Super Bowl In 4K: How Did It Look?


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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13 comments on “Super Bowl In 4K: How Did It Look?”

  1. I watched DirecTV in 4K. Everyone at my Super Bowl party including me was very impressed. Can’t wait until native (not upscaled 1080p) 4K. Maybe next year.

  2. Watched in on my Tivo to 4K set which upscaled it very well itself. Started it on Apple TV with Fox app, but no CC. Complete failure there. Tried several times, and no captions at all, so, FCC violation, and useless. Picture did look good. 🙂 (So, then switched to Tivo, which was excellent.)

  3. I watched using a Roku 4k box on a sony 4k set via 200 mbit/s mediacom, the picture jerked the whole time, like I was not getting all the frames, otherwise very sharp, great brightness and colors. Other 4k feeds from amazon, netflix, youtube are very smooth, no jerking.

  4. The 4K signal at my house through a Amazon fire stick was horrible. The first half I switch back and watched on my AT&T U-verse box. That HD signal looked much better than the 4K they supposedly were broadcasting. Also switched over and used FOX Sports on my phone through a chrome cast on Sony 85 inch smart television 850 version.. That picture was somewhere between the 4K and the U-verse box. It was actually the best one.

    At half time and for all of the second-half the fire stick broadcast seemed to work. It was much better much sharper but still the colors were horrible. So I’m not sure the 30 bucks I spent on this fire stick through Amazon was worth it?

  5. Watching from a 4K set. Starting watching the Fox Now App ( they promoted the SB in 4K) ….The picture was, well not so great, kinda dark, and was not impressed. I thought it was a bit of a joke. After the first quarter switched to Spectrum (which did not carry the game in 4K) and the picture was actually really vibrant….and continued until the end.

  6. Watching the Fox App 4K was jumping around on my Roku. Picture was not smooth in motion at all. The details were sharper though

  7. I tried casting the Fox Now stream to my Vizio 4k HDR DV TV and it only played in 720p but it seemed to have nice colors and was brighter than when I switched to Fubo TV Fox channel cast to the same TV which played in 4k HLG. I was surprised by the quality of the stream in general.

  8. I watched the game on Dish channel 540-1 in 4k on my Samsung 4k tv set. Actually, I thought the picture was not anywhere close to the games that I have watched on Dish before. Someone somewhere didn’t do the right connections. The picture looked more like 1080-I than previous 4k on this set.

  9. I watched (from Kansas City) using the Fox Sports app on a Roku Streaming Stick + on an LG C9 OLED and the picture was stunning throughout–best I’ve ever seen for a live event. No buffering at any time on a Spectrum 250 Mbps connection. The only degradation in quality I noticed was on some commercials during the pre-game show which were clearly either not produced in 4K or upconverted to 4K properly.

  10. I watched on a Sony XBR-55X800G/Altice1/Channel 200/4K; no pixelling, crystal clear, but NOT true 4K! Also, the 4K production from Fox, was NOT in 5.1 Dolby Digital; the 720P Fox NY broadcast was; how bizarre! Bottom line: better, not perfect! Best part of the broadcast was color purity, & ZERO SNOW!

  11. 82″ Class Q900 QLED Smart 8K UHD TV (2019) With 1 gig AT&T fiber connection, directly plugged in. On Amazon FireTV 4K cube. Horrible experience, It did come in beautiful for short periods of time the buffered. I was the switching over to a YouTubeTV connection which was certainly more stable but not 4K.

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