4k tvs

4K TVs – Don’t Do It

Why 4K TVs are Stupid

4k tvs

Yep, that’s a polar bear tv

This is just a fantastic article on 4k tvs and why you don’t need one.  I’m nowhere near as intelligent as Mr. Morrison, so I’ll just provide you with the link to his excellent analysis of how our eyes process information and why contrast matters more than pixels.

Please take the time to read his article, especially if you’re considering buying a new TV.  ESPECIALLY if you’re considering buying 4K TVs.

“The latest TV technology buzzword is “4K.” This magical alphanumeric represents a quadrupling of the now-standard 1080p resolution found on Blu-ray and most HDTVs.

Have no doubt, manufacturers are going to start pushing 4K (some already are).

The thing is, though, you don’t need 4K, because in the home, 4K is stupid…

The human eye, for all its amazingness, has a finite resolution. This is why you can read your computer screen from where you’re sitting, but not if you’re on the other side of the room. Everyone is different, but the average person with 20/20 vision can resolve 1 arcminute. One arcminute is 1/60th a degree. If you assume your field of vision is 180 degrees (it’s not, but go with me here), and you take 1 degree of that, you’re able to resolve a 1/60th sliver of that degree. Close up this means you can see hairs on your arm, wrinkles on your thumb, and so on. At distance, these fine details disappear. If a friend waves at you from across a field, you can probably see the person’s thumbs, but not any wrinkles or hair. Far enough away, you probably won’t even be able to see thumbs, unless those are some really, really big thumbs.

One arcminute of resolution is a best-case scenario. On a black on white vision chart, this holds true. Reduce the contrast of the object with the background, add color, and many other factors limit your ability to resolve resolution.

Your over-resolutioned TV

Let’s bring this back to TVs.

Depending on technology, a 1080p 50-inch flat panel TV’s pixels are approximately 0.023 inch wide. This is presuming they’re square (many aren’t) and that there’s no intra-pixel distance (there is). The plasma I photographed for the lead image above measured 3 pixels per 1/16 inch, which is 0.021 inch per pixel. So we’re in the ballpark.

Most people sit about 10 feet from their television. At 10 feet (120 inches), your eye can resolve an object 0.035 inch wide, if like I said above, there’s enough difference between it and the background (or its adjacent pixel, in this case). The memories of the Westwood school system that told me I was bad at math compels me to show my work, so feel free to check my math:

2 x pi x 120″: 753.98″ (circumference of a circle, with you at the center)
753.98 / 360: 2.0944″ (360 degrees in a circle)
2.0944 / 60: 0.0349″ (60 minutes in a degree)

This math, or just looking at your TV, tells you that you can’t see individual pixels. What’s interesting is that a 720p, 50-inch TV has pixels roughly 0.034 inch wide. As in, at a distance of 10 feet, even 720p TVs have pixels too small for your eye to see.

That’s right, at 10 feet, your eye can’t resolve the difference between otherwise identical 1080p and 720p televisions. Extrapolating this out, you’d have to get a TV at least 77 inches diagonal before you’d start having a pixel visibility problem with 1080p.

Or, you can move closer. Beyond being a math exercise, let’s be realistic. No one’s going to sit 6 feet from a big TV. I’d doubt 7 feet, either. So if we say 8 feet (96 inches), or 0.028 inch on the resolution side, this means you’d need a TV that’s bigger than 60 inches to really benefit from 1080p.”

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