4K is Making Progress in Reaching the Consumer

4K – These days reporting on the display and CE markets must include some news on UHD/4K to be up-to-date. So, here is our update.

FlatpanelsHD and 4K News and Reviews are taking a stab at how the consumer can actually watch 4K today. While 4K News and Reviews reports on the 4K shows that are available from Netflix and Amazon Prime, FlatpanelsHD has published a complete guide on how to watch 4K Netflix content on your 4K TV.

With limited connectors supporting 4K today, all connectivity is going via a fast internet connection. As they state, “To get started, two conditions must be met. You need to own an UltraHD TV that supports Netflix 4K and you need a fast enough internet connection. Netflix recommends a 25 Mb/s connection, but the actual 4K stream is 15.6 Mb/s”.

As an interesting side note, they state that all future Netflix TV series will be produced in 4K. This means that the 4K workflow capabilities must have already reached a good level of penetration in the content creation side.

On the negative side, not all 4K TVs and components are currently capable of showing the 4K content. As they say, “At the moment, only very few TVs have the capabilities required to support Netflix in 4K. You cannot just buy a random UltraHD TV and expect it to work. The technical requirement is HEVC – the successor to MPEG4 – but even with HEVC built-in you might run into trouble”.

They state that only the LG 2014 UltraHD TVs (those with webOS), Panasonic 2014 UltraHD TVs (from October/November), Samsung 2014 UltraHD TVs, Samsung F9005 (requires new One Connectbox), Sony 2014 UltraHD TVs, and Vizio 2014 P series.

This is somewhat disappointing. If the consumer needs a very detailed explanation on how to watch some 4K content on a brand new TV they have just bought, this is not good. On the other hand, this drawback only affects the ability of viewing native 4K content. Upscaling full HD content will still create an FHD+ experience that may satisfy the consumer.

LG Uplus has announced a new 4K TV service that connects the 4K TV via its new U+ tvG4K UHD set top box. This is another source for 4K content and another way for consumers to connect their 4K TV.

Another consideration is the announcement from DisplayLink and Plugable of ” Shipments of First USB 3.0 to DisplayPort 4K UHD Video Graphics Adapter in North America and Europe”. With this connector, users can use a Windows 7 or Windows 8 host computer to stream 4K content to a 4K monitor. While this is aimed more at computer monitors than TV sets, it shows that 4K is actually making progress in all parts of the CE market.

I would expect that these kind of problems will diminish over time as more and more brands offer TV sets with 4K capability that will work across a wider range of products and may even work in brand mixed set-ups. Are we there yet? No. But I think we will get there eventually. – Norbert Hildebrand