Q. I’ve been looking at the prices for 4K TVs for Black Friday and I am getting very tempted. If I get a 4K TV, are there things I should know when I get it? Do you think it’s a good purchase? — Sandy, Owings, Maryland.
Sandy, that’s a great question. Retailers such as Best Buy, Amazon.com and Walmart are promoting big sales on 4K TVs for Black Friday and the upcoming holiday season. The sharp discounts will likely trigger some first-time buys of 4K sets, and like yourself, many new 4K owners will be sorely lacking in knowledge about how to use a 4K TV.
Unlike the old-timey TVs of your parents, the 4K TV is not plug-and-play, meaning it doesn’t work perfectly coming out of the box. You need to take certain steps to ensure you get a decent 4K picture, or any 4K picture, for that matter.
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Fortunately, the TV Answer Man is here to help. So here’s what you need to know before buying a 4K TV.
Most new TVs are now 4K TVs.
If you want to buy a new TV, go ahead and get a 4K TV. Why? Because nearly every new TV — if not every new one — you’ll find at your local electronics store will be one. Few TV makers are even making strict HDTVs these days.
4K TVs can offer a better HD picture.
Another reason to get a 4K TV: an improved High-Definition picture. Most new 4K TVs feature better technology inside compared to the high-def models that have been sitting in our living rooms for the last several years. So a quality 4K TV set can offer not only an excellent 4K image, but a high-def one as well.
A relatively small number of shows are available in 4K.
This might be the most important fact for new 4K TV owners. When you bring it home, you won’t be able to watch most of your favorite shows in 4K. The broadcast TV networks (ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC) don’t broadcast in 4K, other than occasional sporting events that can be found on specialty channels on pay TV operators such as DIRECTV, Dish and Comcast. And the popular basic cable channels, such as TBS, Nickelodeon, AMC and FX, don’t do 4K, either. (ESPN is now producing some college football games in 4K, but again, you’ll need a pay TV provider that’s carrying them in that format.)
If you stream, you will find some 4K programming on Netflix, Disney Plus, Amazon Prime, Vudu, Hulu, and a few others. But it’s far from a majority of their lineups.
Lastly, there are movies and shows available in 4K on 4K Blu-ray disc, but that can get expensive (new titles cost nearly $30 each) unless you’re lucky enough to live in a market where Redbox is offering 4K rentals. (There are roughly 15.)
You’ll have to adjust your TV’s settings when you come home.
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 adjusted, 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.
You will want 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. For instance, LG, Vizio, Sony, Samsung, and TCL are good choices.
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.
You’ll have to sit closer to the TV screen.
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 4K 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.
You’ll want a big screen.
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.
To sum up, Sandy, 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.
Have a question about new TV technologies? Send it to The TV Answer Man at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your first name and hometown in your message.
— Phillip Swann