While both terms are used interchangeably, it is important to understand what UHD and 4K are in order to ensure that organizations choose the right technology for their application. UHD stands for “ultra-high definition” and has a resolution of 3840x2160 pixels, or four times full HD resolution. 4K as defined for digital cinema usages is 4096x2160 resolution, and is often referred to as “true 4K.” True 4K is most common among projectors, while UHD is more prevalent among LCD manufacturers, though it is generally also referred to as 4K. We will refer to both as UHD/4K.
Keith Yanke, senior director of product marketing, NEC. In a way, UHD/4K is taking over the world—the world of resolutions, that is. The global market for ultra-high definition LCD panels will reach $30.4 billion by 2020, according to a Transparency Market Research report. Findings from the report predict the market for UHD panels will reach 5.7-million units by 2020. The use of UHD displays in the commercial sector will contribute to this growth, and includes industries such as animation, broadcast, CAD/CAM, control rooms, engineering, government, healthcare, military, and photography. On the true 4K projector side, flight simulation, network operation centers (NOC), rental and staging for corporate events, and large auditoriums appear to have first-mover advantage.
UHD/4K’s increasing popularity is no mystery; it definitely offers many benefits. But before getting swept up in the hype, it is critical for companies to carefully consider certain factors.
Compatibility is Key
The most innovative, advanced device in the world is worthless if it is not compatible with other devices or parts needed to complete its function. As UHD and 4K resolutions take off, compatibility and component interoperability among devices will be critical. There are quite a few hardware pieces that reside between the source and display, and all of these other components must be able to handle and accept UHD/4K resolutions and bandwidth.
Organizations should remain aware that in addition to the difference in resolution, there are a number of formats and refresh rates (30Hz, 60Hz, 24 frames per second), or different ways of achieving the specific resolution, so it is important to know what both the source and display products support.
Ask Tough Questions
UHD/4K is an investment. Therefore, companies should ask themselves hard questions when determining whether it is the right solution for them. Helpful questions include:
- What are we trying to achieve? Will UHD give us an advantage in the marketplace?
- Do we absolutely need UHD resolution now versus waiting?
- Do we have the infrastructure in place to support moving not only the display, but also content creation, to UHD?
- Can we lower our deployment costs with UHD/4K displays?
- Are we future-proofing our business, so we will not need to replace products a few years down the road?
Holding honest, thoughtful discussions about content (including how content is created), video infrastructure bandwidth, implementation cost, and product compatibility will help facilitate a smooth transition to UHD/4K when the time comes.
Assess Content Needs and UHD/4K Benefits
Both content and player hardware are in their infancies, but as time goes on, this will change. Some player manufacturers are beginning to offer UHD/4K players to complement their full HD offerings, and more UHD/4K content is becoming available.
One benefit of UHD/4K displays is that in addition to excelling at showing one single high resolution source, they also provide the capabilities to have multiple, high-resolution images, graphics, videos, etc., on the screen at once – shown very clearly without image degradation. UHD/4K also enhances the visibility of smaller images and smaller fonts. This makes content flexibility almost limitless.
An investment in UHD/4K displays should also be done with a corresponding investment in content creation technologies. In addition to software that can efficiently develop and package UHD/4K content, content creation displays that can display UHD/4K content without scaling can avoid any overlooked details that appear when displaying on a UHD/4K installation.
Remember: Bandwidth is the Bridge
Bandwidth needs increase considerably when taking full HD resolution and raising it by a factor of four. Regardless of the way in which organizations use the displays–connected to a network or to the cloud–or from wherever they are pulling data, having sufficient bandwidth available to stream content is paramount. Think of bandwidth as the bridge over which content travels; the bridge must remain sturdy enough to support data needs.
To Invest, or Not to Invest
Initially, UHD displays will be at a cost premium of 25 percent on some screen sizes and could easily reach more than 50 percent on larger screen sizes relative to Full HD units. As time goes on and panel yields improve, the price gap/premium will shrink. This will allow the LCD display side to sell more UHD panels and become a higher percentage of the overall market.
With a cost premium in mind, some manufacturers waited longer than others to release 60 Hz UHD panels and easy connectivity options to the market. These manufacturers took a thoughtful approach, biding their time until the right technology capabilities became available.
Better Solutions, Better Business
Sometimes users want to deploy the latest, shiniest technologies out of pure hubris. In order to avoid regrets later, organizations should pursue manufacturers that solve business problems, versus those solely focused on pushing the latest, shiniest products.
A partner with a complete portfolio of UHD/4K understands the technology advantages, disadvantages and tradeoffs that go into an investment like this. This is why providers that can offer desktop, large-format and projectors in UHD and 4K resolutions are ideal. Organizations that take a solutions mindset to heart toward achieving overall business goals are much more likely to find the providers that are best for them.
As UHD and 4K resolutions grow in dominance, it is important for companies to consider key business, content, and technology issues to figure out how these technologies can drive business.