4K TV is bullshit

[Note from the editor: This article is by prospective staff writer Tony Helms.]

In the late 1980s, a group of people from different companies—General Instrument, Zenith, Sarnoff Labs (RCA), the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), AT&T Labs, and Philips—came together to form the Grand Alliance to develop what would become HDTV. Speaking as someone who didn’t get an HDTV until 2013, the difference was night and day. The picture quality was unlike anything I’d previously seen in my life. But now we live in a world where if your TV is in 720p, it’s considered an ancient relic. Everything now is about 4K, 8K, and even 12K resolutions. Well, news flash, kiddies, 4K (also known as UltraHD, or UHD) is an unnecessary, useless technology for several reasons, but just to name a couple: 1) the human eye has a finite resolution, and 2) you have to sit closer to take advantage of it.

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Let’s discuss the first issue: no matter how much the resolution increases, there’s a point where the human eye cannot register it. The human eye is essentially an analog device, and it can only see so much. Technology is now going beyond what the human eye can see.

And then there’s the second issue: distance from the TV. If you sit more than a certain distance away from the screen, you will basically get no benefit from the extra resolution. Let’s take a typical TV size of 32”. To get the full benefit of 720p, you have to sit back no more than 8 feet. For 1080p, you have to sit back no more than 5 feet, and for 4K, you have to sit back no more than 2.5 feet. And who wants to sit that close to their TV set?

4K TV is bullshit

Pictured: The optimal viewing distance for 12K.

This also brings up another issue: Why is 720p so bad? When I grew up, S-Video (commonly known as 480p) was the latest and greatest in television technology. The picture was a vast improvement over RCA or RF picture. People loved it, and were grateful for the advancement. Then the invention of HD happened and it blew people away. The very idea of picture quality being that clear was almost unheard of, and what was the resolution? 720p, the very resolution that people damn near vilify nowadays was seen as the greatest thing ever.

Part of this, I think, has to do with the culture we live in. We’re rarely ever happy with what we have anymore. We’re always on the lookout for the hot, new thing, and we never take the time to appreciate what we have now. This more than anything is what led to the “downfall” of 720p. Even when 1080p became a reality, 720p began to decline in popularity. The sad part now with 4K, 8K, and 12K coming into the picture is that even 1080p is starting to suffer the same fate as 720p.

720p is now regarded as the “poor man’s HD”. As I said earlier, I wasn’t able to purchase an HDTV until 2013. Why? Because it was too expensive. In 2013, they had come down just enough in price that I could purchase one without worrying about bills, rent, or food. Yeah, I realize that I’m a late adopter, but this was more out of necessity than anything else. So I say to all those people who constantly refer to 720p as the “poor man’s HD”, do you not realize how condescending you sound? I know I may sound like an old fogey here, but I ask you one thing: please appreciate what you have. Also, just remember, eventually there may be something better than 4K (and up) one day, and having a 4K television will be seen as “slumming it”.

Another major issue: price. When HDTV first came out, the cheapest available one was just under $8,000, with some priced as high as $50,000. Now you can get one for under $200. 4K, however, is a different beast altogether. When the first 4K TV came out, it was over $11,000, with some as high as $40,000. Nowadays if you’re lucky, you can probably get one for under $1,000, and while I admit the price is going down, it’s still, in my opinion, niche tech. So, in conclusion, 4K TV is bullshit.

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  • Yonagonaf

    In relation to “and for 4K, you have to sit back no more than 2.5 feet.” the prospective
    Staff Writer does not use metric and is therefore probably American.

    Tilquin does not have a television. Tilquin has a laptop computer. Tilquin’s head is
    always seventy-six centimetres (Tilquin is Canadian and therefore uses British
    English spelling) from the screen.

    Tilquin watches movies on Tilquin’s laptop computer. If Tilquin were to watch a movie on a
    television and Tilquin was sitting seventy-six centimeters from the television screen
    the situation would be a tad askew.

    • MichaelANovelli

      Yeah, that checks out…

      • mark hardie

        Lol theres some weird peeps on here ,everyone can like what they like but ive just upgraded from a 1080p to a 4k and the dif is immense with colour contrast and judder ffs take youre dicky ass hands out of your pants and use google rolf!

    • Tony D. Helms

      What the hell is Tilquin?

      • Yonagonaf

        Tilquin is the name of Tilquin’s Advanced Dungeons and Dragon’s cleric name back when role playing games involved rolling die and having adventures in paper form. Also having paper adventure screens blocking the dungeon and die rolling of the dungeon master. Wait a minute. What about the Advanced Dungeons and Dragons animated series on Saturday mornings….? Tilquin also tends to text and speak in the third person which tends to cause confusion. Much like in the classic Seinfeld episode about masturbation.

  • Gallen_Dugall

    You want BS try a 3D TV. I went with my father to help lift and carry when he upgraded to HD and the best deal we found was a bundled 3D TV with all the “stuff” including a 3D bluray player, and for a third less cost than a HDTV by itself it is a nice set, but almost no one uses the 3D since it was set up. I’ll take movies over to watch them in 3D but that’s it. Watched the original Star Wars films with the 3D on and the software did a great job converting it, but reality is that novelty wears off quickly. Like I said I’m the only one who watches 3D stuff on it and I mainly do it to keep it from going to waste.

    • Chris Palmer

      I have one too and if I can ever remember where the glasses are I might watch Coraline again. That said, my setup is hooked up to the home network and comes in very handy when my nephew wants to watch things (most of his favourite things are stored on a wireless drive when they’re not on Netflix)

  • Uncle Pappy

    This article is so full of, let’s be nice and say confusing information, I’m going to have to do actual research before I come back and begin to make a case for how bizarre I find it. But off the top of my head… The whole thing about “sitting close to the source” is just shocking. I don’t even understand what you’re saying. By that logic at the theater it would make more sense for the screens to be only 480P because you’re so far away. Or lower; who cares. The correlation between resolution and your display is about the size of the screen. A phone doesn’t need to be 4K because it’s tiny. A 120″ projection screen must be higher res because every pixel on it is physically larger and unless you sit much farther away they will not blend to the eye and you will get a screen door effect. Hi-res is about being able to sit closer to larger displays, among other things. Also, the change to HD and DVD was about more than resolution. It was also about going from terrible coax connections in most cases to discrete component connection and later digital connections all of which could reduce artifacts, improve color purity and generally had far more impact on the display quality than the improvement in resolution. That said, I totally agree that in many situations 720P looks great- I use 720 in a projection system to this day and it looks fabulous. But that doesn’t make 4k bullshit. At the point you can look at a display and be fooled into thinking it’s a window I’d say the res war is won.

    • Tony D. Helms

      You’re comparing apples to oranges. Movie theaters are designed for different purposes. Your typical movie theater projects in 2K or 4K and that mostly springs from the fact that your average person is ignorant about UHD resolution. People always think newer or bigger is better and when it comes to technology developing past the point that you can’t register it, I’d hardly call that a win.

      • Uncle Pappy

        Wow… no, it springs from the fact that the screen is about 20’x60′ large. You sound like someone that’s arguing that hi-fidelity sound is useless because you just upgraded from $10 earbuds to a BOSE Wave System and hell, that sounds so much better why would anyone need more? Hi-Fi is bullshit! This notion that you somehow can’t see a higher resolution in any display over, oh, 40″ is… ill founded. Under that threshold I might well agree.

        • Tony D. Helms

          The fact that it’s a large screen means nothing. 1080p is more than sufficient to watch something. Is your life really gonna benefit from seeing the pores on Chris Pratts’s face clearer? The answer is no.

          • Uncle Pappy

            It means everything. Absolutely everything. And some of us have 90″-120″ projection systems. We have displays that fill our field of vision and gives an IMAX type experience in the home. It matters a lot. (In fact, read up on IMAX and why it works. The film is large format and has-wait for it- a higher resolution!!) I suspect you have somehow read an article about the so-called retina effect explaining that you *can* sit closer to a hi-res display and misinterpreted it as saying you *must* sit closer to get the benefit of the resolution. That’s bass-ackwards- read it again. Look, I don’t want to sound mean butis it not fair to say you’re a Luddite by your own admission, who only got off CRT 2 years ago. For me you’re not really very credible. Sorry, but I’m out of this now. Carry on. 😀

          • Tony D. Helms

            Okay, agree or disagree, I don’t care but do not try to make this personal. You know fuck-all about me.

  • Murry Chang

    Links to the distance thing? 1080 is discernible from 720 and standard def from more than 5 feet away, at least to my eyes. If standard def and 1080 look the same to you from 6 feet away, I’d submit that you need to go to the eye doctor.
    Not to mention that you ignore refresh rate entirely; the difference between 60 and 120 is significant.

    • Tony D. Helms

      Here’s a link for the chart, amongst others, I used as reference. http://s3.carltonbale.com/resolution_chart.html Also yes I do admit I did not take refresh rate into account b/c I honestly don’t know enough about it to form an opinion on it yet. Last thing: I never said that Standard def and 1080p look the same.

      • Floop

        Ah, now the numbers in your article seem to make some sense. You based them on a 22″ screen *rofl* Do you have one of those??

        • Tony D. Helms

          Ha ha ha ha. No I was trying to give a decent example without trying to over-exaggerate. I have 39″ screen and I thought 22″ was a fair comparison.

          • Floop

            You were trying to give a fair comparison and not over-exaggerate by going to the extreme low end of the scale and give figures for a display that isn’t even made except as a computer monitor?

          • Tony D. Helms

            No, HD televisions are still made to this day as small as 17″ and I’m referring to actual televisions; not computer monitors. That being said I would respectfully ask you please take two seconds to at least google this before you say something.

          • Floop

            That’s interesting, because I’m Googling right now and I can’t find one. Remember, to be a TV it has to have a tuner built into it. Otherwise, it’s a monitor. I’m not saying you’re wrong, maybe your Google-fu is better than mine. Help me out. Nothing changes the fact that your whole argument hinges on the notion that people are watching HD on stupidly small displays. Just admit it. I’d agree with you. 4k IS BS- on an iPad.

          • Tony D. Helms
          • Floop

            It’s in the chart. The chart you linked to. The chart you base your argument on. There are two axes on it. Pray, tell the class what the horizontal one is. I’ll wait. If you called the article “4K is Impractical for a Lot of People and Here’s Why” no one would be arguing. Now you’re getting butt-hurt because you can’t admit 4K makes sense and is a clear improvement for people with equipment at a certain level. Just say it and I’ll never post here again.

          • Tony D. Helms

            I don’t care if you post on here or not. I’m not butt-hurt about anything. I’m arguing the practicality on price, need and the fact that people look down on something that’s “just 720p”. UHD obviously is an improvement, I never said it wasn’t. But practicality also plays a role in it. So no to me it doesn’t make sense.

      • Murry Chang

        That link doesn’t work for me, I’ll try it at home later. Reading further down in the comments, I see these numbers refer to a 22″ screen, which is pretty silly honestly and basically blows your entire point out of the water. Sure, a 22″ HD and UHD may not be much different, but I feel like that won’t hold true once you scale up to 50″+, which is much closer to the screen size that UHD is intended for.

        Refresh rate is VERY important, you should learn about it before you start writing articles about TVs in general.

        Your paragraph about the subject doesn’t actually explain what the different distances mean compared to each other, so I had to assume that the baseline is SD. I’d advise you to at least rewrite that entire paragraph for clarity.

      • Murry Chang

        Ah yeah it works at home, weird.

        Anyhow, from that chart, the difference between 1080 and 2k starts to become noticeable between 45 and 50 inches, which is an extremely common size of TV. So, for plenty of people, 2k will make a difference and, assuming the general curve of the chart continues 4k range is right around 50 inches, many people will get the benefit from that too.

  • Josh Graham

    When I was researching TVs earlier this year, I read these ‘con’ points, virtually word for word on other sites. I eventually bought a 4K TV and watched House of Cards which shot its first season in 1080 and Seasons 2 and 3 in 4K. There is a noticeable difference in quality between the two. Anybody who tries to say otherwise either hasn’t taken the time to compare the two, or is flat out lying.

  • Sameasit Everwas

    Funny article considering I’m still using CRT TV’s all thru my home. The 36″ Sony Wega in our family room is alas on its final leg as the color is starting to go and it regularly clicks and buzzes until the tube is warmed. I just sat thru MNF game watching my Birds play the Giants that seemed to be sporting jersey’s with a pinkish hue to them. Oh well, 15 years is a good long life for an item that became disposable over 20 years ago.

    I have a 36″ Toshiba CRT in my bedroom that is 18 years old. About 10 years ago I paid $75 to have some do-dad in it fixed and its been going strong ever since.

    My kids use a 32″ Wega in the basement for their video games which shows no sign of slowing down and I have 13″ Hitachi in my den that aside from a missing cover over the on/off/chan up/chan down buttons, works just as good as it did when I bought it home TWENTY years ago.

    So the next ‘flat screen’ I get, will be my first.

    I’m looking at 40-43″ 4K’s and they range in price from $600-$1400 bucks. A 1080p in that size can be scooped up for $500 or less. I’m looking to add a sound-bar and sub-woofer too but NOT looking to spend a grand.

    The 1080p looks more and more assured.

  • Here’s more on the subject:

    “5 Reasons You Shouldn’t Buy a Fancy New TV Anytime Soon”
    http://www.cracked.com/quick-fixes/5-reasons-you-shouldnt-buy-fancy-new-tv-anytime-soon/

  • msgundam2

    I feel the same way about the internet. It is just a fad that will never catch on.

  • Big Boss production

    I agree I just purchased a 27″
    4k monitor upgraded from 1440p 27″ ,I can tell the difference from 2 feet away, but I like to lay back on my couch about 7 feet away from the screen and game with a controller. from that distance I only gain better colours to my eye ,Im starting to regret the upgrade ,am get a high refresh rate 1080p monitor …