Tech Guide
Ultra HD

UHD TVs, technology, content

The new Ultra High Definition (UHD) television standard started to make its way into German living rooms in 2015. By the end of 2020, more than 17 million UHD televisions have been sold, now accounting for 75 per cent of all new sales. This is no surprise, because Ultra HD greatly improves upon both the quality of the previous TV technologies and also its size restrictions. At last, screens can be as large as you want. The sharpness and brilliance of an Ultra HD image must be seen with your own eyes. Your specialist dealer will be happy to show you.

Picture quality


Close enough to touch

A television picture so realistic, vivid and three-dimensional that you want to reach out and touch it. Life-size actors in your home cinema and sports broadcasts where every movement is razor-sharp in focus. This is what the Ultra High Definition television and video format delivers. Ultra HD (UHD) is an international standard that extends and improves upon the still widespread High Definition Television (HDTV) standard.

The UHD standard

The UHD standard has two levels: UHD-1 with 3840 x 2160 pixels, and UHD-2 with 7680 x 4320 pixels. The former is known colloquially as 4K, which is not technically correct as 4K actually refers to the digital cinema standard. Cinematic 4K has a slightly wider image (4096 x 2160 pixels) and a different aspect ratio (19:10). To achieve an Ultra HD picture from professional 4K cameras, the pixels on either side are simply omitted. The higher resolution of UHD-2 is generally referred to as 8K. Although 8K devices and media are available, they aren’t widespread in Germany at present. Anyone who talks about Ultra HD in this country usually means UHD-1 or 4K.

Sharper details

The higher resolution at four times that of HDTV is a significant advantage. An Ultra HD signal contains twice as many pixels in height and width as the Full HD format. With 8.3 million pixels and a resolution of 3840 x 2160, the details in Ultra HD can fill screens measuring of over two meters/78 inches diagonally. Plus, you can place the television anywhere without needing to keep it at a specific viewing distance (see the practical tip). Televisions as large as 60 or 65 inches can now be used in normal-sized living rooms.

Natural colours

Ultra HD does even more: It can fully exploit the technical capabilities of modern screens. Liquid crystal and OLED displays can show many more colours than the earlier video and television standards allowed. The earlier transmission standards had to account for yesterday’s technology, showing images as if they were produced by phosphor dots on a TV tube. The new Ultra HD format and standard supports billions of colour and brightness gradations – many thousands more than the HDTV standard.

Practical tip

The previously recommended viewing distances no longer apply to Ultra HD: You can sit closer to your Ultra HD television without seeing any blurred details or pixel patterns. The optimal distance for UHD/4K is 1.5 times the picture height (not its diagonal), but for 8K, it’s only 0.75 times the height. For older HD televisions, 3 times was the recommendation. For a 65-inch Ultra HD television, the optimum viewing distance is therefore now just over 1.2 meters.

Increased contrast

Televisions and programmes that support a wider contrast range (High Dynamic Range, or HDR for short) provide an additional quality boost. HDR signals convey more details in both dark and bright scenes, making the picture crisper and more natural. Sunsets with reflections on water appear as glistening as they do in nature. Details in dark scenes, normally lost in the shadows, are completely visible. This is valuable, for example, in football broadcasts when players run from sunlit areas into the shadows or vice versa. HDR media for the home cinema is now widely available: Both streaming services and Ultra HD Blu-ray discs distribute video content using the extended contrast range. Sky, a subscription television provider, has been offering HDR live sports programmes since 2020.

Faster movement

The number of frames per second has also increased: Where the older video signals break a transmission into a maximum of 50 to 60 shots per second (50 to 60 Hertz), 120 frames per second is theoretically possible with Ultra HD. This is also known as High Frame Rate (HFR) transmission. Fast movements, such as those in sport, are reproduced in razor-sharp definition, as if you were sitting in the stadium watching it live. While most movies are still filmed at 24 frames per second (24p), HFR movies are shot at 48 frames per second (48p). Only a few titles have been produced and released in HFR, including Peter Jackson’s 2012 “The Hobbit” trilogy, shown in selected cinemas at 48p. HFR remains the exception rather than the rule, especially for live events. However, 50 Hertz transmissions still benefit from the new standard: Ultra HD transmits complete images containing the full number of pixels (50p). Where TV broadcasters used to split Full HD transmissions into half-images at a reduced resolution (50i), using this outdated interlaced scanning method is now a thing of the past.

Televisions & projectors

Televisions in close-up

For a while, Ultra HD TVs with curved screens were quite popular. However, most viewers seem to prefer flat screens in their living rooms. Many modern screens are almost frameless, and even rollable televisions have been manufactured. Slightly inward-curving screens are still popular in the gaming scene however, and make for more comfortable work environments as high-resolution computer monitors. The picture quality of an Ultra HD television is impressive: The high pixel count ensures photos and videos look perfect, and the extended colour and contrast ranges significantly enhance movies and TV broadcasts.

Sharply in focus

Even conventional HDTV broadcasts and Blu-ray movies look better: Ultra HD devices upscale lower-resolution signals to 3840 x 2160 pixels, ensuring no pixels can be seen, even close up. To ensure your purchase remains attractive in the long run, it is worth paying attention to a few details before buying.


Just as before, a HDMI socket on the TV is used to receive picture and sound signals. Ultra HD Blu-ray players also use this interface. However, only HDMI version 2.0 (adopted at the end of 2013) can transmit at the full quality. HDMI 2.0 supports the extended colour palette and 60 frames per second that Ultra HD requires. HDR signals require at least HDMI 2.0a (for HDR10, adopted mid-2015) or HDMI 2.0b (for HLG, adopted mid-2016). If you want to view UHD content at 120 Hz or 8K at 60 Hz, and are also interested in dynamic HDR, you must purchase devices that support at least HDMI 2.1 (adopted at the end of 2017). This also applies to Ultra HD content at 120p. Unfortunately, HDMI’s licensing regulations prohibit labelling devices with their respective HDMI version numbers. To add to the confusion, some of these formats are optional so that two devices that both support HDMI 2.1 may not have the same range of functionality. You must compare related products’ technical specifications before you make a purchase: Even though many HDMI cables may appear to be the same, you will need a premium high-speed HDMI cable for UHD (60 Hz). For 8K, you’ll need an ultra-high-speed HDMI cable.

High frame rate

Increasingly more modern UHD TVs support frame rates of up to 120 Hz. While video content at these rates is still rare, these screens are popular with gamers as the current game consoles, including the Sony PlayStation 5 or the Xbox Series from Microsoft, already deliver such content.

Video codec

As the resolution increases, so does the amount of data in the video signal. This is why Ultra HD requires new compression methods to be able to transmit, store, and stream the video via the internet. The High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC) codec, also called H.265, is used in Ultra HD broadcasts, by streaming providers like Netflix, and for Ultra HD Blu-ray discs. An Ultra HD television should therefore support the HEVC codec, which is by now the de facto standard for all modern devices (from around 2016). A successor to HEVC, the Versatile Video Coding standard (VVC, or H.266), was adopted in mid-2020, and promises a 50 per cent increase in efficiency when encoding Ultra HD content. Devices are not expected to broadly support this new standard until at least 2022/2023. Since VVC is not backwards compatible, switching from HEVC to VVC requires a longer and more expensive parallel period (simulcast) until all receivers in the market are replaced. It is more likely that the introduction of VVC will be linked to the launch of a higher resolution like 8K instead. In addition to HEVC, some manufacturers support AV1, an open and licence-free codec from the Alliance for Open Media, although producers have been slow to take up this rather experimental codec.

Copy protection

Along with the higher picture quality, film studios and rights holders have demanded additional measures to protect against piracy. To watch protected Ultra HD content, the HDMI sockets of all devices involved must support the HDCP 2.2 encryption standard. If one device doesn’t, the entire playback chain switches down to Full HD. You will still see a picture, but only at 1920 x 1080 pixels. Since the copy protection is built into the physical HDMI connection, older devices cannot be upgraded via a software update. However, you can assume that all devices with at least HDMI 2.0 interfaces also support HDCP 2.2. If your television uses an external tuner or connection device, you may be able to simply replace this component. Ask your specialist dealer for advice.

High Dynamic Range

All Ultra HD televisions support the ultra-high resolution and extended colour range. The top models go one step further and make their pictures particularly bright using a High Dynamic Range (HDR). There are several HDR standards: HDR-capable Ultra HD televisions must be able to understand and process them in order to show the signal at full quality.

Practical tip

Televisions from 2016 or earlier do not generally support HDR. All televisions released that are marketed as HDR-capable since then support at least the HDR10 standard. Dolby Vision is typically available in the top models from most manufacturers, while HDR10+ is only supported by a few manufacturers.

HDR10 is supported by all HDR-capable devices. This standard has been used for some time for Ultra HD Blu-ray discs and on the internet. It uses a static HDR setting for the entire programme.

TV broadcasters use the static HLG (Hybrid Log Gamma) format for transmission, which offers better backwards compatibility with Ultra HD televisions that don’t support HDR. HLG is more suitable for live broadcasts.

At the top end of the HDR scale are HDR10+ and Dolby Vision. Both are dynamic HDR formats that continuously adjust contrast settings throughout the programme. This ensures you see an optimal image in every scene, or even in every frame.


Ultra HD is no longer an insurmountable hurdle for home cinema enthusiasts who prefer a projector over the traditional television. A number of manufacturers have produced a range of models that meet the needs of both beginners and home cinema enthusiasts. However, you will need to consider a few things when buying a projector: Can the room be darkened, or do you need a brighter projector? How much fan noise is acceptable? How and where can you permanently mount the projector? Do you have a usable projection surface, or will you need a screen? You’ll also need a proper sound system because the speakers built into these projectors certainly don’t sound like you’re in the cinema. Select models come with an integrated sound bar.

Ultra HD-Logo

When HDTV was announced at IFA in 2014, the Ultra HD logo to identify supporting devices was also unveiled. TVs with this logo met the minimum requirement for Ultra HD: They could display pictures at the high resolution. Almost all manufacturers have now created their own Ultra HD marketing logos, which has unfortunately confused consumers rather than helped them decide on their purchase. These days, the Ultra HD logo is no longer used, purely because the industry could not agree on a successor to the logo that would also indicate support for HDR. Some broadcasters use the 4K HDR logo from Eurofins to this end. You can compare the features provided by different Ultra HD televisions with device comparison lists on the internet, such as those at

Practical tip

From March 2021, televisions and other electrical appliances can only be sold with the new EU energy efficiency labels. Old energy labels on appliances that are already in stores must be replaced with this new standard. The energy efficiency class for televisions measures energy consumption in standard mode (SDR, Standard Definition Range), although the label will also indicate how much energy is consumed in HDR mode. In both cases, the power consumption is based on 1000 hours of operation, and no longer on an arbitrary number of hours per year.

Computers & game consoles

Play with me

Computer monitors with an Ultra HD resolution are available for a few hundred euros, and many notebooks already have such a display built in. Almost all tasks on the computer are better at the higher resolution: Distracting pixel patterns disappear; text and images look as crisp as when printed.

However, the operating system must support the higher resolution. This has been the case since Windows 8.1; where in older versions, the controls and menus are too small to read. Apple has released devices with screens that have resolutions of 3840 x 2160 pixels (or more) since the end of 2014 (macOS 10.10).


The gain in quality is particularly impressive when playing PC games at a 4K or Ultra HD resolution. Gamers are virtually drawn into the action. To game smoothly, you’ll need a fast computer with a powerful graphics card that sends 60 or more Ultra HD frames per second to the monitor. The connection between your computer and the monitor is equally important (see the practical tip).

Game consoles

Gaming is more fun on devices that are designed exclusively or primarily for playing video games. Three top contenders share the gaming market.

Practical tip

For a computer monitor to display Ultra HD signals smoothly, it must be connected to the graphics card via an HDMI 2.x port or a Display Port from version 1.3 onwards. HDMI 1.4 can only reach 30 frames per second – not fast enough for most PC applications.

Sony has supported 4K gaming since the PlayStation 4 Pro (end of 2016), although many were surprised that this model did not include an Ultra HD Blu-ray player. Only its successor, the PlayStation 5, released at the end of 2020, is equipped with such a drive. The PlayStation 5 also supports HFR – 4K games at up to 120 Hz. Gamers have been able to stream movies at Ultra HD since the PlayStation 4 Pro using a variety of streaming service apps.

Microsoft entered the 4K gaming market at the end of 2017 with the release of the Xbox One X. This console and the newer Xbox Series include an Ultra HD Blu-ray player and support streaming Ultra HD movies. The new Xbox Series also supports 4K games at 120 Hz.

Nintendo fans must continue to patiently wait for 4K games. The Switch, available since the beginning of 2017, is limited to an HD resolution. However, the Nintendo Switch Pro, expected to be released in 2021, should support 4K games. Nintendo fans will search in vain for an Ultra HD Blu-ray drive and support for UHD streaming however.


Down to the smallest detail

Photographers have long had the perfect media for Ultra HD televisions and monitors in their hands: their digital cameras. These deliver high-resolution photos that amaze in maximum quality on an Ultra HD display with 8.3 million pixels.


The megapixels of a camera are not directly comparable with the screen resolution of a television. While each pixel on a TV contains several subpixels in different colours (typically red, green and blue), camera manufacturers count the subpixels individually. Additionally, camera sensors usually contain twice as many green subpixels as red or blue. Going by the numbers, a 33-megapixel camera would be approximately equivalent to the Ultra HD resolution. However, picture quality depends on a number of other factors, and the difference between a photo on an Ultra HD television when compared to earlier models is obvious, even at the lower pixel counts. After all, Full HD televisions have only about 2 million pixels – not enough to show 12 or 14-megapixel photos in their full glory.

Practical tip

Action photos can be taken using the 4K video function on modern digital cameras: Set the shortest possible exposure time and record the scene. Export the best individual image from this video to the computer as a still photo.


The HDMI interface on a camera can send photos to your television not only in Full HD, but also in Ultra HD resolution at 3840 x 2160 pixels. You don’t even need a cable that meets the HDMI 2.x standard, because still images do not require fast transmission speeds. HDMI 1.4 is also sufficient for the 4K video feature of older cameras, as they transmit at only a maximum of 30 frames per second. If you have a newer digital camera that can send 4K video at up to 60 Hz, you must use a HDMI 2.x connection. The most current models allow you to record 8K video, but in some cases, these are still limited to 30 frames per second.


Like most Smart TVs, Ultra HD televisions can receive photos over the home network or the internet. All you need is a wireless connection or a LAN cable to the router, making it easy to transfer photos from a computer or media server to the TV.

TV slide show

If you store your digital photos on a PC or another media storage device, you can access them using your television’s Smart TV features. Important: The apps used to display photos and the DLNA media player must be Ultra HD-capable in order to display the full resolution of 3840 x 2160 pixels. Some older televisions downscale photos to a lower quality before displaying them. When you wirelessly mirror a smartphone display on your television (Miracast), the transmission standard limits the resolution to 1920 x 1080 pixels. At the end of 2020, Apple introduced support for streaming Ultra HD content in its equivalent AirPlay technology.


Moving pictures

What is more beautiful than a photo on an Ultra HD television? A video in Ultra HD quality. The resolution and sharpness of the new technology lets you to feel like you were there– and manufacturers are ensuring videographers can always have their Ultra HD equipment with them. Many newer models already support HDR video.


Ultra HD-capable smartphones are ideal for short clips and snapshots. If you want to document mountain bike tours or ski runs, you can attach an action camera to your helmet or handlebars. These also now support the Ultra HD resolution and 60 frames per second. If you need an even faster frame rate, drop the resolution down and record at up to 120p.


Finished videos don’t necessarily need to be at an Ultra HD resolution. If Full HD is sufficient, the extra pixels can be used to mask areas, or straighten a crooked horizon, just like when editing a photo.


For the best possible results, Ultra HD camcorders and system cameras are what you’ll need. They meet the highest requirements and can record in Ultra HD at up to 60 frames per second. Some cameras can even manage 120 frames per second. A few Ultra HD camcorders and system cameras can already record in 8K, but these are still typically limited to 30 frames per second. What passionate filmmakers must not forget: UHD data needs a lot of storage space. Each minute of Ultra HD video easily uses one gigabyte of space on a SD card. To edit and archive your video footage, you’ll need large hard drives and appropriately powerful editing software and hardware.

Ultra HD via the internet

All major streaming services offer subscriptions with Ultra HD programmes – increasingly also in HDR. You will need a Smart TV or another device with the service’s app to view them. Once you have logged into the service as a subscriber, you can stream movies directly into your living room. Prerequisite: A fast internet connection, with a transmission speed of at least 25 megabits per second.

Even then, the quality will not quite reach the level of an Ultra HD Blu-ray, but it is a significant improvement on HD streaming via the internet.

Netflix was one of the first streaming services offering Ultra HD content, and now offers an impressive number of Ultra HD titles on its platform – most of them in-house productions. However, this requires a more expensive premium subscription. The standard subscription level only allows streaming in HD. Increasingly more titles are being produced and provided in HDR. Netflix supports the HDR10 and Dolby Vision formats.

Amazon has built up a considerable portfolio of Ultra HD titles and offers this to all Prime Video subscribers at no additional cost. Their range of HDR titles is constantly expanding. In addition to HDR10 and Dolby Vision, Amazon Prime Video also offers some HDR10+ content.

Apple offers the largest range of titles in Ultra HD via its Apple TV 4K library, originally announced at the end of 2017. Well over half of these are also available in HDR – mostly in HDR10, but also many in Dolby Vision. The Apple TV+ service, available from the end of 2019, has added a number of in-house productions, but fewer than on other services.

Disney launched its Disney+ subscription service in Germany at the beginning of 2020 and offers titles in Ultra HD at no additional cost. Some of these are available in HDR, supporting HDR10 and Dolby Vision.

Video content in Ultra HD and HDR has been available on YouTube for some time. Special Ultra HD channels and the HDR Channel offer access to a range of videos. Since the end of 2020, YouTube has also allowed content creators to provide their own live streams in HDR. YouTube supports the HDR10 and HLG standards.

Videos on discs

Before Ultra HD Blu-rays were introduced early in 2016, some Blu-ray discs announced they were “Mastered in 4K.” Although the video on the disc had the usual 1920 x 1080 pixels, it was downscaled from high-quality 4K source material (the master) to the Full HD resolution.

This ensured a better HD picture with sharp contours and balanced details – ideal conditions for upscaling in Ultra HD televisions. With Ultra HD Blu-ray, the new generation of players support Blu-ray discs containing video at 3840 x 2160 pixels (indicated by a new logo), in addition to the earlier format.

The technology was extended to provide additional improvements, such as more natural colours and higher frame rates, as well as to support HDR. Ultra HD Blu-rays also support new sound formats for three-dimensional sound, such as Auro-3D, Dolby Atmos, and DTS:X.

Some HFR titles have already made it to Ultra HD Blu-ray, including Ang Lee’s “Gemini Man” at 60p, which was filmed at 120p in 3D.

The ultimate in quality

Even if Ultra HD Blu-ray is the last optical data storage format before physical media are finally displaced by streaming, it is clearly superior to Netflix and Co. with bit rates of up to 128 Mbit/s. No television broadcaster or streaming service will be able to deliver such high quality in the foreseeable future. The range of titles is also impressive, now approaching 1000, where nearly two-thirds are also available in HDR (mostly HDR10, followed by Dolby Vision, with a few in HDR10+). Even though at more than 20 euros per title they are less competitive, at least the annoying region coding on (HD) Blu-rays and DVDs has now finally been abandoned.

Television programmes

A new level of TV

While the introduction of HDTV took 20 years, the launch of the first Ultra HD TV channels was fast. By the start of 2021, nearly 200 commercial Ultra HD broadcasts were on the air worldwide, with almost half offering HDR. Viewers can access these channels via satellite, cable, IPTV or by tuning into terrestrial frequencies. The number of channels on offer in Germany is growing.


As is so often the case, major sporting events drove the introduction of Ultra HD. The FIFA World Cup 2014 was recorded in Ultra HD and served as a demonstration for the manufacturers. The first live video in Ultra HD was broadcast from the 2016 European Football Championships and the Olympic Games in the same year. Since then, Ultra HD has become the standard for major live events.

Sky, a subscription television provider, broadcasts select Bundesliga matches in Ultra HD, introducing HDR broadcasts at the end of 2020. Select Champions’ League and English Premier League matches, as well as Formula 1 races are also broadcast in Ultra HD. The Sky Q receiver and a corresponding subscription is required to view these broadcasts.

As a channel partnership between ASTRA and HD+, UHD1 offers both free-to-air and encrypted content. From 8:00am to 8:00pm, those interested in Ultra HD can watch various demonstration programmes free of charge. From 8:00pm until 8:00am, several additional channels share the encrypted phase, including ProSiebenSat.1, MTV, Tele5 and Eurosport.

The RTL UHD event channel can be received at specific times by HD+ customers via satellite, as well as via Deutsche Telekom’s Magenta TV and some cable networks. RTL broadcasts Formula 1 and the European Championship qualifying matches in Ultra HD, as well as daily soaps, series and live shows. Most programmes are available in HDR.

Additional encrypted Ultra HD channels in Germany include Insight TV, Tavelxp 4K, Love Nature 4K and Fashion One 4K. Most of these channels are available to Deutsche Telekom’s Magenta TV subscribers.

Eutelsat offers several Ultra HD channels at the satellite position 13 degrees east (Hotbird), which are available as free-to-air. In addition to the 4K1 demonstration channel, Nasa UHD and the fashion channel FTVUHD are available. The QVC UHD and QVC2 UHD shopping channels are available free-of-charge via Astra at 19.2 degrees east. ZDF also produces some programmes in Ultra HD which are then broadcast via the internet via an HbbTV application (Red Button).