8 Best 4K TVs Under $1000 | March 2017
- zoom function for blown-up detail
- generous array of inputs
- sound is lackluster
- great selection of apps and games
- integrates with home automation
- viewing angle isn't wide enough
- upscaling picture engine
- easy-to-use smart remote
- uhd dimming for more contrast
- three hdmi inputs
- built-in wi-fi connection
- impressive color range
- 120hz fluid motion rate
- edge-lit by leds
- 64-bit multi-core cpu
What Exactly Is 4K?
Whether you're watching vlogs on YouTube, streaming TV shows on Netflix, enjoying your Blu-ray collection, or recording home videos with a camcorder, 1080p has been the go-to standard for high definition among videophiles worldwide for the better part of a decade. Now, thanks to a veritable quantum leap from 1080p to video four times the resolution, high definition (HD) is stepping aside to make room for ultra high definition (UHD) and its slightly more sophisticated counterpart, 4K.
Although the two terms, UHD and 4K, have become synonymous over the years, UHD remains the highest resolution currently available for household use. With a resolution of 3,840 x 2,160, UHD displays do not, in fact, exceed the 4,000 horizontal pixels that 4K displays do with a resolution of 4,096 x 2,160. Despite being four times the resolution of a 1080p display, and despite being marketed as 4K, UHD falls just shy of true 4K.
Rather than constantly remind people that UHD and 4K are separated by 256 horizontal pixels for each of the 2,160 vertical pixels (a difference of a mere 552,960 pixels in total), manufacturers decided it's easier to market their products as "4K UHD", instead. Which begs the question: If you're going to lump the two terms together, why not manufacture the display with the higher resolution? One word: broadcasting.
So long as the standard aspect ratio for television broadcasting worldwide remains 16:9, or 1.78:1, manufacturers will continue to meet that standard, even if it means sacrificing over half a million pixels in the process. This is because most consumers, even avid movie buffs, watch more television programming on average than they do feature films. Not only that, but due to director and studio preferences, the aspect ratios of feature films are ever-changing, from 1.89:1 to 2.76:1. As a result, the black bars we see at the top and the bottom of the screen are unavoidable regardless of whether or not its aspect ratio meets U.S. broadcasting standards or Quentin Tarantino's standards.
At the end of the day, most people watch more TV than anything else, and there's no sense suffering with the blacks bars at the top and bottom more often than not when Hollywood, much less the entire global film industry, continues to set no universal standard aspect ratio that manufacturers can meet.
How Do I Upscale My Movie Collection?
Imagine you have a single slice of bread and you want to make a triple-decker sandwich. You'd have to cut that single slice in four and what you'd get would be a very small but very tall half-sandwich. Now imagine you have a device that can clone your slice of bread three times. One slice becomes four and now you have enough to make a genuine triple-decker.
This is what HD upscaling does.
Rather than try to force one pixel to do what four pixels can, 4K UHD TVs have built-in HD upscaling engines that produce additional pixels based on the pixels that surround them. One gray pixel flanked by black and white pixels becomes four gray pixels, each one darker or lighter than the next depending on its proximity to the black or white surrounding the original.
Not only that, but HD upscaling also sharpens the edges where light and shadow meet in order to maintain, or in some cases enhance, the depth of the original image.
However, a 1080p image upscaled to 4K UHD is still the same 1080p image. It's just bigger. HD upscaling does not add or reveal any new or previously unseen content. It simply allows you to view HD content on a 4K UHD screen without having to stare at a thick, black frame the whole time and without the image looking grainy as if each pixel is four times bigger than it should be.
Where Can I Find 4K Content?
While being able to enhance HD TV on the fly is most certainly a welcome bonus, the real reason behind owning a massive 50" 4K TV is so you can watch original 4K content in all its eye-popping glory.
Unfortunately, as with most new media technology, 4K TVs are still in a state of limbo, a kind of tech-gadget catch-22: because there's limited content, there's limited demand, and because there's limited demand, there's limited content. And round and round we go until manufacturers phase out older models and force everyone to buy 4K, or certain media moguls produce content despite having a limited audience.
However, thanks to media alternatives, by which I mean alternative to Hollywood and MSNBC, there is actually quite a bit more 4K content than one might expect.
Showing no signs of ever slowing down and with full intent to remain in the lead, both Netflix and Amazon are not only streaming, but producing original series in 4K resolution. And both companies' current libraries of 4K feature-length films are only going to get larger by the month.
For those not interested in big-budget TV shows, YouTube allows for 4K streaming. And with 4K becoming a growing trending in both the photography and cinematography communities, you can create and upload your own 4K content, assuming you have all the right equipment, of course.
Lastly, 4K gaming is quickly becoming reasonably affordable. While the number of games designed to support 4K resolution is limited, you can definitely expect to see more and more as the prices of leading graphics cards drop.