TV Answer Man, I enjoy your articles but I don’t understand why you write so much about 4K. We have a 4K TV and my husband and I think the picture is so meh-meh. We don’t understand why people get so excited about it. Is there something we are doing wrong with it? Please enlighten us, TV Answer Man. — Desi, Huntington Beach, California.
Desi, 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 hundreds of dollars (or more) 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?
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.
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 cable and satellite 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, Desi, 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.
Have a question about new TV technologies? Send it to The TV Answer Man at email@example.com Please include your first name and hometown in your message.
— Phillip Swann