If you're buying a TV, you're buying one to watch things on. If you're looking to watch things, you're doing that because you expect to receive some sort of emotional response from what you're viewing. You want to feel something, whether that's a sense of fulfilment and pride in being informed by a documentary, or to be transported magically away from your mundane life by a fantasy epic. Can picture quality heighten those emotional responses?
Currys PC World set off to find out, conducting a test on some of the most impassioned TV viewers – football fans – to see if the extra resolution offered by a 4K display could lead to heightened emotional responses over HD viewers.
The retailer employed the emotion-measuring market research firm Sensum to carry out tests on small groups of fans from the Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea stables, using GSR (Galvanic Skin Response) sensors during a televised match to track the fans’ autonomic nerve responses. According to SCIENCE, these are produced as a function of the sweat gland, and can be used to track emotional cadences – in this case, the difference in reactions between the 4K and HD viewing groups. You can watch a highlights reel (starring none other than my old West Ham trooper Ian Wright -we'll ignore his Arsenal days) here.
The tests suggested notable differences in the viewing experiences of each group. Sensum's sensors found that those viewing 4K experienced higher levels of arousal (not that kind of arousal) when compared to those watching the match on a standard HD telly. The 4K viewers were more engaged whether dramatic moments were taking place or not, while those watching the HD footage were more likely to disengage from the action entirely. 4K viewers continued to be engaged even if their side started performing poorly.
Of course, there are some things to consider here. With 4K the new top-price TV tech to flog, it's in PC World and Currys best interests to make the newer technology seem more appealing. On top of that, the personal variables among the fans tested are many; are the HD viewers as committed to their teams as those watching the 4K match? If not, could not the 4K fans be tested at both resolutions? Even that suggestion brings problems – part of an emotional response has to at least in part be down to shock and surprise, and unless there was a way of showing each fan identical footage of a game in both formats – having previously wiped their memories of the first exposure to the events of the game – it's a tough one to measure. Keeping that in mind, the graphs do show significant-enough variation to suggest that 4K can have a heightened emotional impact.
So, let's turn it over to you. Do you own a 4K TV, or have at least watched a fair bit of UHD content somewhere? Did it make for a more immersive and emotional experience? Or was it more of a case of the Emperor's new clothes? Sign off with your thoughts on the latest TV viewing tech shift in the comments section below.