Can you add a 4K client to an older Genie (HR34/HR44)?

Every so often you run into a question that should be easy to answer. This is one of them. Because it’s a complicated question, we have to start with the smaller, simple parts of it.

How does DIRECTV 4K work?

Most 4K programming today is over streaming. Streaming apps have the advantage of running on more general-purpose hardware. This is true whether you’re running them on a phone, tablet, streaming box, or smart TV. On the other hand, DIRECTV boxes are very “special-purpose.”

DIRECTV boxes are built to last a very long time. It’s common today for 10-year-old boxes to still be out in the field and every HD DIRECTV box made since 2006 is still compatible with the current system. Compare that to streaming systems which go obsolete in 2-3 years. One of the reasons DIRECTV hardware lasts so long is that it’s designed to do more tasks with computer chips and fewer tasks with software. This does limit what you can do in the future, though.

Here’s why I’m bringing this up

The streaming technology in most apps is always changing. If you picked up a phone from 2015 and tried to run the Netflix app without updating it, it wouldn’t work. Today’s apps can handle files that couldn’t be handled back then. This happens all the time but you don’t notice it since the apps get upgraded before there’s a problem.

You can’t do that with DIRECTV systems. You’re limited to what the chips can do, unless you’re prepared to swap out millions of boxes to make even a simple change.

And so, DIRECTV’s 4K programming doesn’t use some of the most complex math that streaming boxes use. That’s ok, because it doesn’t need to. Streaming boxes need to find ways to show 4K with as little as 10 megabits per second of data. On the other hand, DIRECTV’s 4K could allocate 60 megabits per second to a single 4K stream by using some fancy math that’s built into their boxes. So, their simpler technology isn’t a real problem.

4K in practice

There’s no reason that AT&T couldn’t create a standalone 4K receiver or DVR. They just haven’t. They’re committed to Genie technology and that means the only 4K hardware is the 4K Genie client. That’s no likely to change.

The 4K Genie client does make the Genie DVR work harder, and that is a bit of an issue. Older Genie hardware might not be able to deal with the increased needs of 4K.

Getting back to the question

Do you have this DVR?

This is the original HR34 Genie DVR. If you still have one that works, you’re in a very small crowd. This device came out in 2012 and is considered very slow today. If you have one, you can usually get upgraded for free.

The HR34 DVR simply doesn’t have the horsepower to deal with 4K. Plain and simple.

What about this DVR?

If your Genie DVR has a front panel with a blue lit circle in the middle, it’s an HR44 DVR. This Genie DVR isn’t the most current, but it’s still out there doing a great job for people.

Technically, this DVR could run a 4K client. When 4K first came out, it did. But, it was discovered that doing this led to other problems when you are running other clients at the same time. So, AT&T decided not to let you activate a 4K client with this DVR. If you are still using your 4K client with your HR44, it will keep working. However, if your DVR fails, you’ll need to upgrade to the latest.

Why does AT&T do stuff like this?

Really, it’s all about giving the best customer experience to the largest number of people. You, personally, may be totally willing to take the risk with your own system. But, with about 20 million subscribers, AT&T has to look at the big picture. This includes what it’s going to cost to support everyone who tries to do something that isn’t always going to work.

Do it your own way

When you shop at Solid Signal, you can’t always skirt past all the rules. We can’t activate a 4K client on an HR44, for example. But, we can help you get the experience of your dreams by helping you build a system that does work and that AT&T’s systems will support. We’re an AT&T Preferred Dealer. That means we have access to all the same parts and systems as AT&T themselves do. And unlike those overseas call centers, we’ll work with you to get it done. Try us! Give us a call at 888-233-7563 and we’ll get everything rolling for you.

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.