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Do you watch 4K content? Find out how to do it



  Some athletes play soccer on a 4K TV.
Krivosheev Vitaly / Shutterstock

A common complaint about 4K TVs is that they do not look better than HDTVs. The problem is rarely the fault of the TV. Often the content you are watching is not in 4K quality.

As expected, televisions know what resolution they are displaying. But they will not tell you in general. Most televisions have no option to check if they are watching in 4K, 1

080p, or any other resolution. You need to know what content is available instead.

Why you can not tell the difference between 4K and HD

There are several reasons why your new 4K TV may look identical to your old HDTV. The problem may be that your source video is not in 4K. But before we go into it, let's look at some of the more typical reasons your 4K TV looks like an HDTV:

  • Your TV is small : The resolution is determined by the number of pixels in an image , As screens increase in size, the distance between these pixels increases, which can affect the visual quality of an image. Nevertheless, 1080p looks "bad" from about 60 inches, and here you can really tell the difference between 4K and HD.
  • Your TV needs to be calibrated: Like a computer monitor, your TV needs to be calibrated for color, brightness, and contrast. This is usually done by the manufacturer. However, if you are disappointed with the quality of your TV, it may need to be calibrated. You should also turn off the motion smoothing function of your TV.
  • Your TV is Cheap: Not rude or condescending, but cheap TVs may look crappy. If a 4K TV is made of cheap components, it may not look better than an HDTV. In addition, some cheap 4K televisions are not UHD televisions, which means they lack modern contrast and color technologies. (UHD is the TV equivalent to Apple's Retina display.)
  • You're using RCA cables: Do not use colored jacks behind your TV, but an HDMI cable. RCA cables have been around since the 1950s, and while newer component RCA cables can transmit high-resolution video signals they are almost always limited to 1080p.
  • It's Just You : All humans can tell the difference between 4K and 1080P. After all, 4K is four times the resolution of 1080p. However, if your expectations are too high, the difference seems negligible to you.

If your 4K TV still looks poor despite its size, price, and proper calibration, the problem is probably with your source video.

Upscaling can make 1080p content look better on a 4K TV. However, scaling up is no wonder and you get the best picture with native 4K content.

Cable does not support 4K yet.

For some reason, you can not get a 4K cable. The high-resolution format has been around for a long time, but it's generally useless if you only watch cable TV. Some set-top boxes support 4K streaming and video downloads, but do not let the cable company fool you. The cable TV maximum is 1080p.

In some cases, the cable looks different (not objectively better) or worse on 4K TVs. This is the byproduct of better, brighter and clearer lighting technologies. This has nothing to do with the higher resolution.

Are you actually streaming in 4K?

Netflix, Amazon Video and a variety of other streaming platforms are offering their 4K streaming plans. But even with these streaming plans, most of the video you're streaming is not in 4K. It's not like you fell victim to fake ads, it's just that most content in streaming services is older than 4K, has no official 4K version, or is not licensed for 4K viewing on streaming platforms are.

If You Want To check if your favorite shows are in 4K or not, HD-Report offers a comprehensive list of 4K titles on Netflix and Amazon Video. Currently, Hulu does not have 4K content (which used to be the case). You will only get the 4K content on Netflix if you pay for the more expensive premium rate. All Amazon Prime members receive free 4K content from Amazon Prime Video.

When you stream to your PC, there are some additional limitations. Netflix requires special hardware and software for 4K streaming on a PC.

If you buy or rent TV shows or movies from services like Amazon, Vudu, iTunes, or Google Play, you'll need to pay for the 4K (UHD) version. It's often more expensive than the 1080p (HD) version.

  The Stranger Things logo in front of a blurry, colorful background.
Nikkimeel / Shutterstock

Besides the lack of 4K content in streaming services, the limitations of the internet are very big 4K streaming a bit funky. First, all 4K content that can be streamed is infernally compressed to reduce the file size. While Blu-ray discs transmit 4K content at around 80 Mbps, streaming platforms such as Netflix compress their content to the point where they can be seamlessly transmitted at approximately 25 Mbps. The implication of this compression, as you've probably guessed, is that streamable 4K content looks worse than the 4K video you get from a Blu-ray disc.

However, you can not perform 4K streaming content unless your Internet speed is somewhere at 25 Mbps. If you do not know your internet speeds, do the Ookla speed test.

Do you watch DVDs or Blu-Ray discs?

This may be obvious to some people, but DVDs can not broadcast 4K video. In fact, the maximum resolution of DVDs is 720p, which is five times smaller than 4K. If you want to make the most of your 4K TV, it may be time to upgrade to Blu-Ray.

Blu-Ray has some limitations. Old movies, even if remastered for Blu-Ray Ultra HD, do not have to be in 4K. Films shot with analogue films (Alien, Rocky) usually have extremely high resolution and are downsized for 4K releases. However, movies taken at early age by digital cameras (such as Star Wars Episode II) are rarely available in resolutions higher than 1080p.

Not all video games are 4K games

Currently, only the Xbox One S, the Xbox One X, and the Sony PlayStation 4 Pro support 4K games. The original Xbox One does not offer 4K format and the original and sleek PS4 (while it can play 4K videos and Blu-ray discs) does not support 4K gaming. Contrary to logic and reason, the Nintendo Switch is a 1080p console that runs some games at 900p while connected to a TV (if your 4K TV looks awful, adjust the sharpness and contrast on).

  A man has a nervous breakdown because his Xbox games look like crap on his new 4K TV for $ 1,500. His girlfriend is sitting next to him screaming to relax. But it does not help. He is a gamer and his anger can not be stopped.
Voyagerix / Shutterstock

In this article, you probably noticed a trend. Streaming services offer 4K, but their libraries are full of 1080p movies. Blu-ray players are 4K devices, but not all movies are actually in 4K. The same applies to console games. To check if your favorite games are actually in 4K, read the Xbox One 4K guide in Windows Central or the PS4 4K list in Digital Trends.

If you're playing a 4K-compatible game, but it still looks like crap on your TV, then it's time to dive into your console's menu. For the Xbox One, you'll want to press the Xbox button, go to Settings, open Video Options, and enable all HDR and 4K options. For the PS4, go to the Start screen, open the Sound and Video menu, and adjust the resolution in the Video Output Settings.

Some TV apps may provide information when viewing 4K

TVs generally do not display this information on their own interfaces. Some streaming apps may indicate this. Of course this is only useful for this single application.

For example, the YouTube TV app has a handy "Statistics for Nerds" option that displays your current resolution, connection speed, and other geeky information.

Open a video, select the three points and open the "Stats for Nerds" option (the error icon). An overlay then displays your current video resolution. Return to this option when you are ready to hide the overlay.

Besides the current resolution of the video is an optimal resolution. The optimal resolution is calculated based on the actual screen resolution and should be the same as your current resolution. If your current resolution does not match the optimal resolution, check your connection speed. If the optimal resolution for a video on your 4K TV is not 4K, the video itself is not 4K. (Note that 4K technically is 3,840 x 2,160. 4K functions of humans simplify the work.)


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