The DIRECTV 4K Genie Mini is a great solution for getting live 4K content, and starting today DIRECTV has a lot of great content for you. Well, maybe not “a lot” but let’s say this… more than anyone else at this time considering no one else has any.
If you’re planning a “futureproof” setup with DIRECTV 4K Genie Mini clients or with DIRECTV 4K Ready TVs, there’s something really important you need to understand before you start. There’s a serious limitation right now and it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t upgrade but it DOES mean that you need to know what you’re getting.
Your friends over at Solid Signal will be happy to send you up to 8 4K Genie Mini clients. Just like any other clients, only 3 of them can be active at the same time. That’s nothing new.
HOWEVER, only one can be playing 4K content at a time. You can only record 1 4K program at a time (not a problem right now) and you can only play back 1 4K program to 1 4K location at a time.
That’s right, no matter how many clients or smart TVs you have, only one of them can be playing 4K. That’s not a problem today because there isn’t a whole lot of 4K content out there. In the future it might become a problem.
The other thing to know, which you probably already heard, is that the HR54 Genie itself, the only device which can receive and record live 4K content, does not actually output 4K content. Folks, don’t ask me to justify it, I’m just here to tell you what’s going on out there. If you want to watch 4K content, you’ll need a client or a smart TV. Just that simple.
So let’s be honest, it’s going to be harder than you thought to be future-proof. It’s hard to know what DIRECTV and AT&T have cooked up for the next generation of products. Certainly at some point there will be more than one 4K channel, although content providers aren’t exactly lining up to get them going. At that point, it’s going to be more important that you be able to record and display more than one 4K program.
You might be asking yourself why this is even happening. The issue is that 4K content takes up a lot more bandwidth than a non-4K program does. That means it takes more room on the satellite transmissions, more hard drive space to buffer, more processor power to decode on time, and it’s a bigger amount of signal on the cable that leads to your client or TV. With DIRECTV’s current technology, that’s a bit of an issue. On the satellite side, there’s a technology called “Transponder Bonding” that lets you receive a 4K signal using a pair of transponders together. Usually a transponder is used to receive between 4 and 6 channels. On the cable side, the next generation of the MoCA technology used for clients and smart TVs will allow for faster transfers and bigger channels, making 4K a lot easier to manage.
Of course the big thing we don’t know here is how much of our current systems will need to be replaced in order to be able to get to where we are with HD… the ability to record 5 streams and output 3 streams all at the same time. It’s not likely that you’ll need new cable, but it’s a certainty that before more 4K channels are added, you’ll need a new LNB (the front part of the dish.) Will you need new hardware? Will existing clients and smart TVs work? That’s the part of the equation we’ll all have to wait to find out.