Can you get 4K content from a DIRECTV DVR?

OK, here’s the deal.

You just bought a new 4K TV. You want to watch 4K programming. The facts are simple, although a little frustrating. Here’s everything you need to know.

There isn’t a DVR out there that outputs 4K. If you want 4K content, you’ll want the new HR54 Genie DVR, because it will record 4K pay-per-view content and will supposedly record 4K live content when it’s available. But it doesn’t output 4K. Yes, that seems a little weird to me too. The best you can hope fore is that it’s limited by software and some day they’ll flip a switch and let you output 4K, but I’m pretty sure that’s not it. DIRECTV looks at the HR54 as more of a server, something you don’t actually interact with much. All the action is on the Smart TVs and the clients. You’ll need a 2015 model Samsung, Sony or LG Smart TV, or a C61K client in order to view 4K programming in 4K. The DVR will only take you as high as 1080p.

There isn’t any free, live content. We’re still at the point in 4K’s evolution where there’s no broadcast standard therefore there’s no live over-the-air 4K. It’s possible there never will be. After being burned by 3D, it doesn’t seem like anyone wants to step forward and be the first people on the block to put out a 4K channel over cable or satellite. So honest, there isn’t one company that’s even announced that they’re doing it.

Your current DIRECTV dish won’t receive 4K, probably. DIRECTV is working on new dishes that are designed to receive a different kind of signal from their satellites. Called Reverse DBS, the new signals coming to your home will be broadcast on the same frequencies DIRECTV uses to send programs up to the satellite. Previously there was no crossover between these “uplink” frequencies and the “downlink” ones from the satellite. The new frequencies aren’t required for 4K, but since 4K programming takes a lot of space, DIRECTV would have to get rid of a lot of stuff on their regular satellite feeds in order to make room for 4K. So, everyone’s expecting that you will need to use the new signals, and that means a new dish (or at least a new LNB.) That equipment is still a couple of months away at the earliest.

Thinking Netflix will save you? Think again. Netflix has more 4K content than anyone else, but the quality isn’t much better than HD. In fact, unless you have really, really good internet, that supposedly 4K stream will probably be just plain old HD.

Look, friends, people say I’m bitter about 4K’s prospects. I know it must seem like that, but I’m just calling it like I see it. HD got a huge bump from the US Government when they started requiring digital broadcasting. Even if the government does open the door to 4K, it won’t be a requirement, so you’re not going to see a bump like that. The move from tube TVs to LCDs was another big boost to HD adoption, but there’s nothing like that for 4K. I mean, if the TV was the size of a sugar cube and it put a 200″ image right in front of you in thin air, that would be awesome, but that’s not what’s happening here. 4K TVs look like HDTVs, just usually a little bigger.

I’m not saying that 4K won’t happen, and in fact I really hope it does. However, I really doubt that we’ll see it happen before the equipment you buy today gets too old. What I’m saying is… spend carefully because a lot of 4K is still not decided and who wants to feel obsolete the week after you buy something?

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 9,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.