When it comes to buying a new television ormonitor as an inexperienced consumer, there are enough terms and acronyms tomake you dizzy. There’s 720p, HD, 1080p, FHD, 2160p, UHD, 4K, and more – it canget overwhelming.
Without fully understanding the specificationsof the display you’re considering, you’re opening yourself up to theopportunity of overpaying for something that underperforms. By today’sstandards, using a 32-inch 720p TV as a computer monitor is borderlinemasochistic.
For those of you who aren’t satisfied withneeding to sit a full 10 feet away from your TV for text to appear crisp,you’ve probably heard about 4K. Today, 4K display resolutions are consideredthe standard when it comes to high-quality streaming and gaming. The thing is,there are many people out there who aren’t exactly sure what 4K means or how itdiffers from terms such as UHD and 2160p.
In this article, let’s talk about thedifferences between 4K, UHD, and 2160p.
What Is 4K?
An easy way to remember the specifications ofa true 4K display is by drawing comparisons based on the number (4,000) in thisterm. By definition, 4K displays have at least 4,000 pixels of horizontaldisplay resolution. This commonly refers to the 4096 × 2160 display resolution,which totals 8 million active pixels. This resolution has four times the numberof total pixels as a 1080p display.
However, the most commercialized 4K displayresolution is 3840 × 2160. The first number, 3,840, is the display’s horizontalresolution, in pixels, and the second number, 2,160 is its vertical resolution.This seems to break the one and only rule of being 4K, yet it’s how the termhas been adapted.
The term “4K” originally comes from a digitalcinema resolution, now referred to as DCI 4K. The 3840 × 2160 displayresolution is now the 4K standard due to how common it is among TVs andmonitors. In the majority of cases, a 4096 × 2160 display resolution willeither stretch and distort the picture or require black boxes across the topand bottom – neither of which consumers are happy to see.
So, to appease home consumers, 4K almostalways refers to the 3840 × 2160 display resolution.
What Is UHD?
UHD stands for “ultra high definition”. Unlike4K, where 4096 × 2160 is the true-to-definition resolution, a UHD display isdefinitely 3840 × 2160.
However, with how uncommon true 4K is, UHD and4K are used in an interchangeable way. Speaking technically, though, a 3840 ×2160 display is only UHD.
Some retailers, rather than just using the twoterms interchangeably, refer to 3840 × 2160 as 4K UHD, which is UHDTV1. 8K UHDis 7680 × 4320, referred to as UHDTV2.
Going back to what we originally said aboutthe consumer-friendly definition of 4K, UHDTV1 (presently referred to as justUHD) and 4K are the same.
What Is 2160p?
The term “2160p” is used to describe displayresolutions where the vertical resolution is 2,160 pixels. The “p” stands for“progressive scan,” sometimes referred to as “non-interlaced.”
Progressive scanning is a format in which thelines of each frame of a moving image are drawn in sequence. This comes incontrast to interlaced video, where the odd and even lines of each frame aredrawn in an alternating fashion.
To put it simply, 2160p is to verticalresolution what 4K is to horizontal resolution. That being said, practicallyall 2160p display resolutions are also 4K (by its loose definition).
Wait, They’re All the Same?
To summarize and compare, a display can beboth true 4K and 2160p (4096 × 2160). However, a UHDTV1 (presently referred toas just UHD) display is always 2160p, because it refers to a display resolutionof 3840 × 2160.
When UHDTV2 (or consumer-friendly 8K) gainspopularity, UHD will no longer be synonymous with 2160p because UHD is set todescribe both 4K and 8K display resolutions. This is when the distinction of 4KUHD or 8K UHD will be more important to make.
Finally, due to the adapted definition of 4K,a 3840 × 2160 resolution can currently be referred to as all of 4K, UHD, and2160p. So, in conventional cases and going by the loosened definition of 4K,they’re all the same.
When the term “4K” was coined, it brought muchconfusion to the display market. Consumers were familiar with 720p being referredto as HD (high definition) and 1080p being referred to as FHD (full highdefinition). When referring to 4K instead as being 2160p and UHD, it becomesuniform and simpler to digest.
However, retailers began shorthanding thisdisplay resolution as 4K. This may be because “2160p” just doesn’t roll off thetongue very well, but it broke a format that many consumers were getting usedto. Even worse, “4K” is not technically accurate when referring to a resolutionof 3840 × 2160 – an honest argument against the popularity of this term.
Another reason retailers may be eager to labeleverything as 4K is because lumping all of these confusing titles togethermakes the product sound more featureful. A 4K UHD 2160p TV sounds like such abigger deal than a 2160p TV, right? Well, it’s rather redundant.
When you’re shopping for a new display at thelatest standard of high definition, just know that a resolution of 3840 × 2160is what you’re looking for. There are other acronyms and specifications thataren’t just fluff, though – for example, check out Online Tech Tips’ article on 4K vs. HDR and Dolby Vision .