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4K UHD: A Primer

Core characteristics of 4K UHD products allow consumers easy identification in a competitive marketplace.

The phrase “4K UHD” stems from image resolution of 3840 individual picture elements or “pixels” horizontally across the screen and 2160 pixels vertically. That is more than 8 million individual pixels, four times the 2 million pixels of an HDTV “2K” set with a 1920 x 1080 Full HD resolution, and even greater compared with a 1280 x 720, or “720p” HDTV.

The best way to convey the benefit of this increase in pixels is by picturing four separate HD images in a single 4K UHD set. That is exactly what broadcasters often do in their TV control rooms, or what security systems use for high-end surveillance. The increased resolution delivers sharper, crisper pictures than you’ve ever seen before. Small details such as lettering on a sign or blades of grass on a field are clear, rather than blurred together. That’s the “Ultra” in Ultra High Definition.

The total package of improvements of 4K UHD is so significant that industry experts at the Consumer Technology Association (CTA) created specific definitions and guidelines for “Ultra High Definition” to help educate retailers and consumers on what it’s all about. (The UHD Alliance has created definitions for “premium” Ultra HD.) After all, if older analog televisions were known as “Standard Definition” (SD), and if the new digital sets are “High Definition” (HD), what is easier than to go to the next step, ULTRA High Definition? The explanations behind what all this means may be found in the pages ahead.

It is critical to remember that while 4K UHD provides substantial benefits, it will live alongside HD and even older standard definition programs and products for many years. Broadcasters, cable and satellite networks and streaming content services will continue to distribute high definition programming for many years to come and it will work with legacy products. The sophisticated “upscaling” video processing in 4K UHD sets enables anything connected to a new UHD set to be displayed in higher resolution with no adjustment needed.

This is also an opportunity to help your customers upgrade the individual components in their home entertainment systems so they can take advantage of the full benefits of 4K UHD.

The Consumer Technology Association has developed voluntary core characteristics for 4K Ultra HD display products and accompanying logos designed to assist consumers in identifying these 4K Ultra HD products in the marketplace. The definitions can be accessed here: 

Two accompanying logos are available for voluntary use by manufacturers for product packaging, marketing materials and promotions—4K Ultra HD and 4K Ultra HD Connected. These logos mirror CTA’s voluntary characteristics and also can help retailers direct consumers to relevant display products.


There is already a wide array of 4K UHD television sets available ranging in screen sizes from under 40 inches to over 98 inches. Most 4K UHD sets are “Connected” or “Smart” TVs, which means they can deliver 4K UHD streaming content right out of the box. For content and program services not accessible directly through the TV, there are many affordable options. Both DirecTV and Dish Networks offer new set-top boxes that deliver 4K UHD and 4K UHD enabled Roku, Chromecast, Apple TV, and FireTV. In addition, Android TV boxes deliver high resolution app-based service content. For gamers, there are Xbox and PlayStation models that can deliver 4K UHD games and streaming content. There are even TiVo models with 4K UHD capability; they can’t access UHD cable TV content yet, but they can access UHD streaming services.

And for what many enthusiasts describe as ultimate in video and audio presentation, UltraHD Blu-ray™ players play a growing number of 4K Ultra UHD titles available from every major studio as well as existing movie libraries. The players even have built-in apps for major 4K UHD content services.

Finally, for those who wish to create their own 4K UHD content, DLSR cameras, camcorders, “action/point-of-view” camcorders, and even some new generation smartphones can record and playback 4K UHD content. 4K


1. 4K UHD is the greatest advancement in television since color.

2. 4K UHD TVs deliver stunning, high-resolution pictures with incredible detail, four times the resolution of Full HD sets, and when combined with the latest technologies, provide vivid and more accurate color, with big gains in contrast.

3. 4K UHD TV sets are backward compatible, and powerful upscaling delivers an amazing experience, even with 2K content.