If you’ve been looking to upgrade your television within the past few years, you’ve probably come across terms like 1080p, 2160p, UHD, 4K (or even 8K), along with ever-higher pixel counts, and perhaps even terms like nits, and dots. It can all be a bit overwhelming.
UHD means ultra-high definition, and it’s a digital television standard applied to displays that have at least a 16:9 aspect ratio (like your average widescreen computer monitor) and a minimum resolution of 3840 x 2160 pixels. Since a UHD television is capable of displaying 4K content, the terms 4K, UHD, and 2160p are often used interchangeably.
UHD is the successor to high definition television (HDTV), which is the current de facto standard video format for most broadcast television, cable television, satellite television, and Blu-ray. HD content is likely the resolution of the TV shows and movies that you watch every day. If you see something listed in resolutions of 1080p or 720p, you’re watching HD content.
UHD content is a huge step up from HD content. A 4K UHD TV that measures 50 inches has four times the number of pixels when compared to a 1080p HDTV of the same size. That means you get significantly more detail on a 4K TV. Those extra pixels – a total of 8.3 million of them, to be exact – can also achieve colors that are brighter and more dynamic than the HD TVs they are replacing. It also outputs deeper shadows, which means the video appears far sharper.
While 4K UHD TVs are currently the benchmark for the majority of consumers, 8K TVs are the next evolution of UHD displays. But most consumers don’t need an 8K TV yet for a simple reason – beyond a few niche options, 8K content doesn’t currently exist.
Compared to just a few years ago, finding and watching 4K content has become easier. Almost every television over 50 inches currently for sale features a 4K UHD display, and you can stream 4K content on many connected devices. There’s also a lot of 4K content out there – you can find it on content platforms and many of your favorite streaming apps, though you’ll sometimes have to pay more to access it.
So you’re ready to stream some 4K content; you’ve got a 4K UHD TV, a 4K movie queued up, and popcorn popped. But you might run into issues with low bandwidth and internet service provider data caps. A rainy weekend binge-fest could quickly push your data usage into 250-300 GB territory. Then you’ll have to add in all your normal weekly usage – video calls, streaming music while you cook, and your average, everyday internet usage. If your ISP has data caps, you could quickly run into trouble. If you want to avoid issues streaming 4K, your best bet is to upgrade to gigabit internet service like Google Fiber. When you stream your 4K content via Google Fiber, you don’t have to worry about data caps for a simple reason – Google Fiber doesn’t have data caps.
So what makes a TV 4K? Manufacturers use these terms to refer to the horizontal resolution of a television – the number of pixels that are squeezed in from left to right. A 4K UHD TV’s resolution is 3840 × 2160 pixels. That’s roughly 4,000 pixels across, which is where the term 4K comes from. While it sounds like 8K would be double the resolution of 4K, that’s not quite the case. With a resolution of 7680 x 4320 pixels, an 8K TV has four times as many total pixels as its 4K sibling (and 16 times more pixels than HD). That means it’s fairly close to the detail level of an IMAX viewing experience, all without leaving your couch.
In the US, you'll find some 8K content on YouTube and Vimeo, mostly in the form of nature videos and landscape flyovers. And while high-end gaming PCs and consoles like the Playstation 5 and Xbox Series X can output an 8K signal, the problem, again, is the availability of content at the moment. Of course, that won’t be the case forever. The cost of 8K TVs is dropping steadily – originally introduced with price tags around $15,000, now 8K TVs can be purchased for around $2,000, and the price will drop even further as the technology becomes more widespread. As more consumers experience first-run movies from their couch rather than a movie theater seat, they’ll clamor for that theater experience, something 8K can provide.
If you’re looking to take full advantage of your 4K UHD television, and future-proof in anticipation of a rise in 8K streaming content, Google Fiber is the best internet for ultra high definition streaming.
You can even add live TV to your streaming lineup using a streaming service and a smart TV (or a device such as a Chromecast with Google TV that plugs into your TV).
Google Fiber offers two different plans: choose between 1 and 2 Gig, and give your whole home and everyone in it the speed they need.
You can check Google Fiber availability in your area, or visit a Google Fiber Space in person to learn about how Google Fiber can upgrade your internet experience.