Do We Really Need 4K Video or is 2K Video Fine?

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Watching a video on YouTube, we are tempted most often to bump up the quality to 1080p, irrelevant of how much data it is consuming. We all are entitled to watching crisp quality videos, aren’t we? Now, although we are fine (or more than fine for some) with the good old 1090p videos, a new battle has risen in the world of video technology. The debacle between 2K and 4K videos, and which one is best suited for us.

If you’re a part of the tech geek community and you’re obsessed about videos, this is a blog you should read thoroughly. Though the battle between 2K and 4K is heated up too much, it is important to know whether 4K is up to the task or does 2K manage fine. Well, that actually depends on your priorities. Does not watching a video in 4K bother you or are you perfectly fine with the rich details 2K provides?

Now that the average viewer has plenty of access to the flat- panel “Ultra HD” monitors, the resolution of the 1080p ‘True HD’ HDTV sitting in the comfort of their living room seem almost like the quality of an old analog television compared to them. These new monitors utilize just one of several 2K and 4K resolutions that consumers will face over the next few years. But, do you actually need 4K? Is it worth dishing out the extra money?

What exactly are 2K and 4K resolutions, and how do they differ from today’s HDTV resolutions? More importantly, what approach should the streaming industry take to these new resolutions? Before we get into all that, let’s first learn a bit about the two competitors, shall we? Taking the 720p and 1080p as baselines, with their 1280 x 720 and 1920 x 1080 pixels resolutions respectively, let’s look at how the new 2K and 4K formats stack up against HD and True HD video qualities.

2K – The First Competitor.

Let’s just begin with the simplest format, as a way to portray how the consumer electronics (CE) brands and companies are shifting the definition away from vertical lines of resolution to something much more nebulous.

Imagine this: If 1080p has 1080 lines of vertical resolution, then 2K displays must have 2,000 lines of vertical resolution, right? Nope, not so fast; 2K is a much higher bump above 1080p display. 2K doesn’t even really bother to change the vertical resolution. All it does is push the horizontal resolution up to a 2048 pixels width. Impressive, right?

Do the math and you’ll find out that the increase from 1920 horizontal pixels to 2048 horizontal pixels is a flabbergasting 3.43 per cent increase. Hardly worth throwing out the 1080p monitor for a 2K one. I know, that’s pretty disappointing.

The reason for this confusion lies mainly in the purpose of 2K video resolutions. To date, 2K has primarily been utilized for projection within movie theaters, which require a little different aspect ratio from consumer HD TVs and desktop monitors.

While consumer displays make use of a 16:9 aspect ratio, the Digital Cinema Initiative (DCI) supported by the big Hollywood studios utilizes a 17:9 aspect ratio that aligns in a better way with several of the 35mm and 70mm films formats used to shoot movies.

As a result, the DCI termed the 2048 x 1080 resolution as 2K, and the same terminology stuck when it came to consumer applications. It’s no wonder that most people with decent home theater systems feel like they’re getting an equal or better experience to the movie theater. With the exception of a few more horizontal pixels, the image is totally the same resolution in 1080p and 2K, and the pixel density (measured in PPI) is denser on a normal consumer 1080p display.

Another way to look at this is overall pixels: – 1920 x 1080 equals 2,073,600 pixels, while 2K at 2048 x 1080 equals 2,211,840. The entire difference stands at 138,240 pixels, and if the pixels were shown as megapixels (Mpx, the usual way we gauge still camera resolutions), the difference between 1080p and 2K would be approximately 0.13 Mpx.

4K – The Second Competitor.

Let me tell you beforehand, that yes, 4K is a better option, because it’s twice more powerful than 2K (obviously). Keeping that in mind, let’s take a deeper look at what 4K is: –

So, now that we’ve taken a look at 2K, what about 4K? Do you really get resolution benefits above 2K? More importantly, do we REALLY need it?

There are three 4K resolutions to take into concern, each with different aspect ratios.

Let’s consider the first, the DCI version of 4K. The film industry absolutely loves to shoot at resolutions which are at least three to four times greater than what it will project, so the DCI launched a 4K specification simultaneously, with when it came out with the 2K display specification.

DCI 4K has 2160 vertical lines of resolution, which is basically double that of 1080p. that seems well and good, but what about the horizontal resolution? Well, it clocks in at 4096 pixels. All said, that is 8,847,360 pixels.

Running the numbers, it showcases that DCI 4K is 4.26 times the resolution of 1080p and accurately 4 times the resolution of 2K. The difference, as I mentioned previously, is the aspect ratios of 1080p (16:9) and DCI 2K / 4K (17:9).

4K Ultra HD (UHD) Video

Okay, so now that we’ve seen that DCI 4K is four times the pixel count of 1080p, what about the 4K Ultra HD monitors that you can buy from Samsung, Sony, and others for an awesome $25,000, at sizes varying from 55 to 84 inches?

Well, 4K UHD does double the vertical resolution, from 1080 to 2160 vertical lines of resolution, but it also falls short of the 4,000 pixels horizontal resolution, clocking in at 3840 horizontal pixels. If you have noticed the pattern of doubling the horizontal resolution, you may have realized that 4K UHD is not quite 4K, since 1920 times two is 3840. As a result, consumer displays will still house the 16:9 aspect ratio.

So, now the question stands at what exactly you require. Honestly, people do seem fine, if not happier, with 1080p or 2K display. It does offer rich colors, crisp details, and sharpness to the eye. But the fact that 4K does even better cannot be denied. So, it is up to you, what you want. The numbers have been put forth and the competitors have fired the shots. Who do you pick as the winner between the battle of 2K and 4K?

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