By Phillip Swann
The TV Answer Man –@tvanswerman
TV Answer Man, I watched a World Cup game in 4K and I don’t get why people get excited about 4K. I don’t think the picture was much better than HDTV and maybe not even that good. Shouldn’t the 4K picture be a lot better than HD? What am I missing here? — Dick, Akron, Ohio.
Dick, you are not alone. Countless 4K TV owners comment on social media sites and Internet message boards that the 4K picture is not what they expected when they decided to invest hundreds of dollars 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?
Is the 4K TV Picture Really Better?
I am a 4K TV owner 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.
There are many reasons for this difference in quality, including:
* 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, 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 decades.
* The quality of the set
Even more so than High-Definition, the quality of the 4K TV really, really matters. If the TV is from a low-cost, little-known brand, your 4K picture will suffer accordingly.
* 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.
The 4K Blu-ray discs also vary in quality, depending upon how they were produced and manufactured.
* Whether the 4K program is 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.
* 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 5 feet from my 55-inch 4K TV and seven feet from a 75-inch 4K TV. If I move back just 2-3 feet, the picture detail diminishes.
* 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.
To sum up, Dick, 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.
And I would be remiss if I didn’t add that while the 4K picture can be an improvement over HD, the difference between 4K and HD is not the dramatic difference it was between HD and SD. When High-Definition TV was first introduced, people were amazed at how much better the picture was. 4K is better but not necessarily dramatically better.
Happy viewing and stay safe!
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