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What are Quad HD, Ultra HD and 4K?

Posted on 27 May 2014

What are 4K, Ultra HD and Quad HD?

Phones with super sharp screens are set to take off in 2014. But with confusing names like 2K, QHD and 4K flying around, how are we meant to know what’s best. Here’s our quick guide to understanding 2014’s latest screen tech.

How sharp are our current screens?

The images on your phone screen are made up of hundreds of thousands of tiny dots of colour called pixels. Pixels can be any size but smaller pixels give things more definition. For a screen to qualify as High Definition (HD) it has to have a minimum number of pixels to make sure they’re tiny. That means they measure 1280 pixels by 720 pixels, so are called 720p.

But this isn’t the sharpest resolution we have in our phones right now. In 2013 we started to get Full HD screens with 1080p resolutions that measure 1920x1080 pixels, like the one on the HTC One. The pixels on these screens are so small that you can only see each block of colour if you really look for them.

4K – 4096x2160 pixels

4K is the sharpest of the new resolutions that everyone’s talking about. It’s unlikely that you’ll ever see anything in true 4K, though. Videos in 4K have odd proportions that would mean they would be squashed out of shape on a TV or smartphone. That’s why you’ll more likely see Ultra HD, which is a slightly different standard.

Ultra HD – 3840x2160 pixels

Ultra HD, or 2160p, has four times as many pixels as the 1080p Full HD standard that we’re used to. That’s why its technical name is Quad Full HD (QFHD). Some phones can already record video in this incredibly sharp standard. The Samsung Galaxy Note 3 was the first phone to shoot Ultra HD video. But it was marketed as 4K as there’s such a small difference between true 4K and Ultra HD.

Quad HD – 2560x1440 pixels

Quad HD (QHD) is the resolution we’re expecting to really take off this year. It gets its name from being four times sharper than 720p HD. A couple of phones from Chinese manufacturers already have screens that are this sharp but we’re expecting the Samsung Galaxy S5 and LG G3 to make this the new standard for smartphones. Samsung has already made QHD the standard for high end tablets with the Galaxy TabPRO and NotePRO.

2K – 2048x1152 pixels

2K has been the minimum standard for blockbuster movies for about 10 years but we’re not expecting it to ever make it big with smartphones. The reason is that it only gives a small boost in sharpness compared to 1080p Full HD, so most major smartphone makers will jump straight to QHD.

Retina display

Retina display is a brand name for Apple’s screens, so doesn’t have a fixed resolution. But according to Apple, a Retina display is defined by pixel size. The pixels should be so small that you can’t see each one. So when you get a big Retina display like on the iPad Air, the resolution goes up so you have enough of the tiny pixels to fill the screen.

Standard Definition (SD) 720x480
HD 1280x720
Full HD  1920x1080
2K  2048x1152
Quad HD (QHD) 2560x1440
Quad Full HD (QFHD)/Ultra HD   3840x2160
4K  4096x2160

For the latest rumours and tech gossip, head over to our Launchpad

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