It was six long years ago that I asked the question, “Will 2015 be the year of 4K?” It was part of that year’s end-of-year coverage. Every year, toward the end of December, I try to let you know what’s going on and what went on. I’m sure you’ve noticed the articles that ran in the last month.
Most of you didn’t get a 4K TV in 2015. I didn’t. They were coming down in price from 2012’s roughly $40,000 price tag, but with no content there wasn’t a good reason to pay roughly double the prevailing prices for HDTVs at that time.
It’s actually a good thing you didn’t buy that 4K TV in 2015 since it probably would have been obsolete by the end of the year. As manufacturers like DIRECTV started to roll out new 4K hardware, all of it required compatibility with HDMI 2.0a and HDCP 2.2. It was mid-2016 before you started seeing those things commonly on TVs.
Chances are you have at least one 4K TV today.
If you’ve bought a new TV in the last two years chances are it’s 4K. In the last month or so I’ve seen perfectly good 4K TVs in the 55″ range selling for under $300. That’s just astounding and it means that for all intents and purposes, HDTVs are dead. There just isn’t a reason to make them, and there certainly isn’t a reason to buy one. Even if you never watch a single program in 4K, the quality of the picture will be better. 4K televisions, even the cheap ones, scale HD content to 4K and it just looks better.
But one thing hasn’t changed
The big problem with 4K televisions in 2014 was the lack of content. Back then there was essentially zero 4K content. You could download movies overnight and watch them, but that was about it. Things are a little better today but not much.
Yes, we have 4K streaming, for what it’s worth. I’ve yet to find a show that looks consistently better when streamed in 4K. My home internet is plenty fast, that’s not the problem. The content providers can’t seem to keep up with my desire for bandwidth. The result is that about half the time, the “4K” streams are just coming through at HD speeds, and when I do get “4K” it’s not much better looking. It’s been overcompressed and squeezed every which way.
4K on satellite is great, but there isn’t a ton of it. DIRECTV leads the pack with its live 4K channels and we do see a bunch of sporting events. (Yes, the Super Bowl will be in 4K in some way, we don’t know what way yet.) But I would guess 99% of the content you can get today is HD, not 4K.
That’s one thing that hasn’t changed since 2014 and the sad thing is I don’t know if it ever will. I know there will be a push to get broadcasters on a new standard, but we may not see that for five years depending on how Congress acts. (Yes, because it’s a national standard the government has to get involved.) Maybe by that time, streaming in 4K will actually look good. I’ll let you know in a Throwback Thursday article in the last week of December 2025.