REVIEW: DIRECTV 4K (Late 2016)

As we inch closer to 2017, it’s time to take another look at 4K and answer the question, “Is DIRECTV still the place to be for 4K?”

After launching with a lot of fanfare this past spring, DIRECTV 4K has only gotten stronger. There are now three 4K channels including pay-per-view which is really the only place to rent 4K movies at full quality. There’s been a lot of live content, and the stuff that they did for the Olympics was excellent (although you could see some of that on Comcast as well.)

The good
As I said, DIRECTV is the only provider where you can get this level of 4K. Sure, Netflix and Amazon are catching up with content, but neither offers live programming or sports coverage. Both are limited by streaming speeds and have cut their picture quality in order to say they have stuff in 4K. The problem is, it’s visually indistinguishable from HD.

DIRECTV’s HR54 DVR and C61K Genie devices are rock solid, definitely the best product launches in recent years. The DIRECTV user interface, last updated in 2011, is beginning to show its age but looks aren’t as important as performance where DIRECTV really delivers. So what if the letters in the guide are 3″ tall?

The bad
It’s not DIRECTV’s fault but there still isn’t a lot of live 4K content out there. The NFL were not able to provide 4K feeds of their games this year, meaning that the only 4K football is Notre Dame’s weekly game. This is easily the biggest problem out there, and DIRECTV isn’t going to be able to solve it alone. Almost every program on broadcast TV is created in 4K, yet there’s no place to see it.

This lack of content has slowed DIRECTV’s plans to roll out programming on its new satellites, which is good for consumers who still haven’t upgraded to the latest generation of 4K dish but overall pretty disappointing for nearly everyone including the people at DIRECTV who worked so hard getting those satellites in the air.

The ugly
Let’s just say it – 4K is actually becoming a problem. With many new shows being produced in 4K, they actually look worse in HD since they’re designed for the more colorful, more contrasty world of 4K. The people who produce these shows have no way of showing them to you the way they were produced, and probably won’t for at least another year.

Because, and I know I said this a year ago, There still aren’t any 4K channels out there except for DIRECTV’s own. No one has even announced one. Considering the announcement would have to come months or even years before the launch, it seems like it’s going to be a while before we see 4K channels.

And 4K antenna TV? Forget about it. This would require an act of Congress to achieve. The standard’s not even final and then Congress has to talk about it for a while. So if this ever happens, which I’m betting it won’t, look at 2019 or later before the first TVs come out. The first HDTVs came to market about six years before all TV went digital. So, if there is 4K over-the-air TV, and there won’t be, it could be 2025 before it takes off.

So I have to say overall, DIRECTV’s 4K product is still a little bit of a mixed bag. The equipment is excellent, the service is top notch, and the picture quality is awesome. But, folks, I hate to say it… there’s still not enough stuff to watch. That’s not DIRECTV’s fault, but it’s the world we all live in.