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How to Fix Your 4K TV Picture

Q. I bought a 4K TV for a lot of money, but I can’t see much difference in the picture between what I used to have and the so-called 4K picture. Is there something I need to do to make it better? — Corinne, Corsicana, Texas. 

Corinne, you are not alone. Many 4K TV owners say they are disappointed in how their new televisions look when they bring them home. They say they expected an eye-popping picture that far exceeds the High-Definition image. However, after looking at the 4K set for a few days, they lament that it seems like it’s just a little better than HD, or perhaps, not even that.

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There are two reasons for this dilemma. One I can help solve, and one I can’t.

Let’s start with the one I can’t.

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4K TV can deliver a better picture than high-def. And, sometimes, the picture is much better. You will be amazed at how much detail can be seen with the 4K image which offers four times the resolution of HD. And if the 4K program or sporting event is produced in High Dynamic Range (HDR), the colors look even more vivid and realistic.

As an example, I recently watched Fox’s 4K production of the Thursday Night Football game between the Seattle Seahawks and Los Angeles Rams. (The game was streamed in 4K on the Fox Sports app.) The picture was fantastic. You could detect individual blades of grass, and even the stitches on the football when it was placed on the ground. The color of the jerseys had an luminous quality that seemed to create a near-glow effect.

After watching the game for just a few minutes, you would immediately understand why someone would be excited about 4K.

However, the Fox game is the exception, not the rule in today’s programming. The networks offer very little content in 4K, mostly just sporting events that require a certain device, such as a Roku Ultra 4K player, or a subscription to a specific pay TV service, such as DIRECTV or Optimum. The streaming services such as Netflix feature some 4K programming, but both the quantity and quality varies.

There’s also 4K Blu-ray discs, but even those sometimes are inconsistent in picture quality.

So, it’s no surprise that Corinne and many other 4K TV owners can’t understand why their picture isn’t dramatically better. In most cases, the programming they watch isn’t much better, if it’s better at all.

There’s hope that the networks will deliver more 4K programming in the near future. But until that happens, 4K TV will continue to disappoint many viewers.

Now, let’s take on the problem I can help fix.

And that is, how can you improve your 4K picture when you are actually watching something in 4K?

There are several things you can do, such as:

1. Calibrate Your TV
4K TV is not plug-and-play TV. After you bring the set home, you will likely have to adjust the TV’s picture settings to display the best image possible. If they are not, you are likely to be disappointed.

After I bought my TV, I spent several hours researching online for the best settings for my particular set, and then experimenting with several ‘picture modes’ before deciding on one. And even after I chose one, I had to go into the manual settings area to adjust a feature to reduce the contrast that was giving my picture ‘the soap opera effect.’
It was not an easy process. And I have been in this business for 25 years.

2. Buy a Top-Quality 4K TV
Even more so than High-Definition, the quality of the 4K TV really, really matters. If your TV is from a low-cost, little-known brand, your 4K picture will suffer accordingly. I’m not saying you should run out and buy a new one. But….

3. Get a Fast Internet Service
If the 4K show is streamed, the Internet service has to be sufficiently fast to deliver the 4K picture. (Netflix, for instance, says the Internet speed must be a minimum of 25 Mbps to stream a 4K program.) So if your Internet service has issues, so will your 4K picture.

4. Sit Closer 
Yes, where you sit matters. You need to sit closer to a 4K TV screen than a high-def screen to truly appreciate the greater resolution of the picture. How close, you ask? It depends on the size of the set. But I sit about 4 feet from my 55-inch 4K TV. If I move back just 2-3 feet, the picture detail diminishes.

5. Get a Big 4K TV
Which brings me to my next point. The bigger the screen, the better the 4K picture will look. It’s not a myth. The added detail in the 4K picture can’t really be appreciated on a small screen. I would not recommend anyone buy a 4K TV under 55 inches. And if you have the cash for a bigger set than that, buy it. I still wish I had the bought the 65-inch LG OLED, although I like my 75-inch Sony.

To sum up, Corinne, the 4K TV can be a wonderful addition to your living room or media room. But I would not be honest with you, and all my readers, unless I said that it requires some work and research.

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Have a question about new TV technologies? Send it to The TV Answer Man at swann@tvpredictions.com. Please include your first name and hometown in your message.

— Phillip Swann

About TV Answer Man (1683 Articles)
The TV Answer Man is veteran journalist Phillip Swann who has covered the TV technology scene for more than two decades. He will report on the latest news and answer your questions regarding new devices and services that are changing the way you watch television.

7 Comments on How to Fix Your 4K TV Picture

  1. Also make sure your HDMI cables are HDR. BIG difference in color .

  2. I’m watched the Eagles vs Packers game and the 1080i broadcast on the NFL network looks more sharper than 4k channel.
    4k seems to be a bit choppy and there is a difference in quality when they switch to the field camera. The 1080i quality stays consistent from the various camera angles they switch to.
    I noticed the same thing happening with a college football game in 4k.
    Is there a reason 4k would be a worse picture that 1080i?

  3. I watched the game on Directv at home on an LG OLED TV through a 4k genie box. I switched back and forth from the 4k broadcast and the 1080i feed on the NFL Network. I noticed the same issues with 2 college games on the 4k DTV channel.

  4. TV Answer Man // October 9, 2019 at 4:28 pm // Reply

    Directv had a problem with its delivery.

  5. Believe it or not, there is quite a bit of 4k programming from Netflix as well as Amazon Prime. You can also view some really nice demo material on YouTube.
    Calibrating you’re tv is very important. You can go to CNET or RTINGS and likely find calibration settings for your set. Use those to start and tweak from there. There is a new Spears & Munsil 4k calibration disc you can buy that goes in depth and has some beautiful demo material. Unfortunately it doesn’t have much in terms of direction unless you go to their website.
    If you have a good 4k tv, a good source, and the set is set up correctly, you should be in 4k heaven.
    As to Directv, that may have been a transmission source problem. The picture should be excellent.

  6. Anything else that I’ve watched in 4k on DTV have looked great. I’ve watched programming through many apps I’ve downloaded on my TV. The GO Pro videos are amazing and realistic. I’ve checked out various 4k programming and never came across the issue experienced on the pro and college football games. It’s possible it could be DTV issue. Like I said it seems to occur only on certain camera angles.

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