A reader reached out to me with this very question. And I had to say, sadly, the answer was that I don’t know. There isn’t one in the works right now. And honestly, that’s a shame.
State of things, 2021
Today, as I write this in early 2021, most new DIRECTV customers get wireless clients. It’s not only an easier install, it’s faster. That means the technician spends less time in the home. Having a stranger spend less time in your home right now, that’s a good thing.
Wireless clients work great for most customers. In most cases you get really good performance as long as the Genie 2 server is within 50 linear feet of the client, with no more than 3 walls between the server and client.
But at this point, we’re starting to see a real expansion of 4K content, and if you get the wireless client install, 4K isn’t supported.
Why is there no 4K wireless client?
Before I get into it, let me say, hey maybe they’re working on it and I just don’t know. Even though I have a pretty good line on what’s going on in AT&T’s labs maybe they’re developing something I don’t know about. But I do know that the last real change to hardware was about two years ago when the client boxes were updated. And, it was a fairly light update at that, largely focused on changing the old DIRECTV logo for the new AT&T globe. We really haven’t seen new in-home hardware since the 2017 release of the Genie 2.
In the meantime, there have been the typical conspiracy theories about how AT&T is taking DIRECTV in a different direction, and all that. But really, the truth is that for a long time there simply wasn’t a need for new hardware. The current generation hardware is just that good.
Could you even technically do it?
Absolutely. Even the technology that enabled the original Genie can handle the bandwidth needed for 4K. And the wireless client, even though it’s still using 802.11N (Wi-Fi 4) as a base, is still plenty fast enough to support 4K. There’s every reason to think that you could support at least three 4K streams at the same time, possibly more, with the current technology in the Genie 2. It wouldn’t take anything extra.
So why don’t they do it?
That, my friends, is the question for the ages, isn’t it? It could be that there isn’t enough demand to justify it. Average folks seem to be just fine watching upscaled HD. I don’t blame them, because it tends to look very good. But I am certain that if there is an explosion of 4K content, AT&T will get a new client box out there quickly. I’ve seen them take products to market very quickly when they need to.
See, I think the real issue is the same as it always is. DIRECTV’s first 4K client box came in 2015, and yet here we are six years later and most of the 4K content is stuff AT&T is producing or presenting. There aren’t hundreds of 4K channels. Who knows if there ever will be? And that means that the expense of building a new client box to take advantage of 4K is hard to justify.
Let’s hope things keep improving. It would be nice to see at least one live 4K channel (other than AT&T’s) in the next 12 months. Maybe after that happens, we’ll get some new 4K hardware.