Every year, around TV-buying time (notably the holidays and early new year), people start asking themselves, “Is it finally time to upgrade to a 4k TV? Or should I just stick with my 1080p TV and save money?”
For the past several years, the answer to upgrading to the massively improved resolution has been, “Maybe buy a 4k TV, or maybe wait and see.”
These days, however, the answer is moving more firmly toward a yes. 4K TVs, with their incredible higher resolution, are now incredibly common and very affordable, especially if you count in sales. That’s been true for a while, but now content is finally catching up as well.
Let’s break it down by content type so you can get a better idea if a 4k TV is right for your entertainment, or if 1080p TVs are fine for now.
Reminder: You need 4k televisions, 4k content (including 4k gaming), and a device capable of handling 4k, along with newer cables that are 4k compatible. They all have to deal with more data, so make sure you are prepared to make the full upgrade.
Also remember that viewing distance is important for 4k: The closer you are, the more you will be able to tell the difference.
4k Digital Movies
Like to download your movies onto a hard drive? Good news!
Basically all new movies, and many updated old movies, are available in 4k. These tend to cost around $5 to $10 more than the non-4k versions, so there’s a small price increase, but content availability is no longer a problem here.
Most devices have been updated for 4k as well, although if you have an old device to play movies through you may have to upgrade the firmware or replace it. More modern TVs have 4K HDR that’s very good at knowing what treatment content needs.
The only big issue here is storage space: 4k movies can take up a lot of room so having dedicated storage drive is a really good idea.
4k and Video Games
Games have been slower to adopt 4k than movies. Most indie games still don’t have that option, and still don’t need it.
However, if you play primarily AAA titles, then the time to switch to a 4K TV has arrived. Not only can modern gaming consoles, like the PS4 Pro, handle 4k, but most new triple-A titles offer 4k compatible for an all-new resolution experience. This applies to plenty of remasters, too.
Note: Computer displays don’t really enter into this, because they tend to have different resolutions from a true 4k image (different numbers of pixels for the aspect ratio). It’s best to look at computer consoles on a case-by-case basis.
Where do you get your living room sports channels from? Cable, over-air broadcasts, satellite, and online streaming are all popular options.
Check your particular package and settings to see what content is 4k video. Satellite is the most likely to offer 4k UHD, but it usually depends on your package. Cable is a bit more hit or miss, but it’s becoming more common. 4k is typically offered only for specific channels or events, so check your plan!
Over-the-air broadcasts are great, but the protocol for 4k broadcasts is quite new, so it will take some time for your antenna to pick up 4k signals. This just isn’t an option right now.
Ultimately, if you get a significant number of sports channels in 4k, this is a good reason to upgrade to a new TV and enjoy the action in greater clarity.
Many streaming TV shows are offered in 4k these days, but you typically have to pay more for the streaming 4k subscription. This will also take up a lot of data on your internet plan, which may be a problem if your data cap is already pretty close to the amount of data used each month.
If these concerns aren’t an issue, then you can enjoy the latest shows in 4k on most streaming services, which are typically supported natively as smart tv features, even without a device. Hulu is a big exception: Hulu has unexpectedly dropped all its 4k compatibility and there’s no sign of when it might return.
Get a Blu-ray player that can support a 4k screen and buy 4k discs: Then you should be set! All new movies are available in 4k options, so finding them shouldn’t be an issue. Your old catalog of hard copy movies, however, won’t benefit very much from the upgrade.
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