A new era dawns as Netflix begins 4K/UHD streaming

netflix-4k-ultra-hd

Flying decidedly under the radar, Netflix has reportedly begun streaming select content in spanking new 4K resolution. As reported by Multi-Channel News, the anticipated uber-high resolution streaming became available for a meager percentage of the viewing public (restricted to reviewers at this point) on Sunday, with access to House of Cards Season 2 and a few nature documentaries for newer 4K TVs, which are just now beginning to ship to retailers. 

The news marks a turning point at the dawn of the 4K era, with Netflix fulfilling its promise to become one of the pioneers of bringing 4K content into living rooms via online streaming.

In case you’ve yet to be initiated into the 4K fold, the technology (also known as Ultra HD) provides picture resolution that is four times higher than 1080p HD. 4K has been under constant scrutiny since TV manufacturers started making a heavy push towards displays that support the resolution in recent years, due to the fact that there is an extremely low quantity of 4K content available for the high-priced sets, along with other questions, including its performance benefits in regards to the constraints of what the human eye is capable of discerning.

One of the major questions raised about 4K streaming in particular has been the ability to compress the massive video files to a size that makes them viable for streaming over the current Internet infrastructure, while still preserving the resolution benefits. To do so, Netflix uses the newer HEVC/H.265 codec, and only TVs and devices which support the format and also have specialized Netflix software can decode the highly compressed streams. When Netflix announced plans to push for 4K streaming last November, it was criticized by many, deriding both the limits of compression capabilities, as well as Netflix CEO Reed Hastings’ claims that an average speed of 15 Mbps would be required to access the content.

Netflix has shrugged off such criticism, however, going full steam ahead in releasing its first taste of the 4K streaming future. The UK’s HDTV was able to surf the new sparkling streams of Netflix’s own House of Cards Season 2 (which was filmed in 4K) via the Netflix app aboard a Samsung HU8500 4K display on Sunday, with mixed results.

“You can’t cheat the physics of compression,” the site reports, complaining of “lots of gradients and camera noise” in darker scenes. The article also complains of trouble keeping the 4K streaming rate constant, with plenty of bouncing back and forth between 4K and 1080p HD. On the bright side (literally), the report did praise the brighter scenes for a more vivid display of gamma and contrast boost – when 4K actually kicked in, that is.

Rocky start or no, 4K streaming has finally arrived from a major format, and it is likely here to stay. Along with Samsung’s HU8500, LG announced a dozen new Netflix-equipped 4K TVs at CES this year, even hosting Mr. Hastings as a guest at its main press conference to roll out the new lineup. As MCN reports, other manufacturers including Sony, and Vizio will also be compatible with the new streams and as bandwidth increases, and 4K devices become more ubiquitous, access to 4K streams will likely grow at a rapid pace.

What do you think? Are you excited for the coming 4K era? Skeptical? Indifferent? Let us know in the comments.

Home Theater

Samsung will stop releasing new Blu-ray players in the U.S.

Samsung, the first company to produce a 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray player, is now exiting the Blu-ray market entirely in the U.S. The move comes after Oppo Digital also dropped out of the market last year.
Deals

Take a gander at the best deals on 4K TVs for February 2019

There's no doubt that a good 4K smart TV is the best way to take your home entertainment setup to the next level to enjoy all your favorite shows, movies, and games in glorious Ultra HD. We've got the best 4K TV deals right here.
Home Theater

8K TV: Everything you need to know about the future of television

4K TVs may seem relatively new, but there's another even higher-resolution display technology already here: 8K TV. Should you upgrade? We've got the answers to that question and more.
Home Theater

Here’s why you’re not getting Netflix in HD or 4K, and how to fix it

Are you having trouble watching your favorite movies or TV shows on Netflix in HD or 4K? We explain why loading takes so long, why the picture quality fluctuates, and what you can do about it.
Home Theater

Bose’s technology patents could save an earbud’s battery life

Possibly taking a cue from Apple's popular AirPods, Bose filed a patent application for earbud IR technology that could save battery life, improve sound quality, and possibly help people locate lost earbuds.
Home Theater

ATSC 3.0: The next-gen TV update explained

ATSC 3.0 is the next major update to the broadcast standard we use today. Will this be the second coming of free, over-the-air TV? We're here to explain everything about the new standard.
Home Theater

Samsung accidentally leaks its new Galaxy Buds ahead of launch

It's been all but certain that Samsung would launch a successor to its Gear IconX wireless earbuds soon, but a newly leaked photo and recent FCC certification document seems to indicate that the debut is very close.
Home Theater

Hi-res streaming audio service Qobuz arrives in U.S., threatens Tidal’s monopoly

For several years, Tidal enjoyed a monopoly on hi-res music streaming in the U.S. Now, French company Qobuz is here to offer some competition with a variety of monthly plans starting at $10 a month.
Home Theater

Throw away those EarPods -- we dug up the best headphones in every style

Trolling the internet for hours to find headphones is no way to live. Instead, leverage our expertise and experience to find the best headphones for you. Here are our 10 favorites.
Home Theater

Still listening on tinny, muffled TV speakers? Try one of our favorite soundbars

You no longer have to sacrifice sound for size when selecting home audio equipment. Check out our picks for the best soundbars, whether you're looking for budget options, pure power, smarts, or tons of features.
Movies & TV

The Breaking Bad sequel might air on Netflix before it arrives on AMC

A Breaking Bad sequel starring Jesse Pinkman (and, possibly, Walter White) is on the way from series creator Vince Gilligan, and you might get your first look at it on Netflix, not traditional cable.
Deals

The best Presidents’ Day sales 2019: Amazon, Walmart, Dell, and more

Presidents' Day sales are a great chance to score electronics, clothing, home and office stuff, and other goodies at a discount. We’ve smoked out a large handful of the best of these Presidents' Day deals, from tech to bedding, to help…
Computing

Don't know what to do with all your old DVDs? Here's how to convert them to MP4

Given today's rapid technological advancements, physical discs are quickly becoming a thing of the past. Check out our guide on how to convert a DVD to MP4, so you can ditch discs for digital files.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Grow veggies indoors and shower more efficiently

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!