“Ooo, is that a new TV?” a neighbour asks while peering through your window. “Yeah, it’s 4K. The best you can get,” you answer smugly. “4K? What does 4K mean, then?” they ask. At which point most people would admit defeat. What does 4K mean? What do any of the different screen resolutions mean?
As with many areas of tech, it’s easy to be bamboozled by the various acronyms and jargon when searching for a new TV or monitor. Luckily, we’ve put together a handy guide that should help.
What does 720p or HD Ready mean?
720p means that your TV/monitor is 1,280 pixels wide and 720 pixels tall (or 1,280 x 720px for short). That’s a big jump from standard definition of 640 x 480 and DVD’s 720 x 480, but TV manufacturers wanted you to buy the more expensive Full HD screens.
So, to differentiate the lower-res screens, and make them sound a little less exciting, they called them HD Ready rather than HD.
You might wonder why it’s 720p rather than just 720. The “p” stands for “progressive scan”. In essence, it means that each of the 720 vertical lines of pixels are drawn one after the other (old-fashioned, analogue TVs would alternatively draw the odd and even lines), which we take for granted nowadays anyway.
What does 1080p or Full HD (FHD) mean?
This means that your screen is 1,920 pixels wide and 1,080 pixels tall, so you’ll get a sharper image than with a 720p TV.
However, and this is a general point, note that the larger the screen, the larger the pixels – so there might not be a huge difference in sharpness if you’ve moved from a tiny 720p TV to a gigantic 1,080p one.
What does 1440p or Quad HD (QHD) mean?
A Quad HD (QHD) screen is 2,560 pixels wide and 1,440 pixels tall. The name derives from the fact that QHD screens have a resolution four times higher than their 720p predecessors.
What does 4K or Ultra HD (UHD) mean?
Now we’re at the serious end of the scale. Measuring 3,840 pixels across and 2,160 pixels tall, 4K screens have four times the pixels as their 1080p equivalents (hence the 4). You may also see 4K screens referred to as 2160p.
The name “Ultra HD” (UHD) is also thrown about and, let’s be honest, sounds pretty cool.
What does 8K or 8K Ultra HD mean?
Brace yourself, but 8K screens measure a whopping 7,680 pixels across and 4,320 pixels tall (sometimes you’ll see them called 4320p screens).
As the picture above illustrates, that means they offer 16 times more pixels than a 1080p Full HD TV and boy does it show. The downside? First, good luck finding the latest Hollywood release in 8K. Second, you’ll need deep pockets…
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