What is 4K, how does it work and what does it mean for the future of mobile? Worry not: we're here to give you the facts you need...

z5 premium display

Heard of 4K? It’s the latest display tech innovation to come to mobile, and it’s the talk of the town. Looking to become an instant tech expert? Wanna wow your friends with your tech knowledge? No problem: Here’s everything you need to know about…

4K display technology

What is 4K?

It’s all about the pixels; the tiny dots of light that make up the picture on your screen. For 4K viewing, the display needs to be able to accommodate roughly 4,000 pixels across the entire width of the screen, and 2,160 vertically. That’s the reason you might also hear 4K referred to as 2160p.

If you compare 4K resolution against your standard 1080p HD TV, 4K has twice the horizontal and vertical resolution, meaning it boasts up to four times as many pixels overall – making for crystal clear images.

4k display res

Technically speaking, there are two types of 4K resolution: DCI (Digital Cinema Initiatives) 4K is the format used by the movie industry, with a resolution of 4,096 x 2,160 pixels. The UHD (Ultra High Definition) format, which has become the standard for televisions and now smartphones, has a resolution of 3,840 x 2,160.

More often than not, when people talk about 4K they’re probably referring to the UHD standard – the next generation of consumer display tech after HD.

How long has 4K been around?

While 4K cameras have been around since 2003, most of us wouldn’t have seen much in the way of 4K content until fairly recently, thanks to the relatively high price of owning a 4K-capable device.

youtube 4k

YouTube – always keen to adopt new tech – started supporting 4K video in 2010, while cinemas began projecting movies at 4K in 2011. But it wasn’t until 2012 that the first 4K home theatre projector was released by Sony, making it possible to watch from home… If you had a spare £15k+.

How can I experience 4K resolution now?

While it’s true that big home theatre projectors are still a little on the costly side for most people, a bunch of on-demand video streaming services like Netflix are already piping exciting content at 4K resolution into our homes right now.

And thankfully, most big TV manufacturers (think: Sony, Samsung and LG) are now all making 4K-ready TVs at more wallet-friendly prices. A handful of companies are making 4K laptop and desktop computers, and 4K is even invading our pockets…

What about 4K on mobile?

Over time all technology shrinks and becomes more affordable, and 4K display tech is no exception; it’s already starting to appear in our pockets, as can be seen on the stonkingly vivid display found on the Sony Xperia Z5 Premium.

And since 4K on a display has been proven possible by one smartphone manufacturer, it’ll inevitably happen on more. 2016 looks set to be the year that sees smartphones with 4K resolution displays become mainstream, but we’ll have to watch this space to see which manufacturers become the first to join Sony’s ranks. The one downside? 4K is power hungry, which means that any smartphone with a 2160p display needs to sport a bigger battery to make up for that that lost juice.

But that’s just one side of the story; most high-end smartphones are now capable of recording 4K video. The first phone to boast 4K recording was the Acer Liquid S2 back in 2013, but now the likes of the iPhone 6s, the Samsung Galaxy S7 and the LG G5 all have 4K-ready cameras built in. Even the newly-announced iPhone SE can handle 4K recording!

What’s coming next?

Keeping up with emerging tech can seem like a never-ending battle, but that’s what makes it so exciting.

4K is definitely the next big thing, but be warned: 8K is already in the works, and YouTube even supports 8K streaming right now for certain videos. Don’t panic, though: it’ll take a fair while until the costs associated with 8K reach acceptable levels to become mainstream. When it does you can expect a resolution of 7,680 x 4,320 pixels; four times as many pixels as 4K and 16 times that of an existing HD TV.

Inside the Sony Xperia Z5 Premium: We’ve been chatting to Sony about how you go about shrinking 4K display tech down to size. Click here to find out.