by Andrew Heinzman on
There isn’t much to say about the new Chromecast. It’s almost identical to its 2nd generation counterpart, even down to the $35 price point. Oh, and it doesn’t support 4K.
It took a little while to gain steam, but the age of affordable 4K is finally upon us. Whatever your next big TV purchase is, it should be a 4K model. Need some convincing? Here’s why.
If you would have asked us even a year ago if you should purchase a 4K, we’d have had a list of reasons why you should wait it out. Now, however, the cost to get started with 4K is much lower and the benefits are significantly higher.
Here’s why we think your next TV should be a 4K one (and if you’re not going to buy a 4K TV then you shouldn’t even bother).
As with all new technology, the cost for early adoption is always astronomical. When the first 4K TV models were shown off at the Consumer Electronics Show years ago, they were big, beautiful, and insanely expensive. So expensive, even, that you could opt not to buy one and buy a reasonably priced car instead.
It took awhile, but 4K prices are finally low enough to compete with the HD TV prices of yesteryear.
2017, however, marks the year that 4K TVs are as reasonably priced as 1080p HD TVs were ten years ago. You can drop $300-400 on a decent size 4K today or you can splurge and get a huge $1000+ model with premium features just like you could with HD TV sets—the prices are finally on par.
Over all, given how far 4K TV prices have fallen it’s very difficult to argue in favor of purchasing an HD TV set today unless it’s a small cheap TV for a child’s playroom or guest room.
When it comes to TV, the transition from standard definition TV to high definition TV proved that while cost is a big consideration, the real issue is content.
Those early 4K television sets companies were showing off five years ago looked so beautiful and sharp compared to plain old HD sets, but there was hardly a thing to actually watch on them besides the demo that came with the TV.
Now, although 4K content has yet to reach the saturation level of the HD content that it is displacing, there is an abundance of content to consume. Netflix has 4K content. Amazon Instant Video has 4K content. You can even watch piles of 4K content on YouTube.
Netflix and Amazon are churning out 4K original content hand-over-fist.
There’s hardware support for 4K streaming in all the new streaming devices like the newest Chromecast, Roku, Amazon Fire TV, and Apple TV. The new PlayStation and Xbox support 4K content (and the Xbox even has a 4K disc player). Speaking of physical media, more and more movies are getting re-released in 4K and it’s very easy to get first release movies in 4K.
While there’s some great content (enough to justify purchasing a 4K TV to enjoy it), we won’t candy coat things. Is 4K currently at the level of saturation that DVDs and, later, Blu-ray discs have enjoyed? No. Is every station in 4K? Hardly. In fact cable and satellite TV companies are barely touching 4K at the moment because it’s so bandwidth intensive and consumer adoption hasn’t forced their hand yet.
As of now, 4K is definitely a new wave led by streaming services. None the less though, there’s lots of gorgeous content out there for you to watch and everything, older HD content included, looks better on the newer sets.
The last bit, that everything looks better on newer sets, should be the real take away. Even if you’re sitting there saying “But guys, I don’t think there’s enough content yet to justify buying a 4K set instead of a plain old HD set on sale” you’re missing out on the degree to which TV technology has improved significantly over just the last few years. If you haven’t hit up the TV section at your local retailers lately, you may not realize how the advertisement image above, from Samsung, isn’t an outrageous representation of the brightness and color you get out of new 4K sets.
Newer 4K sets, even when displaying an HD broadcast or a Blu-ray movie, simply look better. The content is upscaled on a sharper panel that is capable of a greater range of brightness, richer color, and smoother motion. The blacks, for example, on newer sets that used localized dimming to create really crisp black areas (instead of that murky black-gray color you find on many HD TVs), are unreal.
If you’re buying a 4K set, make sure it’s 4K HDR.
On top of just the increased number of pixels 4K TVs can push, many new 4K sets now support HDR (High Dynamic Range), a standard that allows for more nuanced images with details like shaded areas and bright areas (like reflections off glass) really popping off the screen. At the risk of sounding hyperbolic, watching well done 4K HDR content is like seeing television with new eyes.
The 4K standard isn’t some oddball novelty in the TV world (like, say, 3D Blu-ray content). 4K is slowly replacing HD as the new standard in exactly the same way HD pushed standard definition content right out the door.
If you’re buying a new television today for your living room, given the falling prices of 4K sets, the rise of 4K content, and the radical improvements in TV technology 4K has ushered in, it makes absolutely no sense to plop down a few hundred dollars today on a set that is already outdated.
It’s a far better use of your money to buy a TV that will give you years of service and supports current standards.
So our advice in summary? Either buy a nice 4K set with HDR support today, or simply hold onto your money. Resist the urge to buy a deeply discounted HD set. Let the companies offload their last-generation technology on somebody else and make your next purchase—whether you make it this Black Friday or next spring—a 4K TV that will tide you over for years and let you enjoy a beautiful picture the whole time.
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