It used to be easy to buy a TV, but now there is much to know and much to learn about television technology. Here is a little primer on the new 4K Ultra TVs. Do you really need one? Read on to find out.

Many of you have spent years watching grainy televisions. In fact, some of you will even remember watching black-and-white transmissions and putting tin foil on the antennas to get a clearer picture. So when Hi-Def TV arrived a few years ago, most of us were unbelievably delighted with the crispness of the screen, the clarity of the picture, and the vividness of the colors. We moved happily to HDTV and have been enjoying it ever since.

Yet now even more improvements have been made to television transmissions. I am not talking about 3D television. This was something the manufacturer’s thought that people would love, but which has been shunned by most purchasers. Instead, I am talking about 4K television which offers a much better picture quality than HDTV.

First, let me give you a little primer. A 4K TV is 3,840-by-2,160-pixels which is about four times the number of pixels in the HD 1080p televisions. This lets the screen project a more detailed and truer-to-life picture. The other thing you should know is that 4K TVs also are marketed under the moniker “Ultra TV or UHDTV” So a 4K TV, an Ultra TV, and a UHDTV are basically the same thing.

To confuse the issue and to sell more TVs, some manufacturers have tried to differentiate themselves from the pack.  Samsung, for instance, has two levels of quality, UHD and SUHD. The SUHD (Super Ultra Hi-Def) uses quantum dots which expand light to result in improved color accuracy and brightness. Of course, you will pay a premium for a Samsung 4K SUHD. LG, Panasonic and others have OLED 4K TVs that are a little pricier, but offer the blackest blacks make the color spectrum outstanding.

The bottom line, however, is that these new TVs all offer a dramatically better picture. Head over to your local Best Buy or some other store where you can compare an HDTV with a 4K TV to see the difference.

Up until now I could not recommend 4K televisions for several reasons. First, the prices of these TVs was sky high with many in the $6,000 range.  Also there was little 4K content and there were no standards. Yet, in the past two years, all of these negatives have been removed.

Prices have recently plummeted with some 4K TVs coming as low as $1,000. There is now 4K content available through streaming services like Netflix and Amazon who are both producing movies in 4K. Also 4K Blu-ray discs have started appearing on store shelves. There are currently no over-the-air, cable, or satellite television transmissions in 4K. The move is underway, with many studios and stations preparing for 4K, but it will probably take years before they can upgrade all of their equipment to handle 4K.

Also, the UHD Alliance, an industry group of 35 major companies has banded together to create basic standards that will certify a television as “Ultra HD Premium.” While there will still be good 4K TVs without this label, if you want the best 4K TVs you can just look for that label which guarantees that all the major standards have been met.

One advantage that you get with a 4K TV is that they all upscale the content. That means that your cable and satellite programs will all look at least slightly better on a 4K TV.

Although the cost of 4K TVs is good right now, you should consider that there may be hidden costs. You will pay extra for Netflix and/or Amazon streaming services. Amazon 4K movies are free with your Prime membership of $99 a year.  Netflix charges $8.99 a month for their regular content and adds an extra $3 a month for their 4K content.

Also in order to stream 4K over your Internet connection, you may need extra bandwidth.  Netflix’s current bitrate for 4K is 15.6Mbps. So if you have an average Internet connection of less 15 Mbps, you will want to up your Internet speed, at, of course, an additional cost.

Getting 4K content on Blu-ray discs is easy and they are not much more expensive than regular Blu-ray discs. But to take advantage of those discs, you also have to have a 4K Blu-ray player. And remember that 4K will always look better on a bigger screen, so you will want to get a TV with as large a screen as your home and your pocketbook will accommodate.

So do you really need a 4K TV? The answer is “probably not.” If your current HD TV is working properly and you are not longing for a larger screen, the television that you are currently viewing will probably be adequate for at least a few more years. Yet, if you happen to be in the market for a new TV, you can future-proof your purchase by buying 4K. With streaming, a 4K Blu-ray player, and upscaling, today’s 4K TVs will offer enough to keep you happy.