Will 2019 be the year of 4K?

OK, I can’t believe I’m asking this question again. I asked it once in 2015, then again two years ago. Has the answer changed? Will this be the last time I write this article? Let’s hope so.

Finally, the TVs are there.

It’s now possible to buy a very decent, very serviceable 4K HDR TV for under $500, and you can even get sizes up to 55″ in that price range. That’s an amazing feat when I consider that I paid about that much for a 27″ tube TV in 1997. Prices just keep dropping, thanks to mature technology and a decent number of factories turning out high-volume, high-quality panels.

If you haven’t yet bought a 4K TV, it’s probably time. It’s hard to imagine prices getting much lower, especially for the “smaller” 46-55 inch models. Most 4K TVs will give you a considerably better picture than their HD counterparts, even on HD content. They will actively scale the picture and while it won’t be true 4K, it will be better than you are seeing now. If you choose an HDR TV — and you should — then most images will look clearer and brighter than they ever did before.

Streaming in 4K is… getting there.

There are a decent number of 4K programs out there for streamers. For whatever reason we’re still not seeing 4K from every provider and every original production. Hulu has no 4K at all as far as I see. However, it’s getting better. Surprisingly Netflix is at the back of the pack even though they were really early in the 4K market. You would think with them coming out with about 500 new original programs a month that all of them would be in 4K. You’d be wrong.

Still, there’s enough 4K content that it’s worth upgrading your streaming box, unless you’re talking about the now-absurdly-priced AppleTV 4K which has no more capabilities than a $50 streamer from another company.

4K for Games

I have seen 4K put out by the latest generation of game boxes and it’s amazing. If you haven’t seen it for yourself, these consoles can render graphics that would have looked right at home in a Hollywood blockbuster ten years ago, but do it in 4K, in real time.

Not everyone is a gamer but if you do play today’s video games, treat yourself to a new console because you’ll be amazed.

Streaming on satellite? Choose DIRECTV

DIRECTV has three live channels of 4K, more than anyone else in the industry. That’s not a lot to be sure, but unfortunately no other content provider has announced 4K service. That’s what’s really holding back 4K adoption. You’re not seeing 4K HBO, 4K AMC, or even 4K ESPN for that matter. When it comes to those award-winning cable channels, their shows are all HD, all the time. It’s odd because some of those shows, like Better Call Saul are produced in 4K and available to stream in 4K. Want to watch them live, though? It’s HD and HD only, and it’s likely to remain so until well after the last episode of Game of Thrones.

Over-the-Air 4K

I’ll admit that I’ve been surprised by the moves in the last 18 months toward 4K over-the-air television, but we’re still a long way from seeing it in every home in America. There may be some test broadcasts this year but I think that if we see widespread 4K adoption at all in TV antennas at all it won’t come until ’20 or even ’21. There’s still a lot up in the air. It has to do with the technology and also the politics in Washington. So don’t count on putting up an antenna and getting any 4K this year.

Of course you know what that means…

I’ll see you in two years for my article, “Will 2021 be the year of 4K?”

Seriously. Buy a 4K TV now. Just don’t expect a lot of 4K for a long, long while.

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.