What do I need to get 4K?
In the first part of this series, we discussed the benefits of 4K over “traditional” HD. But contrary to what some believe, just buying a massive 4K-compatible UHD TV and setting it up inside your home doesn’t instantly transform your content into 4K.
Now that you’ve heard about how an upgrade to 4K can benefit the entertainment experience, here’s what you need to know get the best experience possible.
A 4K-compatible display
Naturally, the first and most integral part of a 4K experience is the actual TV. Look for a model that’s labeled as Ultra High-Definition (UHD) and includes HDMI 2.0a inputs with HDCP 2.2 copy protection. This will ensure that the display will be able to connect to 4K receivers or source devices (like a Blu-ray player), and play back copy-protected 4K content, like the latest Ultra High Definition (UHD) Blu-ray discs. If you’re looking for a 4K TV that also has smart capabilities, Samsung’s 40-inch JU6700is well-reviewed. If you want to go big, try LG’s 65-inch 65UH8500 model, which received a score of 93% on 4K.com.
A 4K AV receiver
If you wish to have an AV receiver in the home to manage all of your connected devices, with inputs for everything from your TV to your set-top box (like a Bell Fibe PVR), speakers, and other audio and video source devices, you’ll need one that boasts the same 4K features as the TV: HDMI 2.0a inputs and HDCP 2.2 copy protection. Any receiver that is 4K-compatible will, of course, be advertised as such.
The proper HDMI cables
It’s the least glamorous part of a 4K setup. But believe it or not, your cables also need to support the appropriate bandwidth to pass-through the video data required for 4K content. This means they must be compliant with 18Gbps, HDMI 2.0a bandwidth. It’s best if you can find a cable that has certification from a reputable company, like HDMI, LLC or DPL Labs, for use with 4K content. It might be tempting to skimp on the cables and buy the cheapest ones you can find, but if you want to truly enjoy the 4K experience, you need to invest in every key part of the equation.
A 4K content source
As noted in Part 1, there’s a growing list of sources for 4K content. And it will keep growing. Here’s where you can get started:
UHD Blu-ray discs: Major studios have already released UHD Blu-ray discs of movies like The Martian, Salt, and Exodus. Naturally, to view these, you’d need a UHD Blu-ray player as well. Samsung, for example, is already offering one in Canada. And more will be hitting the market soon.
4K Set-top Boxes: You can use a 4K-capable set-top box, like Bell’s 4K Whole Home PVR, to watch broadcast 4K content. This already includes several Toronto Raptors, Toronto Maple Leafs, and Ottawa Senators games on TSN, as well as content on Discovery Canada’s channel, like the Canadian drama Frontier. Bell’s PVR has a massive recording capacity: you can save up to 150 hours of 4K content to watch at your leisure. Plus, you can control it without line-of-sight via the Bluetooth remote. And it’s ultra-small, so it won’t take up much space in the living room.
Streaming content: You can also watch streaming 4K content from a compatible streaming service, as long as you have the appropriate plan to access it. (To do this, you’d also want to ensure you have a fast and ample home Internet package with plenty of bandwidth).
It’s worth reiterating that you can also watch HD and SD fare on a 4K TV. In many cases, the content will be upscaled to UHD/4K quality for a better viewing experience, filling in missing pixels to compensate for the loss of resolution. It won’t be the same as 4K, but, depending on the display, it can represent a noticeable improvement over watching on an HDTV.
While this isn’t a requirement for enjoying video in 4K, you might also want to consider getting speakers (and a receiver) that are compatible with Dolby Atmos or DTS:X object-based surround sound, which will add the enhanced audio to match the video part of a 4K experience. Of course, standard surround sound will do just fine as well if you aren’t quite ready to go that route yet.
The bottom line
To get the best viewing experience possible, and truly be able to enjoy 4K and the benefits it affords, you need all of the elements in the system to speak the same language. But once you equip your living room with everything needed for 4K, it will be a full-on movie theatre experience. Don’t forget the popcorn!
To learn more about what 4K is and why it’s even better than HD, read the first part in our series here.