Chances are you’ve upgraded to a high-definition television (HDTV) by now and are reluctant to upgrade even further. By further, we mean looking into the new 4K or Ultra HD (UHD) TVs that hit the market several years ago and are now becoming more common and affordable after the holidays, hovering around $300 for a 50-inch-plus set. Whether you’re interested in an upgrade or not, it’s good to know where technology stands and whether it’s worthwhile for you to take your television up a notch. We don’t have a precise upgrading measure for each reader, but by considering the important points you’ll be prepared if you do feel compelled to switch it up.
To be clear, 4K and UHD are technically the same thing. Big companies always push for a naming gimmick to offer as their own to push sales. From this point on we’ll just call it “4K Ultra HD,” which simply means it offers four times the amount of pixels (3840x2160p) as most current models consumers (1920x1080p). Ultimately, this provides a clearer and more vivid picture in the newer 4K Ultra HD TVs with four times the level of detail.
One major thing to consider is when the last time you upgraded was. If you upgraded your TV within the last few years, then you will likely have no need to upgrade. Do you also care about your current picture quality? Your answer is important because most content now is in HD (1920x1080p) while 4K Ultra HD (3840x2160p) content is only available through Sony’s premium “Ultra” 4K streaming service, Amazon Prime, Netflix, YouTube, and 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray discs. The noticeable differences between HD and 4K Ultra HD can be subtle to some consumers but the bigger the 4K Ultra HD TV (65” or greater) the more the picture will impact your experience. Such models are now priced just under $750, which may make sense for you.
Another factor to keep in mind is that this 4K streaming service won’t be free, at least for now. Netflix offers 4K Ultra HD streaming for $11.99 a month but is limited in content, same as Amazon Prime and YouTube are. The only problem you will encounter is that 4K Ultra HD content will require high bandwidth—approximately 25 megabits per second, which most consumers don’t have, and a single hour of streaming Netflix 4K Ultra HD requires an estimated 7 GB of bandwidth. This clearly takes a toll on those with limited bandwidth use per month.
The price for Sony’s “Ultra” streaming service can also take a toll on your wallet with 24-hour TV show rentals at $4 and 24-hour film rentals costing $8. Film purchases are $30 but can take eight to 15 hours to download. 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray discs can range from $15 to upwards of $30.
Now, this might sound like a money pit, but don’t be afraid because most 4K Ultra HD TVs will upscale your older content into the 4K Ultra HD (3840x2160p) resolution but won’t be as vivid as the 4K Ultra HD streaming or Blu-ray discs. So, all of the older Blu-ray discs you have or current content to stream will be upscaled giving them added life. On an additional note, those with the current PS4 Pro can stream 4K Ultra HD content while the Xbox One S allows for both 4K Ultra HD streaming and 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray discs. Both have the capability to play games with upscaled 4K Ultra HD resolution.
If you’re a dinosaur with a tube TV, you are in desperate need of an upgrade and should seriously consider investing in next-level HD. If you have a TV that’s more than 5–6 years old, the leap to a 4K Ultra HD set may also make sense, since it’s affordable to get a 50-inch-plus set with the ability to have new features. But, if you upgraded within the past 3–5 years, you’re likely fine as you are unless shelling out to trade up for an improved picture and limited content appeals. Almost all TVs on the market now offer 4K Ultra HD and are affordable, but waiting to upgrade during the holiday season later this year, when content will be more prevalent, is a choice that’s as good and clear as 4K UHD itself.