The 4K TV is here, but "What is it?" you ask. 4K, also known as Ultra HD, essentially means more pixels for you to enjoy—four times more pixels than current 1080p screens display, in fact. That means sharper images, smoother gradients, and higher detail for your entertainment.
This leap from Full HD to Ultra HD is causing a lot of buzz, but will it change the way you watch television and movies? The short answer is yes. But you'll only really detect a difference if you watch content that takes advantage of the 4K TV resolution or if you're sitting close enough to your large, new screen. By getting right up next to the screen, you'll notice the picture doesn't break down into a pixilated mess, similar to how a retina display on a smartphone doesn't distort when you put it up to your nose. Some options, such as Samsung 4K TVs, can even upscale your existing media for greater clarity.
Surely sitting up close to your screen to watch your favorite movie is not the ideal viewing experience, so why bother? While not many movies or TV shows support full 4K resolution yet, in time they will. For now, producing shows or films in this format means bigger file sizes, which means slower downloads and even more bandwidth for streaming services like Netflix that are already paying additional fees to internet service providers for all that traffic. Plus, there aren't yet any Blu-ray players or discs that output to 4K. There just isn't enough room on those discs.
All that said, if you have the minimum download speed requirement of 25 Megabits per second (the average Internet speed in America is just 10 Mbps), you can watch the first bits of 4K content that Netflix has to offer, including whole seasons of hit TV shows, and some all-time cinematic classics like Ghostbusters and Citizen Kane. Beyond that, Sony has its Video Unlimited 4K rental service with eight to 15-hour downloads, and Amazon is about to roll out a 4K streaming plan of its own.
Despite available content in 4K being a tad limited, in three to five years, it's safe to say 4K devices will be everywhere (they're already at Sears, of course!). Don't forget, the transition from standard definition to HD had its share of confusion and growing pains as well. That was a slow rollout, and this will be no different. But as an early adopter, you'll be able to enjoy all the benefits and bragging rights afforded by a 4K TV. Just be sure your new TV is sporting HDMI 2.0 ports instead of the older 1.4 ports, primarily because 4K TVs require more bandwidth to realize their full potential. Although the HDMI 1.4 cables support 4K resolutions and you wouldn't have any problems watching movies, TV broadcasts and gaming really do require you to use the new HDMI 2.0 cables.
Keep in mind that 4K will eventually become the standard format for all of your gadgets, including your tablets, phones, computer monitors, and video games. This is a technology that will be taking over. While no tech is completely future-proof, this is indeed an investment that will pay off progressively over time.