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Ultra HD Premium is the future of TV and streaming

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If you are looking at new TVs, you may have seen a HDR or Ultra HD Premium logo displayed on the box. You will likely be wondering, “what is this?” They’re the same thing, although it seems like most people are going with the new Ultra HD Premium name. Probably because it sounds more in line with the kind of hyperbole that sells TVs.

What is Ultra Premium HD and why should I care?

It’s a bit of a strange situation. HDR is actually more descriptive of what’s going on… it’s also a term more people would be familiar with. HDR stands for “high dynamic range.” If you have used a camera with an HDR mode, you’ve seen HDR process an image to offer a broader range of luminance and a much broader color range. Whether you knew that’s what was happening or not, the results speak for themselves. Rather than choosing whether to blow out the bright parts of an image or lose all the detail in the darker portions of an image, HDR processes each independently. It’s not exactly new tech; the human eye and the big, squishy processor to which it connects has been doing the same thing for millennia.

The result of HDR, or Ultra HD Premium, is a much broader contrast ratio and more color range on the screen. In less techy terms, it’s an image that just looks and feels more right to humans.

In short, Ultra HD Premium takes 4K HDTV and allows you to have more colors while making those colors brighter and sharper.

I am one of the people that doesn’t see 4K HDTV as a reason to upgrade on its own. If I was in the market for a new TV, I’d obviously look to go 4K but I wasn’t about to get rid of my perfectly good 1080p television. When I saw Ultra HD Premium at the Consumer Electronic Show last January, its quality was so outstanding that it had me running the numbers to see if an upgrade to 4K Ultra HD Premium TV could be in my near future.

By the numbers – Don’t worry, we’ll keep it quick

To qualify as an Ultra HD Premium TV, a TV must offer 10-bit color depth at a minimum. Current 8-bit standards translate to 256 possible shades for each of the three primary colors (RGB, red, green, blue.) That makes for over 15 million possible color combinations with today’s HD TVs.

10-bit color depth bumps that 256 up to 1,024 possible shades for each of the primary colors. That pushes the number of possible color combinations up past 1 billion on an Ultra HD Premium TV. The difference really is night and day.

Content is king

If you’re worried about your Ultra HD Premium TV working with older display standards, have no fear; Ultra HD Premium TVs are backward compatible. In other words, while you’re waiting for all this glorious 4K Ultra HD Premium content to come out, you can still watch TV on your Amazon Fire TV, Roku box, Apple TV of whatever set top box you use. All the A/V gear hooked up to your 1080p or standard 4K TV will continue to work.

Blu-rays, if you’ve got any of those, will continue to work. To get Ultra HD Premium, though, you’ll eventually need to upgrade that player — and maybe your library. Again.

Ultra HD Premium TVs have the same resolution as 4K TVs. The core difference is the ability of Ultra HD Premium to show more color range and to have those colors appear sharper, brighter, and ultimately, to really pop off the TV screen.

Let’s say you are sold on the idea and want to run out and get an Ultra HD Premium TV. You may be wondering where you will get Ultra HD Premium content. Fortunately, unlike HDTV, which took years to get real content offered to new owners, Ultra HD Premium already has a great library of content available online.

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Amazon Prime Instant Video and Netflix are currently the primary sources of the new Ultra HD Premium content. Not everything is available in this new standard, but every month, both services are offering more UHD Premium shows, especially when it comes to their own original content.

A little friendly advice

Is Ultra HD Premium (HDR to the rest of us) worth the upgrade? If you’re in the market for a TV today, the answer is an unequivocal yes, if it’s in your budget. If your 1080P TV is starting to feel a little long in the tooth then maybe Ultra HD Premium is the thing that will push you over the edge to buy.

If you’re already rocking a 4K HDTV the upgrade to Ultra HD Premium becomes harder to justify and it may be worth waiting for more content to become be available in this exciting new display technology.