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UHD Alliance Premium Certification and What it Means for You

by January 26, 2016
The Ultra HD Premium Logo

The Ultra HD Premium Logo

For the past two years, we have been covering in detail the impending arrival of Ultra HD (also known as UHD) to the masses.  While we’ve seen the introduction of HDMI 2.0 (and subsequently HDMI 2.0a), a growing crop of displays, and nascent content, lots of confusion around UHD has dotted the landscape.  

Part of that confusion has been due to the fact that the UHD spec wasn't finalized two years ago.  It was a moving target. 

Consumers have been unfortunately burnt thinking that UHD was only about resolution. Last year, some well-meaning people jumped into buying displays marketed as 4K only to find out they didn’t support some of the critical UHD features like HDCP 2.2 copy protection (that means you can’t play UltraHD Blu-rays!), HDR (high dynamic range), or the increased color gamut for UHD content.  Here at Audioholics, we’ve made it a concerted effort to tell our readers that the real benefits of UHD aren’t in resolution. The game changing technology lies in the other feature advancements—especially HDR and increased color.

Editorial Note on 4k and UltraHD:  

Even though you’ll see it in marketing literature, UHD isn’t the same as 4K.  4K is a standard in cinema for images that are 4096 x 2160.  UHD is a set of standards that includes increased resolution that is four times the resolution of Full HD or 3840 x 2160, but it’s technically not 4K. Therefore, at Audioholics we like to use the correct term, UHD (UltraHD).  

To help alleviate the confusion surrounding the advent of next generation video, the UHD alliance has stepped in and announced a new set of specifications that explicitly defines parameters for resolution, bit depth, color gamut, and high dynamic range (HDR).  Products that meet these specs have the opportunity to receive an UltraHD Premium designation and show off the newly unveiled UltraHD Premium logo on their products.

Who are these UHD Alliance Guys?

The UHD Alliance is a global coalition of more than 35 member organizations who are content creators (film studios and TV brands), distributors, and technology companies.  The companies comprising the UHD Alliance are big boys in the industry.  They include Amazon, Dolby, DTS, Disney, Panasonic, Netflix, Samsung, Sony, THX, Universal, Technicolor, and many more.  


UltraHD Alliance

The UHD Alliance is comprised of some of the biggest names in the movie and consumer electronics industry

As you can see, the UHD Alliance covers the entire signal chain— from content to sources to displays. Thus, the mission of the UHD Alliance is to provide consumers with a premium entertainment experience with next generation audio and video technologies.

What Does Ultra HD Premium Mean?

The Ultra HD Premium logo is reserved for products and services that comply with performance metrics for resolution, high dynamic range (HDR), peak luminance, black levels, and wide color gamut among others that this Alliance has set.  The specifications also make recommendations for immersive audio and other features. If you have a home ecosystem built around Ultra HD Premium products, then the Alliance feels you’ll have all the tools to experience a content creator’s vision fully and accurately.  In other words, you’ll have reference-quality products.

What are the Ultra HD Premium Requirements? 

In order to receive the UHD Alliance Premium Logo, content and distribution must meet or exceed the following specifications: 

  • An image resolution must be 3840×2160, what we’ve commonly called Ultra HD (4K). 
  • A minimum color bit depth signal of 10-bits (see more details on this below)
  • BT.2020 color representation
  • High Dynamic Range in accordance with SMPTE ST2084 EOTF.

When it comes to displays, such as LEDs and OLEDs, all of the above is true with some additional details. It's important to note that the UHD Alliance's spec only requires support for 10-bit content as an input.  They do not specify what happens within the device afterwards. For example, the display could accept a 10-bit signal but then dither it down to 8-bits and it would still pass muster.  In other words, as long as the device is able to support 10-bit content as an input, it meets the criteria.  In case you're wondering, the UHD Alliance isn't doing anything funky here.  This is consistent with the CTA's (Consumer Technology Association) definition.  

A display must also have a signal input capable of BT.2020 representation but for the actual reproduction, the display just needs to support more than 90% of P3 colors. 

HDR requirements for displays gets a bit tricky. Let’s lay it out for you.  The UHD Alliance supports specifications across a broad range of display technologies, such as LED and OLED.  Because each of these technologies has particular strengths and weaknesses, the UHD Alliance defined a combination of parameters that will cover a broad range of display technologies. 

To pass HDR muster, a display must either achieve:

  1. More 1000 nits peak brightness and less than 0.05 nits black level.  This spec is likely targeting LED displays which can really crank out the brightness but can’t get those black levels all the way down.
  2. More than 540 nits of peak brightness and less than 0.0005 nits black level.  This spec is likely targeting OLED displays with their infinite black level but can’t quite hit the peak brightness found in the best LED displays.

How do Consumers know that they are really getting these specs?

The UHD Alliance isn’t allowing on manufacturers to let their own measurements define whether or not their products can carry the logo.  On the contrary, the UHD Alliance will be putting manufacturers’ products to the test.  To make sure that products bearing the Ultra HD Premium logo are certified and conform to the UHD Alliance’s specifications, the Alliance has designated multiple, independent centers around the globe to handle testing. Companies will work directly with these centers to have their products tested and certified.

All in all, the UHD Alliance’s Ultra HD Premium designation is a big deal.  No, it doesn’t mean that there’s yet another new technology out there.  What it does is guarantee that the products bearing the logo will deliver the most of what Ultra HD has to offer.


About the author:
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Theo Nicolakis has been reviewing high end audio, video, home theater, headphone, and portable music products for the past 14 years. His reviews have appeared here on Audioholics as well as Techhive.com, PCWorld.com, MacWorld.com, and more. His reviews span high end two-channel and home theater systems, AVRs and immersive audio processors, headphones, DACs, DAPs, music servers, sound bars, and display technologies.

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