Get out your lab coats. Breaking Bad is now available in razor-sharp 4K/Ultra HD at Netflix. So, if you happen to be fortunate enough to own one of the handful of TVs capable of displaying Netflix’s Ultra HD streams, you can now take an even more vivid trip with Walter White into the seedy depths of his blue meth empire.
Sony, the company that produced Breaking Bad, first announced plans to remaster the show in 4K at CES in January. This week the work finally paid off, seeing Netflix unveil all 62 episodes of the show for its Ultra High Definition close-up, along with a 5.1 audio remastering.
The show joins a very limited number of UHD offerings already available from the king of on-demand entertainment, including a few Moving Picture nature films, as well as the second season of its hit series, House of Cards. However, while HoC season two was shot and produced using state-of-the-art 4K gear – meaning there’s specific information recorded for each and every one of UHD’s 8.3 megapixels – Breaking Bad was not. Instead, the hit AMC series was simply remastered in 4K, meaning all of Walter White’s 4K shine had to be added after the fact.
Those lucky enough to be able to see the new feeds (ourselves included) have turned in generally favorable reviews of the upgrade. Subjectively, our first impression is that Netflix’s Ultra HD version of Breaking Bad looked better than its HD counterpart when viewed on the LG UB9800 79-inch TV we’re currently reviewing – especially on a screen of that scale. However, the native 4K House of Cards is clearly superior, with sharper lines, greater detail and a heightened sense of realism.
Native or otherwise, both streams are subject to compression artifacts, which are relatively easy to spot if you inch up close to the TV. There is no doubt that the compression Netflix has to use in order to fit the otherwise huge amount of information down an already crowded Internet pipeline has some ill effects. Still, the same can be said about Netflix’s 1080p streams, and at the end of the day, the Ultra HD stream is visibly superior.
In addition to Breaking Bad, Netflix also released a few other titles to add to its 4K/UHD shortlist, including Ghostbusters, Ghostbusters 2, and Smurfs 2. To view the new content, users will need to have a newer 4K/UHD TV with the compatible Netflix app, which relies on HEVC (H.265) decoding.
While it’s had a slow start, viewers can expect to see more and more UHD content delivered in one form or another, as manufacturers push to bring the new technology out of the shadows and into the mainstream.