distance and how it relates to an ideal screen size. Simply put, for every ten inches of diagonal screen length, you should be one foot away from the screen for the best experience. So, if your couch is five feet from where you want your TV to go, you should get a 50" HDTV.
Taken in from a greater distance, however, the dots form an image, much in the same way that pixels on a television form an image.
That rule only applies to an HD resolution of 1920X1080, however. 4K is a different beast altogether, necessitating that you actually move closer for the best picture. If you go in the opposite direction, and look at lower resolutions, you find that you can sit farther away and get a better viewing resolution, though the overall image will be much smaller.
The best thing to compare this to is George Seurat's famous painting in the pointilism technique, A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grand Jatte. The particular branch of Impressionism to which Seurat's masterpiece belongs employs small dots that appear as little more than small dots when viewed up close. Taken in from a greater distance, however, the dots form an image, much in the same way that pixels on a television form an image.
A 60" HDTV crams 2,073,600 dots into its space. By the viewing distance guide above, you'd have to sit closer than six feet away from the screen to begin to see the actual pixels and, therefore, to perceive a loss in picture quality. A 60" 4K TV has four times as many pixels, 8,294,400 to be exact. That means the pixels themselves have to be much smaller to fit into the same space, so your ideal viewing distance is closer than six feet.
On a 60" television, you can sit about three feet away and get the optimal viewing experience, which translates to a much deeper immersion into the picture, since you get to be right on top of it.
It's wild to think that, just a few decades ago, it was considered bad form to sit too close to the TV. Now, we can scarcely get close enough. It's an important factor to consider as you evaluate the TVs on our list with an eye for size. You've got to go much bigger than you went with your HDTV if you want to maintain your current distance set up and still justify the upgrade, or you'll have to rethink your layout to compliment your purchase.
An Industry Ahead Of Itself
There's only one place you need to look if you want to know what's coming in your viewing experience, and that's the film industry. Years before 4K meant anything to the public, 4K cameras made a name for themselves in the hands of cinematographers.
It's only a matter of time before we're on to the next resolution, but now is the best moment to invest in 4K, as it looks to hold the fort down for at least a decade.
Between 2003, when the first 4K cameras debuted in the movie industry, and 2013, when House of Cards became a mega-hit shot and (as of 2014) streamed in 4K, the majority of the industry moved over to the format.
In filmmaking, it helps to have a lot of room to zoom in on a picture without losing resolution. It allows editors to create zoom and stabilization effects, or to cut out things from the edges of the frame that might ruin a shot (like the microphone dipping into the top of the image, for example). For that reason, the industry strives to stay one or two steps of resolution ahead of the consumer market.
As we speak, just as the prices on 4K TVs begin to level out to a consumer-friendly point, the cameras systems used on shows like House Of Cards and others are already shooting at 8K, and sometimes 16K. It's only a matter of time before we're on to the next resolution, but now is the best moment to invest in 4K, as it looks to hold the fort down for at least a decade.