How do I feel about 4K TV now?

Inevitably, when we purchase something, we lean towards reinforcing our decision. This attempt to fight off buyer’s remorse grows stronger as the purchase price goes higher. With technology, there is also the obsolescence factor. So, given my new home theater purchase, how do I feel about 4K TV now?

I’ve been asked that question in advance by a current owner of the technology. The person I gave my old TV setup to has also asked me. Now that I’ve had the setup for close to a week, I think I can properly answer those questions.

The sights!

Of course, most critical to any review has to be the picture. But, along with that, there is simply the aesthetics of the system. I score both very high.

On the latter, the TV has a wonderful design, with no beveled edge, so it is simply a flat plate of black glass. Very stark on my otherwise all white home.

Presciently (or, more properly, conveniently), my entertainment center is all black. Therefore the flat black soundbar and 4K Blu-ray player almost disappear, even in the daytime.

For the picture, I tried the following tests:

Blu-ray to 4K – for this test, I chose the movie Pacific Rim. It is a high CGI movie with aggressive action and color variations. I watched it in Blu-Ray on my old set just before the new one came in. Then I watched it on a (on sale) 4K disc on the new set. The differences were real and noticeable.

For one, the level of detail was extra-ordinary – even when compared to formerly incomparable Blu-ray. For another, there was no blurred movement in the high density CGI. I would occasionally see this happen on my old LED HDTV.

“Upscale” Blu-ray – This was to test the purported “upscaling” of regular Blu-ray discs to the augmented capability in 4K sets. Here, I didn’t see all that much difference, though there was a general feeling of extra crispness to the picture.

For this test, I chose my recent Dr. Strange Blu-ray. It has some of those ridiculous CGI scenes where reality goes bonkers. Those instances really stood out in an almost 3-dimensional way.

“Upscale” DVD – Like the previous upscale, this test was supposed to see if the claimed “upscaling” process actually existed. The differences between Blu-ray and 4K might simply be too fine to truly tell. It reminds of the days of trying to discern whether Maxell or TDK had the lowest THD (total harmonic distortion).

On this one, I chose a series called “Millennium”. This was a spooky show featuring Lance Henrikson as a former FBI agent with a special gift beyond simple “profiling”. Created by Cris Carter (X-Files), it was a dark, broody series with a haunting soundtrack – perfect for this purpose. I chose it specifically because of its abundance of black, for which the LG set is especially adept at.

The “upscaling” performed beyond my expectations. In some cases, it overpowered the data on the DVD, but in most cases it showed a remarkably clean and detailed vision, much more stark than any other time I had viewed it (which is several).

Overall rating: Superb, bordering on awesome. (I also tried some streaming 4K on Amazon Prime and was satisfied, though not wowed).

The sounds!

Believe it or not, this is where I was looking for my most proof. I had seen the screens in the store and so had a fairly good idea of the picture. The idea of giving up my surround sound for a bar in the front of my living room sounded dubious.

And dubious I remained for some time. I couldn’t quite tell if it was surrounding me with sound or just loud. I could definitely confirm that the subwoofer was woofing. Like a kennel!

Finally, I turned to my go-to check on surround sound. While the scene in the first Matrix movie where Neo and Trinity are shooting their way in to rescue Morpheus is pretty good, I always had a better one.

In the first Lord of the Rings Picture (Fellowship of the Rings), there is a scene where the four hobbits knock on the gate at Bree. It’s in a torrential rainstorm and with my old surround sound, I always heard raindrops all around me.

Now, I wasn’t so sure. I turned my head this way and that. Were those raindrops or just background music? I had a sense of surround, but… I thought maybe I was simply trying too hard.

And then, the scene advanced to where Nazgul attempted to kill the sleeping hobbits [spoiler alert: they didn’t]. The screams from the frustrated terrors circled all about me and I was content. Yes, Virginia, there is a surround sound.

I think I was just listening too hard for surround instead of letting the sound, well, surround me.

Overall rating: Great sound, possibly surrounding. And, boy, does that subwoofer woof!

The content

There is none.

Okay, that’s not entirely fair. How about, there is very little.

Granted, I’ve got no 4K cable box now that Comcast and I are having a spat again. Still, there’s just not that much out there even when you add streaming and playable content (such as 4K discs).

As mentioned above, watching regular Blu-ray, DVD or normal TV on a 4K TV is still pretty sharp. Still, having available content that actually uses the full range of the technology would be nice. Or, you know, important.

This is one of the very few times I’ve been on the “bleeding edge” of a technology. Normally, I like to be safe and sound and let the tech “air out” a bit before diving in. I’m enjoying it, but I can’t say I’m fully utilizing it.

Overall rating: Meh. Live with improved normal TV until the world catches up.

It’s not all a rose garden

The wave of the future (which has been with us a while) is that products don’t carry full manuals anymore. I imagine some manager saying “Hey, it’s a smart TV, let them go online to read the manual.”

I say, “That stinks.”

There are numerous things about the TV and component pieces that are impossible to learn from the “starter guides” stuck in the packing cartons. And it’s a heckuva lot easier to have a hand-held manual to stare at as you try to sync up three different remotes.

Plus, the only manual that I could access directly from the TV was for the TV. Everything else I had to dig up at LG.com.

So, I’m still working my way through how to control all three items (TV, soundbar and 4K player) with one controller. Don’t have a solution yet, but still looking.

There was also a tracking alignment issue between the 4K player and the soundbar. Turns out, that control is through the TV and not the soundbar. Who would have guessed that one? (Well, there are only three components, so I guess process of elimination would have eventually found it)

On the other hand, there are some cool improvements

My old TV was not smart. I had to use the Blu-ray player to “navigate” and it didn’t do anything but standard streaming apps. The new TV is very smart and seems especially tuned to streaming.

For example, in my old setup, if I wanted to fast forward while streaming, I had no idea where I was. Now, I can see the “mini screen” as I fast forward. Also, my old setup didn’t automatically play the next episode in a series (yeah, it was old).

So, lots of new things for me to explore. And a friend of mine gave me one of those weird external coaxial antennas, so I can pick up about three dozen local stations. So that’s neat (if ugly, as you see the cable in the picture above).

Bottom line, in answer to the question, “How do I feel about 4K TV now?”

Pretty well satisfied, even above the normal rationalizing away of buyer’s remorse.

 

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