Q. I watched the entire Super Bowl in 4K and I thought it looked very good. Maybe not great good, but very good. What did you think? Did you watch it in 4K? (Yea, Chiefs!!) — Jim, Jefferson City, Missouri. 

Jim, for starters, congratulations on your win. Super Bowl LIV provided lots of excitement and diversion at a time when we all need it the most.

I also watched the game in 4K, splitting my time using Comcast’s 4K set-top and a Roku Ultra 4K streaming device. I found that Roku’s 4K picture looked sharper and brighter than Comcast, but the streaming device’s feed was roughly 25 seconds behind the cable operator. (And both were anywhere from 30 seconds to one minute behind the regular high-def signal.)

Overall, I thought the picture was a significant improvement over past Fox 720p HD broadcasts of the Super Bowl, but just moderately better than a 1080i or 1080p display. The image delivered more realism and vividness, but not the eye-popping detail that you would expect if you listened to the marketing spiel of TV makers. (Perhaps the impact would have been greater if Fox had broadcast the game in ‘true 4K’ rather than ‘upscaled 4K.)

As I’ve said frequently here before, 4K (when done right) is an incremental improvement over HD, not a dramatic one like high-def was over standard-definition when it was introduced two decades ago.

But a better picture is a better picture, and you can’t be unhappy with that.

That was my assessment. Using Twitter as a gauge (which admittedly is unscientific and probably not reflective of the general population), I would conclude that the reaction among everyone else was mixed. Many Twitter users posted comments suggesting the 4K picture was sensational while an equal number said it wasn’t much better than HD.

(Some people also complained that the 4K stream buffered frequently. I didn’t have any trouble with my feeds, but there were numerous reports of technical issues, which is common with streaming. However, there was no indication that any streaming service had a full technical meltdown, which had occurred in previous Super Bowl broadcasts.)

For instance, here’s a sampling of comments:

“Got to watch the Super Bowl in 4K on @DIRECTV on a 70 inch TV. Anyone who says they can’t see the difference between 1080 and 4K is blind AF! I’m literally blind & I can see a huge difference! I know it’s cliche, but it’s so natural looking, it’s like you’re there. #SuperBowlLIV,” tweeted @sean1robertson

“The washed out mess on the left is the Fox 4K HDR stream of #SuperBowLIV. On the right is the 1080p SDR stream. Oversaturated but more accurate color. Fox had college and MLB games that looked better in 4K. What gives, @FOXSports?” wrote Matt Stephens, a senior sports editor for the Charlotte Observer. (Stephens posted side-by-side photos of the broadcast.)

“I also wanted to give @foxsports many kudos for how the 4K #SuperBowl stream went tonight; compared to the first TNF game this year, it was like night and day. Incredible stability and outside of lack of local ads, beautiful clarity. No complaints here,” wrote @mrschimpf.

“So the first 4k broadcast of the Super Bowl was a huge fail from my perspective….
@FOXSports stream was choppy and pixelated to the point of being unwatchable, not unlike many of their regular season 4k broadcasts. This shouldn’t be that difficult. #SuperBowlLIV #HoolieNucleus,” said @mlmcconnell.

“This codec that Fox is using for the 4K HDR #SuperBowl feed is impressive. Great quality all game and it even handled the confetti shots with minimal issues… confetti is notorious for destroying video compression. This quality might make me like watching sports on TV,” tweeted @logandj.

“The @dish 4k feed of the #SuperBowl doesn’t appear 4k. Either my tv is toast or Dish is ass. What keeps smart TV manufacturers from programming software to make hardware appear to or actually go bad after a time? No way this is 4K on 540-1 (Dish’s channel for 4K events),” wrote @Harri_says.

“Gotta give some credit. The 4k UHD on Fox for super bowl is pretty spectacular. Can’t wait until this is the norm,” said @darren_reese.

“It’s not a calibration issue. Something is up with the Roku feed. I’ve tried playing 4K HDR bluray on computer regular monitor and it’s washed out because it doesn’t have the correct color profile, exactly like this super bowl mess,” tweeted @nXt.

I could go on with these for another 1,000 words or so. For every glowing tribute, there’s a tweet expressing major disappointment.

And this is 4K TV in a nutshell. Because it is an incremental improvement, many viewers will shrug their shoulders and say, ‘What’s the big deal?”

As 4K TVs manufacturers escalate their marketing efforts, this mixed viewpoint could serve as a drag on 4K sales, and 4K viewing.

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— Phillip Swann