4k versus UHD


In 4K Movies/ Content, 4K News, 4K TVs, Uncategorized by Matt Bronowicz4 Comments

4K Versus UHD  –  What Is The Difference?

Now that 4K is becoming a bit more mainstream, with HDTVs and computer monitors both approaching somewhat normal levels in pricing, let’s look at two terms that have become increasingly conflated with one another:  “4K” and “UHD”, or Ultra HD.  { UHD stands for Ultra High Definition, obviously }.  Television makers, broadcasters, and tech blogs are using them interchangeably, but they did NOT start as the same thing, and technically they are still NOT the same.  From a viewer standpoint, there isn’t a huge difference, and the short answer is that 4K is sticking, and UHD isn’t.  But there’s a little more to the story.  Although, it heavily depends on the manufacturer and source of 4K content streaming as to what they like to call it.  Some call it “UHD 4K” to sound comprehensive.  Yes, we agree, that this can be very confusing for the typical consumer.  But, it is really pretty simple.  If you can remember a few basics, you will be informed enough to make the right decisions when it comes to purchases.

4K vs. UHD

The simplest way of defining the difference between 4K and UHD is this:   4K is a professional production and cinema standard, while UHD is a consumer display and broadcast standard.  To discover how they became so confused, let’s look at the history of the two terms.

The term “4K” originally derives from the Digital Cinema Initiatives (DCI), a consortium of motion picture studios that standardized a spec for the production and digital projection of 4K content. In this case, 4K is 4,096 by 2,160, and is exactly four times the previous standard for digital editing and projection (2K, or 2,048 by 1,080).  4K refers to the fact that the horizontal pixel count (4,096) is roughly four thousand. The 4K standard is not just a resolution, either:  It also defines how 4K content is encoded. A DCI 4K stream is compressed using JPEG2000, can have a bitrate of up to 250Mbps, and employs 12-bit 4:4:4 color depth. (See: How digital technology is reinventing cinema.)

Ultra High Definition, or UHD for short, is the next step up from what’s called full HD, the official name for the display resolution of 1,920 by 1,080. UHD quadruples that resolution to 3,840 by 2,160. It’s not the same as the 4K resolution made above — and yet almost every TV or monitor you see advertised as 4K is actually UHD.  Sure, there are some panels out there that are 4,096 by 2,160, which adds up to an aspect ratio of 1.9:1. But the vast majority are 3,840 by 2,160, for a 1.78:1 aspect ratio. 4k versus ultra high definition

Why not 2160p?

Now, it’s not as if TV manufacturers aren’t aware of the differences between 4K and UHD.  But presumably for marketing reasons, they seem to be sticking with 4K. So as to not conflict with the DCI’s actual 4K standard, some TV makers seem to be using the phrase “4K UHD,” though some are just using “4K.”

To make matters more confusing, UHD is actually split in two — there’s 3,840 by 2,160, and then there’s a big step up, to 7,680 by 4,320, which is also called UHD. It’s reasonable to refer to these two UHD variants as 4K UHD and 8K UHD — but, to be more precise, the 8K UHD spec should probably be renamed QUHD (Quad Ultra HD).

The real solution would have been to abandon the 4K moniker entirely and instead use the designation 2160p.  Display and broadcast resolutions have always referred to resolution in terms of horizontal lines, with the letters “i” and “p” referring to interlacing, which skips every other line, and progressive scan, which doesn’t: 576i (PAL), 480i (NTSC), 576p (DVD), 720p, 1080i, 1080p, and so on.

Now that there are 4K TVs everywhere, it would take a concerted effort from at least one big TV manufacturer to right the ship and abandon use of 4K in favor of UHD and 2160p. In all honesty, though, it’s too late. That said, the more important problem isn’t really the name; it’s where in the heck we can all get some real 4K content to watch. So far, it’s appearing in dribs and drabs on services like Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, and some proprietary hardware and software products from Sony. That’s not yet enough for 4K to really take off.





  1. I am an ever learning techno geek. Despite this I have never really noticed that 4K and UHD are being confused. I suppose I just wrote them off as being different like beta max and VHS.

    While the article was informative and helpful to distinguish the two, 4K is being seen as the go to term.
    IS there any danger in purchasing the “wrong” gear ? Will the industry make it clear when people purchase at TV or camera, what exactly they are purchasing?

    1. Yep, 4K is the only term needed..I agree. Everyone knows what 4K is and means..but most people have not yet purchased a 4K Tv. Yet, prices are super low to buy one. You can get a 49inch 4K Smart tv for $400 now on amazon.

      Well, no real danger as far as gear, but there are a few things to know. With some Tvs and equipment you do need the right HDMI 2.0 cordage…versus a less than 2.0 cord will not deliver. Some other tips for gear are out there, but in general 4K is pretty simple. HDMI cords are the basic wires..they just need to be able to handle such a large signal. Thats another point, to enjoy a 4K TV and content,…you must have proper internet connection. The speed of your internet service is vital to delivering you a 4K signal. This was the case even with HD 1080 and 720 if you remember? You must have a certain mbps speed to handle the amount of data that 4K needs to push through the wires. And, it is a massive amount of data involved with a 4K movie for example. But, the good news is that technology is “snowballing”…meaning that internet speeds are super fast nowadays with most providers. Its not like ‘dial-up’ is common anymore. We are way, way past that.

      As far as the industry goes and marketing their products…there are major efforts through an organization that involves most manufacturers of electronics….that are trying to simplify the verbiage and get one easy to understand term(s) for advertising 4K equipment. This is good. The reason why there was even a question about 4K versus UHD and if its different or means the same is because of the manufacturers. THEY were the ones who were deciding that they were going to call 4K “UHD – Ultra High Definition” instead of 4K. Or add UHD to the word 4K. Probably trying to out maneuver their competition by looking or sounding better. You know how cut-throat these manufacturers can be when it comes to marketing and advertising to get more business. Its crazy! Thanks for your comments and PLEASE share my Post and make purchases by clicking on the Amazon link on my RIGHT SIDE BAR. It takes you to Amazon via that link. I created this site to help others who are in the same exact position that I was in a few years ago. I knew nothing about 4K, but I was highly interested and I wanted a 4K TV. But, I found very little help online. I could not find any information about it all. So, I decided to help others by creating this informative site. By clicking on Amazon link and shopping that way, it helps support the cause of this site and cover its cost to host, etc. Thanks again.-MB.

    2. 4K movies are incredible to watch. It’s hard to believe how real it looks.

      Go check out a demo in your local store. Then, Buck up and buy one! You won’t regret it.

  2. There is no difference between these two terms, is there?! Today, actually manufacturers have joined together and set a standard. They all call these tvs “4K UHD”.
    Both words are used to verify what’s in,the box.

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