Before you choose 4K over HD, remember that video quality is about more than just raw pixel resolution

by on November 23, 2015

Stephan Jukic – November 23, 2015

The funny thing about TV content resolution (or projector, theater and PC content) is that its quality often has a lot more to do with how the delivery is going than what the number and quality of pixels you’re supposed to be getting is.

This applies as firmly to 4K as it does to any other resolution or video content type and a lot of consumers who absolutely want ultra HD video entertainment would do well to keep this bottom line in mind.

Many examples of mediocre 4K UHD transmissions can be caught if one pays enough attention and for a lot of these cases, what ruins the quality of the UHD lies in defects with how it was transmitted and, slightly less importantly, how the video itself was made or produced.

A recent example posted by a reporter at the website Red Shark News comes to mind here:

The individual explained how he walked into his living room one day to find his family viewing a movie called “Billy Elliot” about a young boy who develops a passion for ballet dancing while living under grueling conditions in a “strife-torn northern English mining community”. In any case, the reporter describes how he sat down and was immediately impressed by the seemingly Full HD quality of the movie on the screen. He had no idea if it was being streamed from Netflix, iTunes, or Amazon or if it was being viewed through Blu-ray Full HD disc. The important thing was that the video looked great even though he was watching from an angle.

When he asked, someone else in the room told him that it was just a DVD with SD resolution. But (and this is crucial) because the DVD had been really well mastered during its original formatting, it scaled wonderfully on the reporter’s HD TV thanks to the technology it was being viewed with.

Full HD content from Blu-ray disc, on a 4K TV with a great upscaling engine, can look better than a lot of streamed 4K video

Full HD content from Blu-ray disc, on a 4K TV with a great upscaling engine, can look better than a lot of streamed 4K video

Again, this is a vital point for all content and for 4K UHD content in particular: We here at can also think of many cases in which 4K UHD content delivered to a 4K TV via streaming internet connections from a source like Netflix actually looked WORSE than Full HD Blu-ray content delivered via HDMI, which was upscaled to look like native 4K on a TV with a particularly good upscaling engine.

More specifically, details like transmission bandwidth, cable connections and the formats and mastering done for a certain type of viewing medium (Blu-ray, streaming, VOD, etc) can play an enormous part in how good video of any kind ultimately looks, even if it’s native 4K in its resolution and being viewed on a native 4K UHD screen.

Because of these factors, streamed 4K UHD content viewed on a cheaper, lower quality 4K ultra HD TV can often even actually look worse than upscaled Full HD content on a superior 4K or even HD TV, and we need not even speak of the quality differences between cheap 4K TV + streamed content vs. a high quality 4K TV with better streamed native 4K UHD content.

In more basic terms, before jumping into 4K UHD simply because it’s the next “must-have” technology, first put a lot of consideration into just how good the TV you’re actually thinking of buying is going to be. Also pay a lot of attention to the sources of native 4K content you can actually get your hands on and on the quality of your domestic internet connectivity if your 4K UHD sources will be streamed.

Not every 4K UHD TV is automatically your best possible choice and a lot of 4K content sources also don’t automatically guarantee quality which will look superior to high-quality UHD if the HD can be delivered via more professional, superior means.

That said, for a great overview of deals on some high quality but also highly affordable 4K UHD TVs, take a look at our recent Black Friday Deals post here on the site and also be sure to check out our ratings of some of the best ultra HD TVs on the market for an assortment of different budgets.

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