Electronics giant Samsung says the growing interest in ultra high-definition (UHD) and 4K TVs in South Africa has resulted in some manufacturers (no names mentioned) trying to palm off inferior, 3K devices on unsuspecting consumers. Thankfully, there are a few ways to check whether the TV you’re buying is actually up to spec, starting with its price tag. If it doesn’t cost roughly as much as your first car, it’s probably not the latest and greatest in electronic babysitters.
We should probably start by clearing up some of the confusion that surrounds the terms 4K and UHD. As we explained last August, 4K and UHD are not, in fact, the same thing, though every major TV manufacturer (including Samsung) has decided the terms are interchangeable, in much the same way mobile operators have decided LTE and 4K are synonymous.
The short version: 4K is an industry term used by people who actually make video content to refer to content, camera sensors or projectors with a resolution of 4,096 x 2,160 pixels (and the standard used to encode content from or for them). UHD, meanwhile, is the consumer version of 4K and is slightly smaller with a resolution of 3,840 x 2,160 pixels and an aspect ratio of 16:9 (which is the same aspect ratio HD content got us accustomed to).
What Samsung’s trying to alert consumers to is the fact that some companies are selling TVs with a resolution of 2,880 x 2,160 (or, roughly 3K) under the “UHD” label, which could lead some to believe they’re getting a 4K (or as near as makes no difference if you’re a TV marketing person) screen when they aren’t.
So, how can you tell you’re getting the real thing? First off, there’s the price. If you’re paying less than five figures for your TV its not going to be 4K or UHD (unless you’re reading this in 2017, in which case, why are you reading this at all and not playing with your hoverboard outside you fool?). Second, if the horizontal resolution is less than 3,800 pixels you’re being had.
Third, you can expect 8-bit colour depth and, finally, a 4K/UHD TV should offer frames rates of 24p/25p/30p/50p/60p. You could ask the chap in the store trying to sell you the pointless gold-plated HDMI cable if the TV you’re eyeing has all of the above or you could, you know, check the side of the box.
You can also get up close and personal with the TV in question and have a look at the individual pixels (zooming in on a picture of the screen taken with a mobile phone might be even easier). High-end 4K TVs have rows of individual red, green and blue pixels while the imposters tend to include additional white pixels and have alike pixels arranged in diagonals instead of rows. Now you know.