Is it ‘Native’ 4K/UHD?

About eight years back, I got really geeky and introduced AV Phenom’s Definitive Guide to 4K.

It was a simple chart.

Since then, I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that images that were 3840 pixels wide are going to be called 4K (although secretly I still think 2160p is a better descriptor — and more in line with previous monikers like 720p and 1080p).

Heck, you may even hear me flippantly say “4K” when I really mean UHD. My standards have definitely been compromised.

However, the voices in my head have gotten loud again lately when it comes to 4K, and it seems the only way I can think to silence them is by channeling them into this keyboard.

The bottom line: I’ve seen multiple manufacturers list their projectors as “native” 4K (3840 x 2160p) when they just … aren’t. I feel like we need a commercial. “That’s not how this works. That’s not how any of this works!”


A 4K/UHD projector produces a minimum of 3840 x 2160 pixels on output. A NATIVE 4K/UHD projector uses a 4K/UHD chipset to create the 4K/UHD image. Therefore, if you’re not using a 4K/UHD chipset, your projector is NOT native 4K/UHD.

There are only five chipset technologies that are native 4K or UHD to my knowledge. Those are the D-ILA 4K2K (4096 x 2160 and 4096 x 2400 versions), the SXRD 4K (3840 x 2160), and the 0.98″ 4K DMD (4096 x 2160) and 1.38″ 4K DMD (4096 x 2160) used in cinema and high-end RGB projectors.

That’s it.

The most popular offenders of this are manufacturers that use the new .66 4K DMD from Texas Instruments. I’ve seen Optoma and Samsung use this chip in their projectors and list said projectors as native 4K/UHD. The chipset is 2716 x 1528, so these are NOT native 4K/UHD products. (I am also unaware of any LCD-based products that are native 4K/UHD.)

66 chip

Projectors with this chip use pixel shifting, wobulation, or “Faux-K” techniques to create a larger canvas by double, triple or quadruple flashing the chips.

All of these products do create 4K/UHD imagery (they will literally put 8 million pixels on the screen) but they don’t do it natively — and that’s OK. In all honesty, for most applications, no one can see the difference.

Then why do I care?

There are certain applications like edge blending fine details or when the size and scale of the image will “expose” this pixel movement and degrade the finished product. It’s very frustrating to dig through the marketing collateral, the user’s manuals and components lists to clarify a projector’s chipset and confirm whether it is true native 4K/UHD.

So, my challenge to projector manufacturers is to leave the word “native” out of it unless your chipset is a minimum of 3840 wide and 2160 tall.

It’s OK to be just 4K.