TV Answer Man, we have a very nice quality 65-inch 4K TV Samsung TV. However, the 4K picture quality is not nearly as good as the same movie or sporting event viewed in regular programming channels. Any idea why? DIRECTV had no answer when we had a technician come to our home and check for problems. — Caroline, town withheld.
Caroline, you are not alone. Countless 4K TV owners have commented at social media sites and Internet message boards that the 4K picture is not what they expected when they decided to plunk down a grand or two for a new set.
They lament the 4K picture lacks the detail and crispness you would expect from a format boasting four times the resolution of a high-def image.
So is 4K TV a big hoax? A marketing scheme to get people to buy new sets?
See Amazon’s best-selling electronics!
Not really. I am a 4K TV owner (LG 55-inch OLED TV and a 75-inch Sony Bravia set.) and I am often amazed at how great the picture is. There is a realism and vividness to the image that I have never experienced before.
But that said, sometimes I am disappointed, too. The picture is flat, too dark, or just not any better than HD. And some people think it can actually be worse.
If your 4K TV picture is disappointing to you, there could six reasons why, and hopefully, six solutions. And here they are:
1. How the TV is calibrated
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 properly calibrated, 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.
See Amazon’s best-selling electronics!
2. The quality of the set
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. How the programming is viewed
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. (And even if you have a fast Internet service, the inconsistent nature of streaming can trigger buffering or picture dilution.)
The 4K picture on DIRECTV and other non-Internet pay TV services can also vary depending upon the quality of your equipment and connection as well as any technical issues that could be affecting your provider’s delivery.
The 4K Blu-ray discs also vary in quality, depending upon how they were produced and manufactured.
4. Whether the 4K program is in HDR (High Dynamic Range)
HDR can add realism and detail to the 4K picture. But most 4K programs are still not available with HDR. As you can imagine, this can be quite confusing to the average consumer who wonders why his picture was so great on one show, but not so great on another.
5. Where you sit
Yes, where you sit. 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.
6. The size of the set
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, Caroline, 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.
As The TV Answer Man, I will try to provide guidance here on how to improve the 4K TV picture as well as other 4K tips.
Need to buy something today? Please buy it using this Amazon.com link. This site receives a small portion of each purchase, which helps us continue to provide these articles.
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
4K quality isn’t what you thought it would be after buying a new 4K TV. Most carriers don’t have dedicated 4K true channels, they upscale the shows, so yes, you are not watching a true 4K show. They DON’T want to spend the money on equipment to broadcast the shows in true 4K. DIRECTV which I have no affiliation with has true 4K dedicated channels, trust me switching from Comcast to DirecTV, when you are on the 4K channels it is so lifelike that you think you are truly there. Most carriers are overcharging for their services and still not producing 4K true channels, so the real culprits here are the carriers not providing true 4K programming and then the quality of your 4 TV, upper end or bottom end 4K TV regardless of make.
What data rate does Direct tv use for 4K telecasts? It should be at least 30 megabits per second for decent 4K reproduction, If not, that may be the reason for the lack of clarity in picture quality.
That also depends on the codec used. The older the codec the less efficient it is. AV1 is more efficient than HEVC. So a lower bitrate AV1 video can look the same as a higher bitrate HEVC video. And HEVC is more efficient than MPEG-4. So a lower bitrate HEVC video can look the same as a higher bitrate MPEG-4 video.
Bit rate is an important function, of overall video quality. H265 Codec HEVC is said to be 50 Percent more efficient then H264 MPEG 4 codec used for 1080 video, 4K Blu-Ray recorded disks, is said to use a bit rate if 60 to 100 megabits per second.4K Blu-Ray recorded disk is the ultimate in video quality.
I don’t believe satellite, or streaming, would use a bit rate of that magnitude.
I agree. Just got a 75 inch 4k tv and it’s fantastic. Dolby video is unreal, once you get use to the hyper realistic I ages.
What I do is twofold. First I check either CNET or Rtings.com for sets they have reviewed and use their settings on my set. At this point you can tweak from there to adjust to your liking or if you are happy, leave it alone. These reviewers have all the necessary equipment to adjust correctly. You could also buy a calibration Blu-ray Disc and adjust with it.