The Birth of 4K or The Death of 4K?

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4K

There are a lot of people out there starting to search for the best 4K TV experience, so I thought my recent quest for Ultra HDTV content may be helpful to others considering making the move. I recently acquired a Seiki 50″ TV and built a 4K-capable Windows computer off old Bitcoin mining hardware. Bleeding edge hardware, everywhere. It’s lovely. I’ve been to trade shows and looked at new hotness, but nothing compares to actually experiencing it on your terms looking at content that isn’t made to sell displays.

The first moments of the 4K TV’s life were spent looking on YouTube for 4K content to watch. Ironically, I was mostly searching for the stuff made to sell displays. The search for this content can be difficult because as an industry, professionals who are shooting and uploading 4K content, use the term “4K,” whereas the term most consumers are searching for is “Ultra HDTV” content. This naming discrepancy between the industry “4K” term and the consumer facing “Ultra HDTV” term creates a gap in how content is being searched for, found and experienced.

There is an enormous amount of content listed as “4K” or “UHD”. However, when you check them out, you’ll notice almost half of them are not even 1080p! After 10 minutes of loading videos and trying to find the elusive 2160p, I finally landed on some Samsung time lapses of Machu Pichu. You can find that Machu Pichu content here:

 

Damn, 4K looks good in my living room! After switching back and forth between 1080p and 4K comparing the crispness and the quality, we moved on to finding some more engaging media.

There’s only one downside to 4K in the market right now – unless you have a smart 4K capable TV, you have almost no content options. Netflix requires built-in applications to watch their 4K content. Without a high-dollar 4K TV, you aren’t able to take advantage of one of the only 4K streamers. I only discovered this after my roommates and I argued for about 20 minutes on whether it had switched to 4K from the 1080p stream. Googling the issue revealed the sad truth. The 4k dream was relegated to a select few 4K movie trailers or demo content. I’m over the disappointment of not having any real 4K streams. The 1080p upscaled even to four times its native size still looks pretty damn good. A rather unexpected benefit is watching video game streams from Twitch.tv. Video game interfaces and graphics really scale well and don’t lead to a lost of aliasing or boxeling that can happen to some lower-quality streams.

The benefit of having some massive hardware is that I can actually play some video games in 4K. Not that is a sight to be seen. Immersive game play gets thrown around by gaming reviews but seeing a game in an eye sheering level of detail is beautiful. Primarily for my testing, I used Dota 2. As a spectator, the crisper gameplay experience feels like you’re watching a movie unfold. For an even grander experience Skyrim offers an even deeper sense of immersion unparalleled to is 1080p cousin. Killing dragons looks stunning.

If you have the financial fortitude to get a fancy 4K Netflix-enabled TV or you have a a desire to sink a $1,000+ into a 4K gaming/media machine, do not hesitate! It really is the future. Once the first sets of devices with dedicated HVEC decoding chips start making it into affordable devices 4K will truly blossom. The delivery hurdles, the entry points for the TVs are relatively low. Buying 4K is essentially future proof. The resolution isn’t going to get lower. It’s only going to get higher.

If you’re interested in the set up I created and reference above, here’s what it looks like:

4k Hardware:

Seiki 50″ 4K TV
Windows 7
2x CrossFired XFX R9 290X
Gigabyte Z87 Motherboard
Intel Core i7-4770K Quad-Core  3.5 GHz
Corsair Professional Series AX 1200 Watt Power Supply
Kingston HyperX Beast 32 GB
Kingston Digital 240GB SSD

Games Tested:

Dota 2
Team Fortress 2
Skyrim

Questions about video quality? Drop us a line!

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