“4K” may seem like another bad marketing buzzword. But, unlike the meaningless jargon manufacturers like to throw around at press conferences, 4K content isn’t useless. It’s the high-definition successor to 1080p, and promises to change the way we experience TV, movies, and content by delivering an unprecedented level of detail.
There’s no doubt about it, 4K video is the future. But what is it, exactly, and do the current costs outweigh the benefits? Before we jump into the technology behind 4K, it’s important to understand why companies are so keen on the standard in the first place. Really, it all comes down to market dynamics.
The Canon EOS-1D, the world’s first 4K capable SLR priced at $12,000
Oh, how times have changed. The introduction of the iPhone and Android turned the mobile industry on its head. Touch screens, components like accelerometers and proximity sensors have become ubiquitous. The improved usability of smartphones spurred their adaptation as companies vied for consumers’ attention. Innovation became a central tenet of many company philosophies, motivated by the pervasive belief that unique features would win over potential buyers.
That dedication to “different” is now stronger than ever, evident in features like the HTC’s heavily promoted UltraPixel camera and industry leading BoomSound speakers; the Samsung Galaxy S4’s myriad sensors and amalgamation of apps; and the Nokia Lumia 1020′s 42-megapixel rear camera, and now, the Galaxy Note 3’s ability to capture incredible 4K video. Though some aspects are more useful than others, few would argue any are completely undesirable.
Resolution continues to receive a lot of attention, and for good reason. Displays have been getting sharper each year, and high-definition output (via HDMI or Miracast) is always a highlight. But HD isn’t as fresh and exciting as it once was. It’s familiar, and not a novel selling point for $700+ smartphones. That’s why mobile device companies, always looking to invest in future trends, have started supporting a new format that holds a lot of promise.
4K Gaming [click to enlarge]
That was 2003. Today, full HD 1080p is ubiquitous. Nearly 75 percent of Americans own HD televisions, and the most popular computer monitors are HD, according to a study by the Leichtman Research Group. From a technologist’s perspective, that’s an encouraging evolutionary trend. Manufacturers of displays see things differently, however. In their eyes, familiarity breeds yawns, which translates to lower sales. So, in an effort to once again awe the masses with technological magic, television and smartphones makers are rushing to mass-produce displays of unprecedented resolution. The most popular target by far is 4K, which has a minimum resolution of 3840 x 2160 . Nearly every major TV manufacturer has released a 4K model, and LG recently teased a 5.5-inch mobile display that, while not quite 4K, comes impressively close. (It has a resolution of 2560 x 1440.) Another display manufacturer out of Japan named Ortus Technology has demoed a 9.6 inch 4k display, too.
The 13.3″ LCD display used in the Samsung ATIV Q is an industry leading 3200×1800 pixels.
Why 4K? Well, 4K is effectively double 1080p, which certainly appeals to marketing sensibilities. More importantly, though, TV broadcasters are widely expected to adopt 4K as standard (some in Japan already have) and the popularity of 4K-capable digital cameras ensures plenty of movies will eventually become available for those with compatible displays.
While it delivers exceptional, highly manipulable content, there’s a dearth of affordable display hardware needed to actually see the difference 4K makes. In addition, it remains to be seen if mobile SoCs are powerful enough to produce quality, rather than blocky, 4K video. See the sample video below for an idea of what I’m talking about. Also, remember to set the quality to original (requires powerful computer). If you’re running anything less than an Intel Core i3, it’s likely your computer will struggle.
The main benefit of having the ability to capture 4K video is that you’ll be able to create stunningly detailed videos, that offer substantially better video quality. 4K video is video that is captured at a resolution of 3840 x 2160 vs 1080p’s 1920 x 1080. It’s over 8 million pixels with 4K vs 2 million with 1080p. Massive difference.
4K is a huge boon for those proficient in video editing, because of the nature of the resolution. It, if we recall, offers four times the resolution of 1080p. That means cropping without significant loss of resolution; conceivably, an edited video missing a significant amount of captured video could still qualify as HD.
Watch our Samsung Galaxy Note 3 review, here.
The Note 3′s 13MP BSI camera, is capable of capturing true, honest to goodness 4K video. With a resolution of 3840×2160, it shoots glorious 4K video at variable frame rate of 26-35fps. The video length is somewhat expectedly capped at five minutes, and produces a whopping 1.5GB file. The bit rate of the video itself is approximately 48-50mbps. And while each experience won’t necessitate employing the 4K detail the Note 3 is capable of, it’s nice to be able to grab such incredible video from your smartphone whenever an exciting moment beckons.
4K content is insanely sharp. If you’ve ever witnessed it first hand on a 4K capable display , you’ll know that it’s an order of magnitude sharper than 1080p, so in a word: stunning. It also allows for zooming without apparent loss of quality. (Think Nokia’s 42-megapixel Lumia camera, but for video.) Of course, a PC (or powerful mobile device) and software powerful enough to handle 4K footage is a necessity, but given the downwardly trending price of virtually all consumer electronics, it’s likely an upgrade probably isn’t an outrageous proposition for those able to afford a 4K-capable Android phone.
The Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 – the world’s first 4K capable SoC
Clarity should be the primary benefit of 4K – more pixels is good in theory – but comes at a price. Recording 4K videos will consume substantial battery life and the files themselves will be massive. Qualcomm, the first company to produce an SoC (the Snapdragon 800) capable of capturing 4K footage, hasn’t been forthcoming about the compression and bitrate used. It isn’t unreasonable to assume, though, that the quality won’t be on par with what cameras like the RED Epic can produce. Just like smartphones won’t replace DSLRs for video any time soon, don’t expect to see Hollywood blockbusters filmed on the Note 3. Further research shows however, that the 4K footage grabbed by the Galaxy Note 3 is around 50mbps resulting in significantly larger file sizes than the 1080p video most smartphones are capable of capturing, today.
There’s no doubt that 4K is the future. Ultra HD / 4K recording and content have the capability to redefine our media experience – though mainstream adoption is still a few years off. With current 4K displays starting to trickle onto the market with premium pricing attached, it’s likely that mass adoption will have to wait until pricing hits consumers’ sweet spots. Over the next several quarters, we’ll see more reasonably priced 4K cameras and smartphones with this feature hit the market. It’s only a matter of time before 4K, in all the glorious detail that it brings, is mainstream.
And how about you? Are you planning on getting a 4K television? Do you think 4K video is overkill? The consumer electronics industry is gearing up for it in a big way, and even has plans for 8K and beyond. Let us know what you think down below!
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Personally I think 4K is totally unnecessary on a phone display.
Actually correctiing my above statement. The question of this post is for Android in general. So yes if 4K is available for Windows or Mac or Linux then it should be for Android.
At this point it’s just stupid. There’d be a sacrifice in performance for the sake of non-perceivable pixel size. It’s fucking dumb.
isn’t that progression
when comes 64bit it’ll be more practical
although 4k is more of a gpu task
Progression is something you can see with the eye,
the only thing with 4k you will see with the eye is an enormous performance hit
4k is not stupid if used in the right context. TV? Yes. Smartphone? No. Tablet, marginally yes. However, android devices CAPABLE of processing 4k is a must. We all want to be able to stream 4k content from our portable devices to the big screen. Ofcourse with that comes advances in the data transfer speeds. 4k over wifi or its future equivalent would work.
I have no interest in 4k unless there are literally NO tradeoffs.
Yeah, exactly. Outputting 4K to another screen is the real win
I disagree. As far as pixel quality on a non 4k Screen, it is pretty dumb, but once you start getting into video editing and realise you can crop out 1080p peices from it, it becomes amazing. I remember reading about the gigapixel camra someone recently tested, where they took a picture of a football stadium and were able to pull out 14 MP images of every single face in the stadium from just a few photos
Today – unnecessary, in the long run – of course it needs to keep getting better. Everywhere, including the resolution.
Petition verizon for screwing us over!
4k is good but how far from the eyes ????
I feel like these photos would take up a lot of memory
A 4K photo is only 8 megapixels, but yes, 4K video presumably is four times bigger in file size vs 1080p.
In not imprunits with 4K in it’s current iteration, even in TVs. I’ve seen demo units in stores, and there’s very little discernible difference between it and 1080p. Moreover, though, the 4K TV somehow managed to make video in 1080p format look worse than any 1080p TV.
“Moreover, though, the 4K TVs somehow managed to make video in 1080p format look worse than any 1080p TV”. Uhhh YEAH! Because 4K is approximately 4 times the pixels of Full HD. Some 4KTVs upscale Full HD content, others don’t, but no matter what, a 4KTV will always be best used for 4K UHD content.
That’s because at normal viewing distances for intended devices around 100 PPI is all that’s needed to fool the human eye into a flawless image. The PPI war that’s been going on is pointless and sacrifices a lot of other specs because of it.
Anyone who thinks 4k on smartphones is a must, should rethink their priorities in life. Just my 0.02$.
There’s always that one guy in the comments who believes his opinion is the best, and degrades others to either “Your opinion makes no sense”, “should rethink their priorities in life” or “What planet do you live on?” It’s becoming like a script haha
Don’t you think it’s a bit absurd to mark something like this a “MUST have”, when you most probably can’t even tell the difference in looks, and it has more cons (huge battery drain, more processing required) than pros? I think it’s not only not needed, but it’s a must-NOT-have. So the discussion at this point should be between these two options, and not the other extremities, where it’s a “must”.
I wouldn’t personally call it a must as this point, but in just a few years it will be. In addition, maybe you can’t tell the difference with the human eye, but when viewing images or videos on it, it makes a big difference.
I think 4K should be a welcome addition to android, once battery, cpu, and gpu technology have advanced further. I love the idea, but for the technology available for phones today, I think 1080p is enough.
it’s exactly what android does not need. the spec hunting is so dominant that other things simply fall behind. it needs to stop, you can tell me whatever you want but your hd phone does not show anything “blurry”. everything is crystal clear, increasing resolution even further are just numnbers to sell – not a reasonable feature enhancing user experience
I can’t login for some reason, but I can comment like this. I have a 720p screen on my phone, and it is definitely a nice display. However, I have seen it compared to 1080p phones, and I CAN see a major difference. 1080p isn’t the highest resolution in the world either. Sure nothing is blurry, but a higher resolution will make things look sharper. I didn’t say I wanted 4K resolution to come any time soon. If you read all of my post you would see that I want the cpu, gpu, and especially the battery to get better before we get 4K. If we get 4K displays on phones in the next few years, it will be a huge performance drain as well as a burden on the battery.
Increasing the resolution definitely does enhance user experience. In 10-15 years, we will think 1080p is a horrible resolution, even for a phone. The “spec hunting” is a good thing. As long as we maintain a reasonable price, and a good battery life, the better the specs are, the better we can make a device. I’m not saying put a 5 Ghz 16-core processor in a phone, as that would be useless and make the battery worthless. Good specs are a great thing if the prices remain the same as smartphone prices today, and if you can actually use it for a while without the battery dying.
depending on screen size, anything past 1080p on a phone will not be noticeable. The human eye is simply physically incapable of telling the difference. The “difference” you would see in the increase in resolution will more likely than not be due the better technology, providing more vibrant and realistic colors, higher contrast ratio, better brightness, etc… That being said, i completely agree with you
my galaxy note 3 can record 4k, but when I play it on my macbook pro, it stutters and lags, also in my gaming desktop, I dont think the hardware is the problem, I think 4k resolution are not yet supported on video players like VLC or quicktime or WMP.
VLC 2.1 supports 4K UltraHD, so it’s not VLC’s problem.
It stutters because your computer is shit. Don’t blame VLC for your crap computer
Regarding TVs, it’s all about the viewing distance and the size of the screen.
how about 4X battery life ?
Agreed. Let’s just stop with the damn screens so batterys could catch up.
It’s coming, and then some probably. Check out all the amazing research going on with graphene supercapacitors. One example: http://monash.edu.au/news/show/soft-approach-leads-to-revolutionary-energy-storage
yes of course its necesary and i would love my galaxy note 5 with 4k display
since you’re comparing all these impractical resolutions, why not include Sony’s 2098 PPI OLED display in your comparison. you reported it here. you didn’t say it has to be a display for handheld devices.
total waste, first off, i don’t think most people can really see the difference between 720 and 1080, 4k is just retarded, unless however everyone is on shrooms than those extra pixels might come in handy. secondly, most phones have a hard enough time recording 1080 video, at least most phones that i’ve used will glitch or blur. 3rd, just at 1080, file size is ridiculous, memory cards are still expensive, and at the most you can only hold 32 or 64GB, thats not even enough to hold 1/4 of my music collection, let alone a bunch of pictures or a few videos as well. i’m still waiting for someone to make a phone that can replace my 160GB ipod which i have to carry in the same pocket as my phone, but always with my phone screen facing away from the ipod so my screen doesn’t scratch. 4thly, i think they should focus more on higher frame rates than higher resolution. 5th, i don’t think internet is generally fast enough to handle 4k, my high speed internet on my pc has a hard enough time streaming 1080 videos while sharing internet with others in the house, meanwhile you got all these phone companies who have been selling 4g phones for years now and yet many big cities still don’t have 4g, at least i know fucking phoenix az doesn’t. 6th, there are still starving children, why don’t these assholes try to solve that instead.
People aren’t forced to record at 4k, but it is a great option to be offered. While 4k TV’s aren’t in every household, there will come a time when these new sets will replace current HDTV’s. At which point, wouldn’t it be nice to see clips you recorded a while back at the same resolution offered on your new TV instead of having to up convert them to 4k? It’s true though, phones aren’t great at recording 1080p video, they are mainly for quick clips, but in part, it’s because they record at 30fps. People will have a much smoother video if more phones recorded at 60fps and the bitrate was increased from the average 17 mbps.
I’ll agree, streamed HD videos and movies look bad and aren’t a great source for HD. Which is why if you want to fully enjoy HD movies and not have to worry internet speeds, you have Blu-ray movies. With the introduction of 4k TV’s, internet speeds won’t be capable of offering good 4k Movies, the 4k Blu-ray movies will offer be the best choice. You won’t have to worry about the internet speeds.
Same argument can be made that most people can’t really tell a difference between a high end smart phone and a low end smart phone when they only use it for calls, pics, video, text, and web browsing . That shouldn’t stop companies from releasing high end phones to the customers who take advantage of them. Technology advances and 4k in cell phones is a further step in it.
What I would say is that cell phones companies should stop with the obsession of making such thin smart phones. If they weren’t so thin, they could add a larger battery and that wouldn’t suffer as much.
For the vast majority of usecases 16:9 is a crappy aspect ratio. The Chromebook pixel was a refreshing change from the industry-wide obsession with wide and low displays.
As for having more pixels, it really depends on the type of device and viewing distance. But lets get the PC-industry away from 1366 x 768 before we talk about 4k.
As a Note 3 owner, I knew it had the 4k camera when I bought it. I also knew that I would have absolutely NO use for it because I don’t own a device capable of displaying it. The phone itself is only 1080p. As far as it being retarded as one poster put it, Go back 10 years and go look at CRT vs. LCD Flat Panel buyer reviews. Nobody wanted anything to do with flat panels because they were so small compared to a CRT. And expensive. Go try to buy a CRT now.
Pure overkill in my opinion.
4k should stay away from the mobile division.
We’ll see absolutely no difference and the gpu will have to be way more powerful to drive that display.
Also the effects in games should be greatly reduced in favor of the higher resolution, and this is a big minus for me.
Finally the battery life will be ruined for sure.
Why mention the Ativ Q when it’s never gonna be released?
i though you could record in 4k and than down sample it to 1080p and the video will look incredible?
Tell you the truth, I can still enjoy good content in 480p on my HD TV, so I don’t think resolution is the most important thing in the world. Sometimes I can see the artifacts, but if it’s a good movie, it’s no big issue. I don’t think 4K is useless, hi-res images and videos are cool, but the needed storage makes you think. 32 Gigs will quickly become narrow space if these resolutions become standard. Also, 4K displays in mobile phones are definitely a dumb idea, if you ask me. (The only reason I can see pixels in my 720p SGS3 is because of the pentile arrangement. Full HD should be more than enough).
On a top notch 4k display with perfect source material the quality is jaw dropping but in the real world why would you want this on a phone?? It would decimate the battery and you would need enormous amounts of data to say watch a movie steamed to it, until they sort out battery life it’s pointless
you forgot http://www.androidauthority.com/worlds-highest-ppi-display-2098ppi-oled-display-sony-254182/ :D should be on top :D
(Think Nokia’s 42-megapixel Lumia camera, but for video.)
It’s 41 MP right?
It’s just technology – it gets better even if it’s not really needed.
4k is not an overkill. This will definitely lead to a lot of innovations. Time wil come that we would be clamoring for holographic displays. But before this display tech, I think 8k will be the next big thing. And 8k is not an overkill!
It’s an overkill when compared to the rest of today’s current tech offerings and it’s not worth the short comings because of that. As batteries catch up (which they’re getting there) and storage catches up that’s when it won’t be overkill.
I think for a while the only 4K android devices will be working with TVs. After all networks, storage, and hardware is just catching up to 1080P on phones.
Imagine streaming Netflix in 4K, that would be so much data, you would need higher speed Wi-Fi to do that. LTE would be barely keeping up.
I’m really impressed. The difference between 4K and 1080p is obvious even on 1080p screens. The compression artifacts are far less noticeable in 4K.
In a sense, it’s overkill, but in 12-18 months we will all says: 4K is necessary, like today we want LTE or at least 42mbps phones.
4k is clearly the wave of the future — and by that, I mean that I don’t have one yet. No one I am related to has one yet, either. Yet clearly, this is where things are going. There is synergy at 4k: 4k requires about a 62″ screen (or less) at 9 feet of viewing distance, and is retina all the way down to 10″ at only 1 foot of viewing distance (apple uses 18 inches as viewing distance for a tablet, which would be a >15″ tablet). 4k video recorded from mobile devices, even if down-converted to FullHD, is better than native full HD. So for all of these reasons, it is coming.
Honestly, I am far more interested in rec2020 (wide color gamut) and oled display tech than I am about 4k — but the two will go hand-in-hand.
1.5 gigs in 5 minutes? Clearer and more detailed is always better but it is not a necessity for me just yet or anytime in the near future. There shouldn’t be a rush to push this onto phones either. Time should be better spent increasing battery capacity, SOC architecture and software processing efficiency, as well as display technology. I know these are different categories of technology with different teams working on advancing them but in the end they all have to come together to create a good smartphone experience. I feel some things are rushed on the hardware side, in our beloved android community. Octacore phones and whatnot? Slow down folks.
Believe you need it on special occasions.
Just because I was curious I watch the video on my laptop (it was a mid to high end laptop in December 2009) and I am running Linux on it, and at 1080p it runs at about 35-45% on all 4 cpu’s (according to the system monitor) but 4K makes all 4 cpu’s flat line max out. I am okay with 720p for computers and mobile devices for now until they come out with better batteries and processors to handle the video, and have better codecs to compress the video so the videos don’t hog up so much space. For now I will continue to use 720, hopefully displays resolutions finally hit an obstacle soon so processors, batteries, display technologies, and video codec can finally catch up.
People are forgetting that Android isnt only used on phones. Android being 4K capable will help in others areas such as TV’s , media streamers, etc. Bring on the 4K! Phones dont need it right now but my media streamer does!
4K should be available only for tablets that are more than 10 inches.
4K is not double 1080p, the author should do the math:
3840 * 2160 = 8294400
1920 * 1080 = 2073600
8294400 / 2073600 = 4
Thus, 4K is 4 times 1080p (which make sense since each side is doubled, and 2*2 makes 4…)
(Quoting the article: “Well, 4K is effectively double 1080p”)
It will never be useful for phones, except possibly in niche markets. But for tablets, yes.
More than the 4k display i would love manufacturer push more towards the higher refresh rates, lesser response time & more colour dept..
What the real problem these days is not the ability to have these technologies on shelves but the real problem lies within the content creators.. Which camera can capture videos at 120+ refresh rate? There will be only select cameras in the market which will have this kind of refresh rate to capture.
I guess we all should push manufactures for better camera (not for the megapixel race but better refresh rates & color dept).. We dont want 4k resolution.. We want to improve quality…
more pixels is better but i think that the companies dont want us to get the technology fast , see this article to understand why we need more pixels http://www.hfrmovies.com/2013/09/27/why-8k-isnt-the-endpoint-for-resolution/
If having 4k features on my next phone at a cost of next to nothing, i’ll take it. But if someone somewhere wants to charge for this unessary crap. No thanks.
Wow Idk how to feel about this…so many pixels…
4k in my eyes is still quite a few years from main stream. HD is not even the standard(as in default) for television. If you think it is check your cable channels again.
The PPI war is baffling for displays most people didn’t notice it with the iPad 2 to the iPad 3. PPI is all about viewing distances and with most handheld devices 120 is more than enough. For TV most don’t even touch 120ppi unless they are very small. 4k really comes into play with gaming to get the jagged edges smoothed out. But most people’s games cant even run at 60fps on 1080p so we’re still far away from that being the standard.
1080p is still overkill on phones and many should be kept at 720p. Look at what that’s done for the moto x’s battery life. Being a Note 2 owner I wouldn’t have minded the Note 3 being kept at 720p, matter of fact I would have preferred it. Reason being the average person would be looking at probably 2 days of battery life with ease. Cutting the amount of charges in half would almost double the life span of the battery and that’s important with 2 year contacts.
But don’t get me wrong I think the push for 4k is a good thing. More ppi has never been a bad thing, it just needs to be implemented correctly.When 4k does became the true standard (as in the default) technologically it will probably be a much different world.
Some have mentioned this before, but, it’d be good only if all other elements also keep up (battery life and processing power several have mentioned, as well as storage size, display quality, and even network speed). It’s only recently that LTE has become widely available that HD content streaming became tolerable. And what’s the point of 4K video if it chews through the battery and I can only store 10 minutes of the video?
I think visual quality will be hotly debated, but, I’m inclined to think once the costs come down, it will be accepted widely within a decade, much like HD. I just think frame rate is something more consumers would be more interested in — it allows for not only the ability to capture high speed action, but, fun slow-motion effects too.
Anyway, until manufacturers can make the battery life, storage space, and network speed up to par, I’ll probably hold off on paying extra for a 4K capable phone.
One thing i don’t get it, the Nokia L1020 just using chipset Snapdragon S4 but capable with 41megapixel cam, and the picture above, the Snapdragon 800 SoC just have capability 21megapixel cam? Can someone explain to me?
I dont known for sure but my guess would be a seperate image processing chip.
They used oversampling tech :/
It can take IMAGES, not videos in that size, it also scaled it down to a smaller image
Already Googled it.. Thanks btw
I’m less for a 4K display on the phone itself and more for outputting 4K to a monitor/TV that’s capable of displaying it…in all of it’s glory
Ok, before, it used to be that HD was overkill, and 360p was good enough.
In, the most, 5 years, you will think that 4K is the standard and 8K is overkill c: