The time is finally right to buy a 4K/HDR television – the next step up after HD.
- Jeff Dunn/Business Insider.
I just bought one, which is saying something – I despise buying electronics, and that goes doubly so for TVs.
I’m not a videophile, and I don’t buy bleeding-edge tech. I only considered the concept of buying a 4K/HDR TV because I had to review the newest Xbox One, which exists solely to provide 4K/HDR visuals.
After spending an inordinate amount of time digging in, I was convinced: It finally makes sense for the average person to consider buying a 4K/HDR TV. Here’s why!
1. The prices are finally reasonable.
I started looking for a new TV with a price in mind: I wouldn’t spend over $1,000. If I couldn’t buy a good 4K/HDR TV for $1,000 or under, then I would wait another year.
Turns out that was no problem whatsoever – I actually ended up spending well below $1,000.
I started by reading up on TVs at my favorite review-focused publications: CNET and The Wirecutter. I spoke with colleagues who know more about displays than I do. (Thanks, Tony and Jeff!) I went back and forth over whether to wait for OLED TV prices to come down. I watched a bunch of videos on YouTube.
In the end, I went with the TCL P-series you see above. It’s Wirecutter’s highest-rated TV, period.
“It’s the best value we have ever seen in a TV,” Wirecutter’s Chris Heinonen said. “It produces images with more detail, brightness, and color than most TVs that cost hundreds more. Even when viewed side-by-side with TVs that cost 250 percent more, our viewing panel picked the TCL.”
I’ve had the TCL set for nearly a month, and I love it so far. It cost $599.99 plus tax – significantly under the budget I set for a TV that’s received universal praise from critics and buyers alike.
2. From Apple TV to Roku to Fire TV, the newest version of every set-top box comes with support for 4K and/or HDR.
If you’re buying one of the newest set-top boxes, like the Apple TV, you’ve already got a device that’s capable of powering a 4K/HDR television. You can download films and TV, and then watch them in 4K/HDR on your new TV.
Perhaps you prefer Amazon’s Fire TV stick, or Roku’s various devices? There are 4K/HDR options from every set-top box maker at this point, and plenty of content to boot.
3. Streaming services are all there already.
Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Video all offer streaming video in 4K, with HDR support, right now. Netflix charges a bit more for the ability to watch the higher quality stream, which is unfortunate, but it offers a ton of content for streaming in 4K/HDR. Even YouTube has 4K content.
HBO Now/Go, unfortunately, does not – it’s one of the few big streaming video services that still lacks support.
4. The PlayStation 4 and Xbox One both have 4K/HDR capability.
- Guerrilla Games
With the launch of the Xbox One X earlier this month, both Microsoft and Sony now have consoles that can power 4K/HDR gaming.
In Sony’s case, it’s the PlayStation 4 Pro. The $400 console is powerful enough to play many games in 4K resolution with HDR lighting support.
In Microsoft’s case, both the standard $250 Xbox One S model and the high-end $500 Xbox One X model can power HDR gaming. The higher-end model is capable of powering both 4K and HDR, while the less expensive model can power only HDR visuals. It can power some games in 4K, but it’s not “true” 4K. The Xbox One S can also power 4K video (streaming and on disc), if you’re just looking for a good 4K Blu-ray player.
5. 4K/HDR is the new standard for the foreseeable future, so buying an HD TV at this point is a mistake.
- REUTERS/Jeff Haynes
I bought a 4K TV for $600, but if I didn’t have a bunch of very specific needs in mind I could’ve gone much lower. There are great 4K/HDR TVs on sale right now for less than $400. And with Black Friday just around the corner, there will be plenty of opportunities for discounts on the pricier sets.
There’s one thing you definitely should not do at this point, though, and that’s buy a standard HD set. Even if you’re not planning on watching 4K content, buying a 4K TV is negligible in price difference from an HD set. More importantly, it’s a measure of future-proofing – the next standard in TV visuals will be 4K. That’s not a maybe kinda thing; it’s a certainty.
Just like when standard definition TVs transitioned to HD, so too will HD TVs transition to 4K. That’s because more and more content is being filmed in 4K (or even higher) resolutions, and the average TV size is growing. The larger the TV you have, the more important the resolution is – low-resolution visuals look blurry, stretched, and generally unpleasant on large screens.
ONE CAVEAT: The vast majority of cable TV content is still not offered in 4K.
- Jim Rogash/Getty Images
Unbelievably, the NFL and the NBA and the MLB and the NHL every other major sports league isn’t broadcasting games in 4K/HDR. There are ways to watch sports in 4K/HDR through apps, but your cable box isn’t providing that.
DirecTV and Dish both offer some content in 4K, but most cable providers in the US offer little or none. There are complicated reasons for this regarding cable TV infrastructure. The long and short is, if you want 4K/HDR content, your best option is through internet-based services over your cable provider.