Does Ultra HD TV make 1080p movies look better?
Given the scarcity of real 4K content, Ultra HD TVs owners will—at least for the near future—be spending a good amount of time watching standard high-def content on their TVs. So we were curious to see whether upconverted 1080p content looks better or worse on an Ultra HD TV. As you can see in photos 4 and 8, regular high-definition material can look better on a 4K TV, though we anticipate that there will inevitable performance variations among the Ultra HD TVs, especially in the image processing area.
Compared to the image on a 1080p TV, the same content upconverted to 4K gives you most of the benefits we saw with the true 4K image, minus the extra detail. When displayed on the 4K screen, the finest details in the HD image were better resolved, with edges that were visibly smoother and less jagged than on the HDTV’s coarser 1080p pixel grid. And I saw no obvious upconversion artifacts to speak of, which demonstrates that the benefits of an Ultra HD TV's higher pixel density can still be appreciated even without true 4K content to watch.
Looking at the upconverted images (photos 4 and 8) and comparing them to the HD versions (photos 3 and 7) and true 4K versions (photo 2 and 6), you'll see that while they don't recover all the detail shown in the 4K photos, you do get a smoother, less-coarse image and slightly better detail than you'd see on a regular HDTV.
4K videos are even more impressive
The image quality of film-based movies often depends on the type of film stock used, which in turn can affect picture detail and the level of film grain present. While film-based content can look spectacular, theatrical movies are not necessarily the best choice for showcasing UHD’s image-quality potential. This was my experience with the 4K videos from the Sony media player, which include a number of short films and music videos that were shot with a native 4K studio camera.
The first thing that grabbed my attention was the quality of opening title sequences and graphics, where the edge detail of text rendered in 4K was razor sharp, to a level that just can’t be achieved with 1080p. Whether I was watching the “Eldorado” clip, the “Bucket” music video from Annah Mac, or any of the short movie videos, it was evident I was experiencing something new and special. With this type of content, Ultra HD image quality is simply stunning, revealing a depth of detail and texture that’s unprecedented for home video. Colors were vibrant, with an intensity that never looked false, and subtle shades revealed no hint of banding or compression-based noise.
I also didn’t see any aliasing or moiré (false patterns) on complex fine detail. In short, the picture was as seamless as a projected film, with no visible clues that I was actually watching video. In my opinion, 4K videos are the real showcase for what Ultra HD can deliver, with cleaner, better detail than I saw with the film-based movies.