At this point, there is no denying that the high-definition picture is the most revolutionary advancement in television technology since the advent of color TV. And just like color TV decades ago, HD television is quickly becoming the standard, and “standard resolution” is soon to be a thing of the past.

However, just as HDTV is finally gaining hegemony in the television world, newer, even higher resolution technology is beginning to earn some traction at trade shows such as CES – especially 4K television. While 1080p resolution is currently considered the standard quality for HDTVs, the question is whether 4K is the future of television, or if 1080p still has a future as an acceptable picture quality.

What is 4K Television?

The term 4K is shorthand for a resolution of 4096 by 2160 pixels, meaning that 4K denotes over 4000 pixels. In contrast, 1080p means 1080 vertical lines, and what TV manufacturers currently call “full HD” is a resolution of 1080 vertical by 1920 horizontal pixels. Obviously, 4K television not only has an advantage when it comes to resolution, but it actually provides an image that is multiple times more defined than what most consumers are accustomed to.

What Are Some of the Downsides to 4K TV?

Since 4K TV is such a significant step up from current high definition standards, it seems that there is little doubt that it is poised to become the new standard, and send 1080p the way of standard definition, and the  4:3 aspect ratios. However, one could easily say the same thing about current HDTV technology in the 1970s. By then, technology was well under development to create a video signal that was significantly sharper than the standards at the time – which would now be considered standard resolution. However, it took over two decades for HDTV broadcasts to become common anywhere in the world outside of Japan. This was due to a number of reasons, including limited bandwidth on current television broadcasting systems and delays in reaching a consensus on a broadcasting standard.

The reasons that 4K television may take some time to become the standard for homes and businesses are similar: the inherent limitations and time involved with changing a technological paradigm in a medium as massive as television. However, critics have pointed out some other drawbacks in addition to the usual challenges with new technology.

For contemporary consumers, a 4K television is an investment that will likely take a while to pay off. While the potential picture quality is unprecedented, there is very little in the way of actual “Ultra HD” content that takes advantage of this technology’s capabilities. In fact, there are currently no television channels, streaming video, DVDs, or Blu-ray discs that broadcast or store media in this format – and in order to record 4K video you need equipment in the professional price range. While some companies such as Samsung and Sony are including hard drives loaded with some 4K content with their 4K televisions, the choices are likely to remain limited for some time. The price for these devices is also still close to the exorbitant realm, and most 4K televisions are over five feet, which is too large for many consumers’ homes.

Does 4K Have a Future?

With the emphasis on higher and higher picture resolution, and major manufacturers already putting money and effort into producing 4K TV units for the public, 4K or Ultra HD will almost surely displace current standards such as 1080p in the future, but using the evolution of HDTV as a guideline, it is liable to take a decade or more for 4K TV to become a universal standard.