The Consumer Electronics Association has released "voluntary guidelines" for 4K TV specifications – some of which see existing 4K TVs falling short

The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) has announced "updated core characteristics" for 4K Ultra HD TVs – some of which mean existing 4K sets are no longer seemingly up to scratch.

The CEA says the 4K guidelines aim to provide "clarity for consumers and retailers alike", and will come into effect from September, with the organisation also revealing it is working with partners to develop an Ultra HD logo. 

The new definition sees some existing Ultra HD TVs failing to make the CEA's grade – arguably not the "clarity" that the CEA had in mind.

For example, the Philips 55PUS7809, which we reviewed last month, only has HDMI 1.4 so can't deliver 4K video at all the required frame rates. Furthermore, few 4K TVs currently on the market support the HEVC codec, also listed as a required spec.

Others, such as the Panasonic TX-58AX802 we're currently testing, have the HEVC decoder built-in but it doesn't support playback of Netflix 4K content.

More after the break

The various minimum specification requirements are only "voluntary guidelines" (again, ensuring it's by no means a given that all the TV manufacturers will sign up), but the CEA, as the body behind CES, certainly carries plenty of weight in the industry.


The new guidelines are as follows

Display Resolution – Has at least eight million active pixels, with at least 3840 horizontally and at least 2160 vertically.

Aspect Ratio – Has a width-to-height ratio of the display’s native resolution of 16:9 or wider.

Upconversion – Is capable of upscaling HD video and displaying it at Ultra High-Definition resolution.

Digital Input – Has one or more HDMI inputs supporting at least 3840 x 2160 native content resolution at 24p, 30p and 60p frames per second. At least one of the 3840x2160 HDMI inputs shall support HDCP revision 2.2 or equivalent content protection.

Colorimetry – Processes 2160p video inputs encoded according to ITU-R BT.709 colour space and may support wider colorimetry standards.

Bit Depth – Has a minimum color bit depth of eight bits.


There is also another set of guidelines related to network connectivity, with the CEA pointing to streaming as a crucial delivery method for 4K content. Whether this will be required in order to get the Ultra HD logo remains unclear...

Ultra High-Definition Capability – Meets all of the requirements listed above.

Video Codec – Decodes IP-delivered video of 3840 x 2160 resolution that has been compressed using HEVC and may decode video from other standard encoders.

Audio Codec – Receives and reproduces, and/or outputs multichannel audio.

IP and Networking – Receives IP-delivered Ultra HD video through a Wi-Fi, Ethernet or other appropriate connection.

Application Services – Supports IP-delivered Ultra HD video through services or applications on the platform of the manufacturer’s choosing.


The premise may be sound but these UHD guidelines remind us of the recent attempts to nail down a definition for high-resolution audio.

It will be interesting to see how many manufacturers get behind the new guidelines and the plans for a universal logo.

Also mentioned was the ongoing battle between 4K and Ultra HD, with the CEA suggesting the terms can still be used interchangeably: "The terms Ultra High-Definition, Ultra HD or UHD may be used in conjunction with other modifiers, for example, Ultra High-Definition TV 4K."

Look out for our test of 2014 4K TVs in the next issue of What Hi-Fi? Sound and Vision, on sale July 30th, in the meantime you can head to our 4K hub page for all our 4K TV reviews and news.


MORE: Best TV to buy in 2014

MORE: See all our TV reviews


by Joe Cox

Follow on Twitter

Join us on Facebook

Find us on Google+


wilsonlaidlaw's picture

4K input on Philips 4K TV’s

I contacted Philips on this as I have their 49" 4K TV (which is brilliant for the price) but I am concerned for the future as to my ability to view 4K content when it becomes available on Blu Ray or downloadable. The crucial point seems to be the refresh rate of 30hz or 60hz. This was the reply I got: 


    Mr. Laidlaw,

Thank you for contacting us with regards to your query. 

We do not have information about any firmware update to HDMI 2.2. However I've double checked the specifications of your TV, and I can assure you that TV will display picture in 4K.

Supported Display Resolution

•Computer inputs on all HDMI: up to FHD 1920x1080@60Hz, 4K Ultra HD 3840x2160@30Hz

•Video inputs on all HDMI: up to FHD 1920x1080p, @ 24, 25, 30, 50, 60Hz, up to 4K Ultra HD 3840x2160p, @24,25,30Hz


chiefruninbull's picture

Slightly confused

I always thought that 480p & 576p were SD. Then 720p was introduced as HD and 1080p as full HD. 

Does this mean now that all 720p TVs are now classed as SD or is this definition only for the industry?

Tropi's picture


What clarity? What does the term “4K” actually MEAN or represent to the average, very ill-informed and confused customer? Where is it derived from? On what is this term based?

Historically and universally, TV resolution has, until now, always been described in terms of vertical resolution, eg 405, 500 and 625 lines, followed by 720 and 1080 vertical dots or pixels, each increasingly larger number giving a reasonable indication of improved visual clarity.

However, when high definition TVs were first introduced there were actually two types of so-called HD.  At that time, and, to a lesser degree, still today, HD TVs were described as either "HD Ready" or Full HD". It was never made adequately clear to the average confused public what the difference between them really was. The truth was that "HD Ready" meant 720 vertical dots and "Full HD" meant 1080 vertical dots. "HD Ready" gave the deliberate (but utterly false) impression that such a TV could, in some obscure and inexplicable way, be adapted or improved to give the same definition as a "Full HD" TV. It was absolutely not so. Yet still today, many customers have no idea of the unbridgeable distinction between “HD Ready” and “Full HD”. This deliberate obfuscation of truth was then and remains now an absolute disgrace. There is a huge difference in clarity between 720 and 1080 TV, which many vested interests have deliberately obscured in a fog of ambiguity and confusion.

Continuing that deliberate, disgusting policy of bamboozling customers, now we have this weasel word term “4K".  Naturally, due to the now solidly established and completely accepted convention of definition by vertical resolution, the average punter is almost certainly persuaded that 4K TVs have a vertical resolution of either four thousand (decimal) or 4,320 (binary) vertical dots. If that were actually so, that would be four times the vertical resolution of existing HD 1080 TVs.  This serious misconception is further deliberately compounded by frequent descriptions of “Four times the resolution of High Definition”.

The truth is that, in complete contravention of long established convention, “4K” refers to the HORIZONTAL resolution.  Even then, it means neither 4,000 (decimal) nor 4,320 (binary) dots, but is an arbitrary rounding up from the actual horizontal resolution of 3,840. It is unbelievably misleading.  IMO it is a deliberate ploy to obfuscate the true resolution of TVs and to mislead the public.

The term “4K” is a complete misnomer and should be dropped/abandoned/forbidden/banished forthwith. What is currently termed "4K" has an actual vertical resolution of 2,160 dots.  Therefore, in order to continue the solidly established convention of defining TV resolution in terms of VERTICAL resolution or dots, these TVs could sensibly be called "2K". However, ambiguity could and should be removed altogether by using REAL meaningful numbers and absolutely desist from using ridiculous, irrational, meaningless, misleading terminology, such as HD or UHD, which, without meaningful numeric information, serves only to further perpetuate public confusion and misunderstanding. Let’s have some accuracy and integrity. What Hi-Fi, please do the right thing yourselves – DROP the pathetic “4K” term, PLEASE! Then go one step further and start lobbying other authorities and respected information sources to do the same. The general public really does need and deserve honesty and clarity. Please make a firm stand and start giving it to them.

Related News