From Full HD to 4K to 8K: A Guide to the Pixel Jungle

From Full HD to 4K to 8K: A Guide to the Pixel Jungle

HD ready, Full HD, Ultra HD, 4K and 8K – who should actually see through all the television resolutions? We explain what image sizes there are. And much more important: Which pixel numbers make sense in everyday life.

SD televisions are a thing of the past

Televisions with SD resolution (standard definition), i.e. 720 x 576 pixels, are out of date nowadays and are rarely sold. In the meantime, HD televisions have moved into many German living rooms – although many TV channels continue to broadcast in SD. ARD and ZDF only started regular HDTV broadcasting in February 2010. The private broadcasters were a little earlier in Germany with their own HD + platform. However, HD televisions can only extrapolate SD signals.

These devices only develop their full potential with high-resolution content from Blu-rays or HD channels. Conversely, this also means: if you buy a large television but watch SD content, you will see a lot of pixelated mash.

HD Ready or Full HD: Are HD-Ready TVs still worth it?

HD-ready televisions are still being sold, but only in very small sizes, where they still have their place. The mark on the television simply promises that the device can display high definition television at 720p or 1080i. 720p means 1280 x 720 pixels, the "p" means "progressive" and stands for the reproduction of full images.

1080i means 1920 x 1080 pixels, the "i" stands for "interlaced", i.e. fields with interlaced operation. The television picture is divided into two halves. Only every second line is transmitted per image, and then the other half of the lines in the following image. The disadvantage: Interlaced images can often flicker significantly. The additional requirements for HD Ready are a digital video interface (HDMI or DVI) and HDCP copy protection.

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Full HD has long been the standard

With Full HD, the resolution is already significantly higher than with HD Ready. The devices always offer 1080p, which stands for the reproduction of full images in a resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels. Full HD televisions are still available in many living rooms and are suitable for display sizes up to 65 inches with normal seat spacing between 2 and 4 meters.

The difference between HD Ready and Full HD

In the case of smaller televisions under 30 inches, the difference between HD resolution and Full HD cannot be seen with the naked eye if the distance between the seats is more than 1.5 meters. However, the difference in quality is particularly noticeable with larger TV sets or Blu-ray films – the images jerk more with HD resolution than with Full HD.

The new standard: Ultra HD or 4K

Panasonic 4K TV

If you buy a television now, you cannot avoid 4K devices. Image: © Panasonic 2016

Now that there is a full HD television in almost every German living room, the TV manufacturers have now announced the new Ultra HD or Quad Full HD trend. The technology is often referred to as 4K, which refers to the pixel count of 3840 x 2160 or 4096 x 2304 (4K2K). That is four times more pixels than with Full HD. Ultra HD therefore offers significantly more details, better contrasts and a sharper picture than conventional Full HD.

Curiously, the term Ultra HD does not describe a uniform standard at all. The 8K resolution with 7680 x 4320 pixels is also packed under the label – the UN special organization International Telecommunication Union (ITU) could not agree on a uniform number of pixels.

After there was initially hardly any content in 4K, this has improved significantly over the years: streaming providers such as Amazon Prime Video or Netflix have a fairly extensive range of titles in 4K. In addition, own productions are usually also offered in 4K.

For a long time there have also been Ultra HD Blu-rays that play films in razor-sharp 4K resolution. After the prices for such playback devices were several hundred euros at the start, these sums have now fallen rapidly. Ordinary devices are available from around 100 euros.

It is also important that Ultra HD Blu-rays not only offer a higher resolution, but also a high contrast range (HDR), a larger color space (BT.2020) and a higher frame rate.

However, the new Ultra HD Blu-rays also have a disadvantage: 3D films are not possible with them, which is bearable in view of the long and dramatically low significance of the format. For the playback of Ultra HD in 60 Hz, at least the video interface HDMI 2.0 and the copy protection HDCP 2.2 are required for televisions.

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8K: The next evolutionary stage

After 4K comes 8K of course. In other words: four times the 4K resolution of 7,680 x 4,320 pixels – a little more than 33 million pixels. Compared to Full HD resolution, this is 16 times more. 8K is not as far away as you might think. The first prototype televisions with 8K were presented at the CES in Las Vegas as early as 2015. The manufacturer Sharp had even offered a corresponding 8K model with an 85-inch screen diagonal for sale in its home market of Japan. A year later, LG had an 8K TV for the Asian region on offer.

The development of 8K finally took off again in September 2018 at the IFA in Berlin. Although only intended as a technology demonstration, LG presented the world's first 8K OLED TV under the eyes of an enthusiastic audience. Initially, it was not available to buy. Samsung is different: the South Korean manufacturer presented its new Q900 series at IFA, which has been on sale in Germany in three screen diagonals (65, 75 and 85 inches) since October 2018. LG and Sony are now also selling televisions with 8K resolution.


Samsung brings the first 8K TV to German retailers. Image: © Samsung 2018

The problem: there is currently hardly any real 8K content. With the exception of a few tech demos, 8K does not yet play a role in everyday life. In Japan, however, 8K has been tested for several years, so the Japanese television company NHK successfully carried out several test runs in 8K in 2016.

Netflix, Amazon and Co. quickly jumped on the 4K bandwagon, but currently have no plans for 8K. The video platforms Vimeo and YouTube, which already support content in 8K, are different. But it is also clear that it will be a few years before the corresponding content in four times the 4K resolution is available in a certain breadth.

An 8K TV is therefore currently of little use. Low-resolution content is scaled up to 8K level by powerful upscalers. But that alone should probably justify the purchase of an 8K TV for very few people at the moment. Anyone who buys an 8K television is making an investment in the future accordingly.

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tv sales

This infographic shows that sales of large televisions are continuing to grow. Image: © Samsung 2018

Which resolution makes sense now?

According to a rule of thumb, the resolution of the television is optimal when you can no longer see individual pixels. The larger the television and the smaller the distance between the seats , the higher the resolution of the television should inevitably be.

While an HD-ready TV is still sufficient for small 37-inch devices and a seat spacing of more than two meters, all TVs over 40 inches should have Full HD on the packaging. If the distance between the seats is small, televisions up to 60 inches should offer at least HD resolution.

SAMSUNG_SUHD_TV_Infographic_Seat distance

With 4K, the old recommendations for seat spacing no longer apply. Image: © Samsung 2016

TV sets over 60 inches should even have Ultra HD resolution if you don't have a huge living room. With a seat distance of three meters to a 40-inch screen, however, the difference between Ultra HD and Full HD can hardly be seen with the naked eye. Whether UHD is already worthwhile depends mainly on your wallet.

However, the technology already offers advantages today, especially for 3D films. Thanks to UHD, 3D in full resolution is also possible for the first time with passive glasses. If you have an HDR television and a Blu-ray player for Ultra HD Blu-rays, you will also notice a significant improvement in contrast, colors and brightness.


  1. Although SD TVs themselves are considered obsolete, many TV channels still broadcast their programs in SD
  2. SD signals can be extrapolated by HD televisions, but the result does not achieve the quality of high-resolution images
  3. HD Ready is not Full HD: While HD Ready means a resolution of 720p or 1080i, a resolution of 1080p is only available with Full HD
  4. With smaller televisions, the difference between HD Ready and Full HD can usually not be seen
  5. With larger devices, HD-ready images can jerk more than with Full HD
  6. Ultra HD offers four times more pixels than Full HD and therefore more details and better contrasts
  7. Ultra HD Blu-rays not only offer 4K resolution, but with HDR also a higher contrast range, a higher frame rate and a larger color space
  8. 8K offers four times the 4K resolution, but currently hardly any content is available in 8K
  9. A rule of thumb: the larger the television and the smaller the distance between the seats, the higher the resolution of the television should be

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