Tips and Tricks: How to Tell If You

If you have a 4K TV but aren’t impressed with the image quality, you may not be watching 4K content. Here’s how to see if you’re watching in 4K.

The latestin at-home entertainment is 4K content, which is consistently hyped up acrossall forms of media. It’s driving consumers to buy new TVs and pay for increasedinternet speeds in order to stream it. Who wouldn’t want to watch content socrisp that you can see the blades of grass during a football game?

Unfortunately, many times people aredisappointed when their viewing experience doesn’t really change with their new4K setup. They may even doubt that they upgraded at all.

If this applies to you, don’t start revertingto your old setup just yet. The problem may just be that you’re not actuallywatching 4K content even though you have all the necessary components of a 4Ksystem.

Read on to find out how to tell if you’rewatching 4K content.

The4K Screen

First, it’simportant to understand what 4K actually is. As you may have guessed, 4K isshort for 4,000. Some may think that this number refers to the height of thescreen while others may believe it’s the length of the diagonal between twoopposing corners of the screen. Others believe that 4K refers to the number ofpixels that make up the screen.

In reality,none of these is true.

The 4K Standard

Thestandard resolution of a 4K screen is 3840 x 2160 for the digital televisionindustry and 4096 x 2160 for the movie projection industry. As you can see,4,000 is not the height, width, diagonal or number of pixels in the screen.

Why the Confusion?

Theconfusion surrounding the 4K designation exists because of the namingconventions used to describe 4K’s predecessors:




, which have a 1920 x 1080 resolution and a1280 x 720 resolution respectively.For both of these standards, the name refers to the height of the screen inpixels.

Thediagonal size confusion comes from the ever-evolving mobile phone industry, inwhich screen sizes are measured from the top corner to the opposite bottomcorner.

What Does 4K Stand For?

The term 4Krefers to two aspects of the standard:

The width of the 4K standard, which is approximately 4,000 pixels. Depending on the aspect ratio of the screen, it could be a little less or more.

If you place four 1080p screens in a two-by-two formation, the resulting resolution is the 4K standard of 3840 x 2160. Here 4K refers to the screen being equal to four times the size of the 1080p screen.

So, inshort, whenever someone mentions 4K videos or screens, it means that they’reroughly 4,000 pixels wide (or high if it’s a portrait orientation). This alsomeans that a 4K TV has four times the number of pixels of an equal-sized 1080pTV.


But you


find yourself puzzled.

The newdisplay should be clearer, more vivid, more vibrant. You shouldn’t be able totell the difference between your screen and that window opening towards thegarden. However, the contrast is more than noticeable.

Why isthere this discrepancy between what you see on the screen and what you expectedto see when you bought your new TV?

YouAren’t Watching 4K Content

Sadly,upgrading your screen doesn’t automatically mean that all the content you’rewatching on it is actually 4K.

Toexperience 4K content in all its glory, the content must have been recorded in4K or converted to 4K after it was recorded. That should’ve been the norm bynow, shouldn’t it? After all, the 4K standard was introduced more than a decadeago.

While thisis true, unfortunately 4K has not yet become the norm for recording.

What youmay not realize is despite the newfound popularity generated by Full HD and 4Kscreens as they became more economical for consumers, a lot of content hasalready been created for larger audiences, and a huge chunk of it is stillbeing produced in lower resolution. This is to cater for the larger portion ofthe audience who are still using older screens.

Thisinformation leads us to two possible conclusions if you haven’t noticed adifference with your 4K TV: Either the content you’re watching isn’t 4K or thecontent is 4K, but your screen isn’t properly configured.

This iswhere it can get a bit tricky. How do you know which problem you’re facing?

Thesolution is simply to go through both cases step by step to understand yourpredicament.

Case 1: The Content Is Not 4K

Yourdigital TV allows you to get your content from several different sources. Themost popular ones are:

Cable TV

Memory devices



There canbe many reasons why the content you’re playing from these sources may not be4K. Let’s go through them one by one to find out what could be the reason.

1. Cable TV

First ofall, let’s get this out of the way. Cable TV does


support 4K content.

If yousource your content through cable TV, chances are that it may look differentthan before, but the transmitted content is not 4K. Most cable providers havenot evolved to the point where they can support the bandwidth required toproperly transmit 4K content. 4K files are significantly larger than files of alower resolution.

The maximumresolution that cable providers provide is usually 1080p.

Your cableprovider may have a fiber-optic connection, which has the ability to transmit4K content. But even then, the source channel may not be broadcasting 4Kcontent.

Some cableoperators provide streaming services and the occasional option to downloaddata. Let’s not confuse these options with their broadcasting programs. Thisstreamable or downloadable content may be 4K.

2. Memory Devices

CDs orDVDs

If you’replaying the video from a CD or DVD and expecting better results, you’re goingto be disappointed. CDs only hold around 750 MB of data. DVDs, on the otherhand, have more space and can hold around 4.7 GB of data. The dual-sided onescan hold twice as much but still, this is not enough space to hold a 4K video.

A singleminute of 4K video is approximately 375-380 MB. A dual-layer DVD may only holdaround 10 minutes of 4K video.

Judging bythis, you can simply discard the possibility of watching 4K content on a CD orDVD.

Blu-Ray Discs and Memory Sticks

On Blu-ray discs and memory sticks, the data storage limit is enough tohold a typical 4K video. You just have to make sure that the video on the discor stick is in 4K resolution and that it’s optimized for 4K viewing.

Checkingthat the video is in 4K is easy. You can simply check the size of the file.Usually, a 4K movie is around 100 GB, depending on the run time and frame rate.

Looking atthe file size is usually enough to determine if you’re watching 4K content ornot. However, there may be a chance that you’re watching an old movie. Ifthat’s the case, no matter the resolution you’re watching it in, if it’s notoptimized for 4K, you won’t notice a difference.

Keep in mind that movies shot on old analog cameras had very high resolution even when compared to 4K standards.

Keep inmind that movies shot on old analog cameras had very high resolution even whencompared to 4K standards. However, movies shot in the early days of digitalcameras usually max out at 1080p. This is why there are a greater number ofolder movies re-released in 4K resolution compared to movies from the early2000s.

There are a lot of websites that track of movies released in 4K. It’s better to check them out first before downloading their 4K version. Two good options are


DVDs ReleaseDates


3. Streaming

With therise of internet bandwidth, streaming services have gained unparalleledpopularity in recent years.

All of themost popular streaming services, including Netflix, Amazon and Hulu, have theirown libraries of 4K content. You may, however, have to upgrade your membershipto be able to access it.

So, makesure that you have a 4K content subscription. Keep in mind the complex case ofdigital licenses, which cause the content selection to change regularly.

Keep a lookout for which movies and shows are available on the service before deciding to subscribe to it.

HD Report

is a good resource you can use to see what content is available on various streaming services.

Finally,you need a high-speed internet connection to stream 4K content properly. If youdon’t have high-speed internet, you may be able to download 4K content, but youprobably won’t be able to stream it.

It’s recommended that you have a

25Mbps or better

connectionfor 4K video streaming. If your connection speed isn’t this high, then you’re probably not streaming a 4K video. You can check your connection speeds using sites like



4. Games

Gaming isdifferent than streaming services. There are more variables involved in havinga 4K experience, especially if you’re using a computer.

The firstthing to check is if the device you’re using to play the game has 4Kcapabilities. In the case of consoles, only the

PS4 Pro


Xbox One S


Xbox One X

support 4K gaming. If you’re not using these consoles,then you aren’t playing a 4K game.

If you’reusing your computer to play a game, you need to see if it has the rightcomponents (GPU, CPU, etc.) to run a 4K game. Not all GPUs are built alike. Youneed to have a high-end graphics card to play 4K resolution games, along withthe appropriate CPU, motherboard and memory.

The secondthing you need to check is whether the game you’re playing supports 4Kresolution. You can do this by going to the game developer’s website beforebuying the game. If you have it already, you can check it out in the in-gamegraphics settings.

So, make sure you have both the right device and the game which supports 4K resolution. To find games that support 4K you can check out the

PC Gaming Wiki







Case 2: Problems with YourTV/Monitor Screen

Now you’vegone through all the steps regarding the source of content and have marked yourchecklist accordingly. If you’ve gotten to this point, everything related tothe content should seem alright.

It’s nowtime to check your screen to see if it’s the source of your problems.

1. Settings

Digital TVscome with a lot of settings. Go through the manual to see how you can accessthe settings for your particular model and play around with the options.

One thing you may want to turn off is motion smoothing. Tom Cruise

guided the public

on why we should do this and how to turn it off.

That piece of guidance is one step to having the best movie-watching experience at home. There are also

other settings

besides motion smoothing that work best with different scenarios.

You can, atthe very least, check that your TV’s HDR or 4K mode is turned on. Usually, itturns on automatically when the TV detects 4K content, but you may have tomanually turn it on in some cases. Another thing you can try is to set thecolor mode to native if possible.

There arethird party test discs you can use to properly set up your TV with differenttest patterns that help you fine-tune based on how they appear on the screen.You should try these if you still feel like your screen isn’t as good as itcould be.

2. Cables

The cablesyou’re using to connect to your screen need to be at least HDMI 1.4 or newer.Older ones don’t support 4K data transfers. Usually, any HDMI cable issufficient for 4K movies. However, if you’re playing a game on your console orPC, you need to know which version of HDMI you’re using.

HDMI 1.4can transfer 4K content at 30 frames per second max. Furthermore, it onlysupports limited 8-bit colors which limit the 4K content’s color potential.

So, makesure you have the right cables for your screen so that there are nobottlenecks.

3. Size

Ifeverything is fine, then take a look at the size of your screen. It may be thatyou’ve bought a big-screen TV. Maybe you had a 32-inch 1080p screen before andnow you got yourself a bigger one in the 60-70-inch range.

Remember,4K screens are twice as high and wide as a standard 1080p screen resolution. Ifyou got yourself a screen that’s twice the size of your old one, it will havethe same pixel size and density.

You willhave a hard time noticing any difference since you can see up close that thepixel sizes are the same. You’ll only be able to tell a difference if you’refar away from the screen.

It couldalso be that your new screen is smaller in size. In that case, you may be oneof the many people who have a hard time properly guessing the native resolutionof the video on the screen. The differences are almost negligible to the nakedeye.

4. TV/Screen Quality

Buying a 4Kscreen doesn’t mean that you’ll get a better viewing experience. Having ahigher resolution doesn’t necessarily translate to having better image quality.

4K videosfollow the UHD standard, which is notonly a standard for the size of the video frame but also its color, contrastand frequency, among other things.

Buying acheap 4K screen marketed as an economical item means that you’re buying an itemwhich may have left out other attributes of UHD in favor of the highresolution, compromising on quality.

This is whygood quality 1080p screens sometimes appear better than cheap 4K screens.

This is why good quality 1080p screens sometimes appear better than cheap 4K screens.


The tipsabove will hopefully take care of your confusion regarding the content on yourscreen and how it is displayed.

However,the question remains: Can you actually


the difference with 4K content and a 4K screen?

TheUltimate Test

No amountof information about the content and configuration will make you satisfied withthe better quality of 4K screens.


scientists are not sure

whether the human eye can detect such tiny improvements in pixel size. Our eyes are not good at accurately measuring things, but they are good at guessing, with the help of different factors.

This meansthat although your eyes may not be able to detect the higher resolution of the4K screen, they will definitely be able to


the difference by comparing an HD and a 4K screen side by side, which isthe ultimate test.

When youcompare the two, you’ll notice that besides higher resolution, the 4K contenthas brighter colors and contrast levels along with smoother shots due to ahigher frame rate. Small details such as tiny threads, hair, fabric, wood grainor the texture of a wall appear much clearer in 4K.

Most of us aren’t able to detect these small differences while observing either one of the screens by themselves. There

are even YouTube videos

debunking the myth that you can properly identify 4K content by simply viewing it.

This is whythe newer direction of advancement in screens has taken a step towards color representationand dynamic range.

The future may still bring higher resolutions for the consumer market (

8K is already here

), but the struggle now is to appear closer to nature by displaying lights and shadows as accurately as possible.

Theconsumer opinion, then, will be more relative. But hopefully we will be thereto share some tips to set up some common standards when the time is right. Until then, enjoy getting lost in the immersiveworld of 4K content.