The difference between UHD and 4K in TV

4K, UHD, Ultra-HD – the TV industry is throwing around with acronyms. TECHNOLOGY BUTTON explains what the terms mean.

Whether in the professional or private sector: 4K has meanwhile established itself. Not only Netflix and Amazon already offer many films and series in the high-definition format, amateur filmmakers can also record 4K films with smartphones. But is there actually a difference between 4K and UHD?

What does UHD mean?

UHD stands for Ultra-High-Definition and is a collective term for the resolutions 4K and 8K. The designation is defined by the International Telecommunication Union ( ITU for short  ). The term is used in the TV industry to indicate when a device has a higher resolution than Full HD. A distinction is made between UHD-1 (4K resolution) and UHD-2 (8K resolution).

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What do 4K and 4K2K mean?

Now it gets a bit complicated, because 4K also includes UHD. The term 4K includes all resolutions that are around 4000 x 2000 pixels, which is why it is sometimes referred to as 4K2K. The film industry, for example, uses the 4K format with 4096 × 2160 pixels – a slightly higher resolution than 4K UHD.

4K UHD, on the other hand, is the exact quadrupling of Full HD from around 2 million pixels to almost 8.3 million pixels. The edge length is exactly doubled. Instead of 1920 pixels, the image is 3840 pixels wide and instead of 1080 pixels it is 2160 pixels high.

Why the confusion about UHD and 4K?

Originally, UHD was supposed to be an independent name for TV sets with four times higher resolution than Full HD. At the time the standard was introduced, however, 4K had already established itself as the generic term for high resolution.

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Not only the film industry and TV sets differ here. Modern cameras and smartphones also record videos with a resolution of 3840 x 2160 pixels. Nevertheless, one speaks of 4K resolution and not UHD. As if that weren’t enough, there are special devices like the iMac with a display resolution of 4096 x 2304 pixels. Although the resolution is higher than 4K in the cinema and TV, Apple speaks here of a 4K display.

Apart from this example, you can keep in mind for orientation: If you talk about 4K UHD, only UHD or UHDTV, then it is a TV set with a resolution of 3840 x 2160 pixels. If only 4K or 4K2K is spoken of, then it is 4096 × 2160 pixels. For the consumer, the difference is usually marginal, because in both cases it is a matter of very high-resolution film formats and displays that provide more details and sharpness and are therefore more pleasant to the eye.

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Other resolutions

In addition to 4K and UHD, there are also numerous other resolutions. Here is an overview of the most important:

8K or 4320p resolution

Just like 4K UHD is exactly four times the resolution of Full HD, 8K is four times the resolution of 4K. The edge length is doubled in each case. That means, 8K measures 7680 pixels (instead of 3840) in width and 4320 pixels (instead of 2160) in height.

8K can already be found in some UHD televisions that are still quite expensive. Newer cameras and smartphones such as the Galaxy S21 can also record videos in high resolution.

Full HD or 1080p resolution

This is the established standard for HD recordings with a resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels. Typically, Blu-ray films are stored in this format, which can be played back 1: 1 by HD televisions. Some smartphones and computer displays as well as Amazon, Netflix or YouTube offer exactly this resolution. Most digicams can also record in this format.

HD or 720p resolution

The 720p resolution is, so to speak, the simplest HD resolution and is 1280 x 720 pixels in 16: 9 format. This was offered by the first HD televisions, but also by older digicams. This resolution can be set, for example, on iPhones and other smartphones to limit the amount of data storage. The following applies: the higher the resolution, the more storage space is used.

SD resolution

The SD format has an image resolution of 720 x 576 pixels in 16: 9 format and is mostly found on DVDs.

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