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Four Kay

Where do you stand on 4k tellies? You know, about the only thing to make a big splash at CES this year? The television with four-times the definition of 1080p? Safe to say they’re still in their infancy, costing multiple thousands of pounds, but it doesn’t stop the tech lover inside me lusting after one.

As soon as the current HD standard dropped below a certain price point I leapt at it, and I can still remember that joyful day that I took off from work awaiting its arrival. At the ready to test it I had the original Dirt, the much maligned Shadowrun, and the company’s HD-DVD player complete with King Kong. Though I’d experienced HD content first-hand many times before, the fact that it had now made its way into my living room made me incredibly happy. The crispness of Dirt, the clarity of the panoramas in King Kong: oh my.

But will it be the same for 4k? Will there be that noticeable leap there was as we went from CRT to HD? Sadly, I don’t think there will.

After poring over the specs, ignoring the prices, and wondering what a suitable size television would be to complement the newly installed rabbit hutch in our living room, someone pointed me towards this article.

Relief for my wife as 4k appears to be completely unnecessary in normal living room conditions. Scientifically speaking, at a normal viewing distance, your eye will not be able to pick up the individual pixels on offer at such a high resolution and thereby wasting its efforts. Worse than that, most people cannot tell the difference between 720p and 1080p; and I’d probably have to lump myself into that category too, in most cases.

The new spec is really only going to benefit those with huge 60” plus televisions, but my fear for the forthcoming console generation is that it won’t matter a jot.


Looking back over this current generation then we see consoles boasting 1080p capability – remember the ruckus at the start when Xbox “only” supported 1080i? – and yet how much has that actually been used? It seems most games are quite content to render at a far lower mark than that and use the internal upscalars to produce an ultimate 1080p output.

My worry is that without the dream of 1080p fully realised, a distraction by 4k could once again lead to unfulfilled potential. With the more glitzy devs striving for “Full UHD” rather than concentrating on what I hope will be the next generation goals of building richer worlds and not just higher-def’ed ones. With the increase in the power in the next generation I’d much prefer to see it spent on more interesting AI, more populated cities, deeper experiences, rather than yet another lick of paint.

Probably the saving grace will be that 4k will simply be beyond most games as the sheer power required to handle such a signal is deeply meaty. Let’s say most games render natively (before the upscale) at 720p; to render at 1080p uses roughly twice the number of pixels and therefore twice the power. Using the same logic for 4k, that’s a further four times the umph required. That’s going to be a hell of a rig to power that. And just think what else could you be using that for?

Still, I and others can pour as many numbers at you as we like, but nothing quite dampens the allure of a shiny new screen. Why let facts get in the way of a potential new toy.