Ultra High Definition 4K TV technology is the hottest topic in tellydom right now.
Major manufacturers are fast-tracking large screen 4K TVs able to display four times the resolution of current HD sets, while broadcasters conduct widespread technical trials behind the scenes.
The nascent format dominated this summer's IFA tech fest and it looks certain to do the same at the 2014 International CES in January. Even pro-broadcast bash IBC was 4K obsessed this year.
But for normal folks, it may be tempting to cock a snoot when it comes to shortlisting that next TV. However that could prove a costly mistake if you're planning to buy a well-heeled Full HD flatscreen.
Need convincing? Here are eleven reasons why we think your next TV needs to be 4K…
1. A 4K TV today will futureproof your viewing tomorrow
There may be naff all to watch in native 4K right now, but pay TV operators are quietly sketching out roadmaps and the Ultra HD content is coming. There have been experiments with all types of 4K delivery, from over the air and satellite to Internet streaming, and the general consensus seems to be that the technology infrastructure is all doable.
There's just the small matter of codecs and decoding chipsets to sort out; the most off-quoted panacea is HEVC/H.256, but in reality there are a variety of solutions in development. Increasingly programme makers are shifting to 4K acquisition too, as production formats like XAVC slash the economics of 4K TV production.
2. 4K makes today's Full HD TV look better
Native 4K TV may represent televisual nirvana, but the simple fact is a 4K UHD screen makes today's TV content look better too. There are two reasons for this. Firstly, a large screen 4K panel delivers a smoother looking image than an equivalent Full HD screen because the pixel density is four times greater – and having lived with a few 4K sets we can assure you that difference is noticeable.
Secondly, the upscaling technology used to interpolate 1080p content to 2160p is positively Asgardian in its brilliance. Rather than rely on linear scaling, top chips dynamically address image databases to interpolate data. The Panasonic TX-L65WT600, for example, employs a database of 120,000 textures used to guessitmate detail. And we know for a fact that at least one of those entries is dedicated to replicating sequins for Strictly Come Dancing.
3. 4K does justice to your digital photography
We all take digital snaps at a higher resolution than we see them onscreen. Watching your holiday JPEGs on the TV is fun and convenient, but you're only seeing a fraction of what's present in the image; a 4K TV with Ultra High Definition JPEG playback will reveal four times the picture information. It's like seeing your photographs again for the first time.
4. 4K Blu-ray is coming - and it's going to be magnificent
If you're an avid Blu-ray collector, then you'll want to ensure your next TV is able to make the most of Blu-ray's upcoming evolution. Although specifications have yet to be released, the Blu-ray Disc Association is on the cusp of green-lighting a 4K BD format which utilises 100GB triple layer discs. The new system will also support high frame rate UHD, so Peter Jackson's Hobbits should feel right at home.
5. 4K TVs aren't just about more resolution
The Ultra HD revolution isn't just about quadrupling resolution, it also supports faster frame rates, insane contrast dynamics and extended colours. According to research by the EBU and the BBC, viewers are equally receptive to high native frame rates (up to 100Hz), because images are perceived to be more naturalistic and detailed.
And unlike the resolution boost, high frame rate (HFR) UHD is appreciable from a variety of viewing distances and on different screen sizes. Indeed, it's HFR which will ultimately make 4K UHD the smart choice on screens smaller than 50-inches.