Apple TV and the 4K Ultra HD conundrum

“If you watch a 65-inch 4K TV from eight feet away, you’ll approach the minimum size/distance ratio to deliver a discernible improvement. But just barely,” Gene Steinberg writes for The Tech Night Owl. “So unless you’re accustomed to sitting up close, which may be useful for gaming, the value of 4K is essentially non-existent for smaller sets. So you’re better off paying less and getting 1080p if the only improvement is display resolution.”

“There is more to 4K, but not all sets offer the feature, and these are the elements that will improve picture quality noticeably even on smaller sets. That is, if they offer a wider color gamut and HDR, short for high-dynamic range,” Steinberg writes. “The result is brighter and more detailed pictures, such as extremely inky blacks and brilliant whites. If a set offers HDR, that’s one half of excellence. The other half? Well, source material that contains HDR content.”

“Into the mix comes the 2015 Apple TV, which is expected to hit the stores later this month. As you may know, the new Amazon Fire TV and the Roku 4 support 4K. But not the new Apple TV,” Steinberg writes. “But neither the Fire TV nor the Roku 4 support HDR, and it may well be that streaming 4K fare won’t even be available in HDR because it will obviously consume more data and thus use a higher bit rate. Indeed, for most people, 4K streaming video is little more than a boast, not something that will offer a genuine improvement to the picture quality of your set.”

“So the answer may well be that Apple wants the Ultra HD/4K situation to stabilize more before adding the feature to an Apple TV. Indeed, it may well be that the new model already contains the hardware to support those technologies, and merely needs a firmware update to turn them on But that’s just a guess, and not an educated one. It’s not something Apple is apt to reveal, although there have been published reports that the A8 chips are perfectly capable of supporting 4K,” Steinberg writes. “So ideally, Apple will turn on that feature, and maybe even add support for more advanced HDMI technologies, in a future update.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: You can definitely see the difference between 1080p and 4K video on our 65-inch 4K Sony Ultra HD TVs from farther away than a mere eight feet. You can see ridiculous detail (dust floating in the air, makeup streaks on faces, etc.) with the 4K content that just isn’t there in 1080p. That said:

Obviously, Apple has the capability to offer and deliver 4K video. Certainly, they have their reason(s) not to offer 4K support immediately. Perhaps they will flick the 4K switch in software after they have signed deals with the content providers? If Amazon’s hardware is capable of 4K, the new A8-powered Apple TV hardware certainly is, too. And that would be just like Apple has always been with Apple TV: Under-promise and over-deliver. For the life of the product, Apple has constantly improved existing Apple TVs via software at no extra cost to users. If not, there’s always next year, but the new Apple TV offers much more than simply streaming video and 1080p is perfectly acceptable even on 4K Ultra HDs.MacDailyNews Take, September 17, 2015

SEE ALSO:
Amazon embarrasses Apple with new 4K Fire TV box or something – September 17, 2015
Amazon unveils $100 Fire TV box 4K video support, Alexa voice control – September 17, 2015
With the all-new Apple TV, Apple changes the game, yet again – September 14, 2015
Analyst: Apple TV streaming service on the way, could cost at least $40 a month – September 14, 2015
Local media streaming app Plex coming to Apple TV – September 14, 2015
What Apple got right in Apple TV’s user interface – and what needs work – September 11, 2015
New Apple TV has the potential to do for television what iPhone did for mobile phones – September 11, 2015
Apple preps to conquer living room with all-new Apple TV – September 11, 2015
Hands-on with the all-new Apple TV – September 10, 2015
Gruber: Apple TV will define how all TVs will work in a few years – September 10, 2015
Here’s how much RAM is inside Apple’s iPhone 6s/Plus, iPad Pro and new Apple TV – September 10, 2015
New Apple TV sounds great, but where’s the 4K? – September 10, 2015

62 Comments

  1. I was anticipating h.265 support being at the center of the Apple TV features. h.265 was listed as a supported format on the iPhone 6/6 Plus but that feature was not listed for the iPhone 6S/6S Plus. It must not be the panacea for streaming video that many people were expecting.

      1. Everything Apple has done in the last 5 years has attempted to lock people into its subscription-based iCloud and now media services, which so far have started off as a-la-carte and then Apple gradually pushes people to subscriptions.

        The iOS app store prints money, and it’s mostly consumer-grade hardware and all portables need a service subscription anyway, so fine. For Macs, forcing all content through the Mac App Store has proven to be impossible and unwarranted. But now media distribution is another matter altogether and Apple is losing its way.

        Apple has so confused its iTunes store with tack-on subscription services that many users who want to have a choice in media discovery and distribution are not impressed.
        iTunes music services is an issue for another discussion, but we all know that many people hate it. So what about video? Does Apple TV make it easier than any other media service? No. Consider the search. On IMDB, one can rapidy find every bit of information about any video. On Apple TV, it’s a “curated” mess. Apple simply provides no value in acting as a video middleman. Apple’s poor GUI and relatively poor file quality, lack of expandable local storage and discrete audio outputs, etc, all make Apple TV undesirable. MDN may think that 4K is a hot button issue that will generate clicks, but Apple’s missing the boat on everything else too.

        The world’s high spending video enthusiasts are moving to 4K video with or without Apple. True audiophiles never liked compressed Apple music, and find Apple’s streaming audio to be even less desirable. That’s too bad. Apple has more resources than any company to get this right, but they seem clueless. They are just pushing subscriptions, just watch the Apple TV evolve into the mess that Apple Music is today.

        Why do fanboys love Apple subscriptions? MDN detests Adobe Creative Cloud subscriptions. They hate cable & satellite TV subscriptions. They hate Microsoft 365 subscriptions. They can’t stand Amazon Prime subscriptions. But stick an Apple brand name on it, and that automatically makes it okay? Roku makes a better video distribution platform, and PlayStation remains the standard in gaming platforms, with XBox providing serious competition. Apple is DOA with its new Apple TV, and not just becase it lacks 4K resolution.

            1. Most homes do not have 4K, nor the pipes to stream it.
              Even if H265 is far more efficient in streaming. Even if Apple shall eventually have an upper hand in H265 technology – a simple switch or firmware upgrade can solve Apples latest offering. Nevertheless, I still wish Apple offered a USB port for those who wish to house a wired drive to the device rather than wifi base. And 64 Gb of onboard memory for Apps and Games is not enough. But don’t hold our breath, Apple TV2 is coming.

        1. Why Apple users accept subscription with Apple, the answer is; because of security. Security has become the “Differential” factor for many reason to even choose an Apple product.
          And since iTunes, Apple is well trusted with customers Credit Cards.

          I caution all Android, Google, Kindle and Amazon customers… to use pre-paid credit rather than your personal Credit Cards when using their stores.

          Trust a company who 1) makes the software and hard ware 2) understands its customers 3) values its customers security 4) has a lot of cash on hand .

          Apple does things right.

  2. @MDN – The colour gamut makes the difference and not the 4K. You can’t see the difference if you don’t have the increased colour separation. By the way, dust is the new feature in video to try to show off the ‘difference’.

  3. The reference to eight feet was “minimum” distance. If you sit too close to a large TV you will see pixels and compression. It will look better from a distance but the OP comment was about MINIMUM distance.

  4. What they say about 4K, they used to say about 1080p.

    Really 1080p still looks great. 720p looks great. We are at the 80% precipice. Anything more to get at that last 20% of human vision capability, is going to cost a lot more than what 4K or 8K has to offer.

    As long as it’s reasonable expense, it doesn’t really matter. Get a Sony 4K set, if you are buying a new TV, but not just for 4K.

    1. Exactly. I’m a cinematographer (and also a VFX Supervisor) with experience shooting 4-perf 35mm and VistaVision and think 4K, which while nice up close, ain’t much at a distance 8-12 feet, dust notwithstanding. If 4K infrastructure was is in place that would be one thing. But we’re still far short of where that should be, which is to say, mostly nowhere. Even 1080i cable boxes aren’t taking full advantage of 1080p currently in either bit rates, resolution or true progressive output. Which is why Blu-Ray still rules that roost.

      1. 4K is truly nice to see, but my own imagination blows away, any technology out there.

        A good story always beats the visual enhancements.
        Example, books – words written by talented authors still paint far more fantastical and personal imagery depicted in anyones own imaginations, try it out for yourself.

        Plus, once tasted on a regular basis the 4K experience, like 1080p and Blue Ray, the novelty wears off. Like seeing people shot in movies, we get de-sensitized and care less about the visual and start to piece together our own connections and understanding or perhaps meaning… tying all back to the human experience and basically the story.

        1. I read a lot of books as a kid and that trend never changed when I grew up. Comic books (along with books) in the 60’s gave me an amazing vocabulary so teachers were full of shite in their low opinion of comics then.

          I am in total agreement that storytelling & personal imagination trumps resolution every time. Showing people EVERYTHING now does take away to some extent letting the viewer imagine more. It’s a trap too indie filmmakers get into thinking the latest and greatest gear will get them ahead, instead of great writing.

          Thanks that was my point too in that there is more to consider to buying into 4K than just a resolution bump. Funny how little time 1080p has been given as compared to NTSC before being given the bum’s rush out the door. Many projects though are still being shot only in 1080p. 4K ain’t ready for prime time, and even it will be supplanted by manufacturers desperate for new sales with 8K and up at some point in the semi-near future. There has to be an end game to all this silliness until we get BRAINSTORM like reality headsets. Even then virtual or recorded & played back reality experienced first person won’t be everyone’s cup of tea.

    2. Reminds me of that Winston Churchill quote: ‘Yes, Mrs. Braddock, I am drunk. But you, Mrs. Braddock are ugly, and disgustingly fat. But, tomorrow morning, I, Winston Churchill will be sober.”

      Tomorrow, Apple will have 4K, but Amazon and Google still won’t have a TV PLATFORM worth fiddly-squat.

      1. The Fire TV is actually pretty awesome. Apple TV is playing catchup right now to the Fire TV (I have two apple TVs and a fire tv). Until the new apple TV is released the fire TV is faster, supports apps, has voice control, etc..

    1. 4K set needs to be 85″ and up to really be justified. I “barely” see the difference either, even with glasses on. I have checked it out many times with proper demo’s and the 4K difference can only be appreciated when essentially “blown up.” I am more concerned with good storytelling than resolution. 1080p takes care of it visually and anything greater merely icing on the cake. (Just as long as the icing isn’t prohibitively expensive.)

      1. So, Peter, you wear glasses? Do you have aspheric lenses in those glasses? If not, then stop commenting on optical quality as you clearly don’t care about optical quality enough to research it properly to get the best.

        1. Yes I do. I’m a cinematographer and have been working with optics probably before you were born. Stop making fools-rush-in assumptions as it makes you look like an idiot. I know what I’m talking about. Researching? How about using the empirical truth of your eyes and experience? I’m not an armchair optics “expert” like you, just spent years working with every type of lens you can imagine and testing same. And btw I know other DP’s who feel the same way about it. To enjoy 4K you need as big a monitor as you can afford. And I mean BIG. And then of course there’s barely enough reason to, yet.

          1. Peter, I doubt it. I was *designing* optics over 40 years ago. I’ve designed and implemented optics with f#s of 1.0 for space based systems. I’ve done systems ranging from grazing mirrors for far UV systems (even worked with the IBM team at the National Synchrotron Light source for their far UV chip development work back in the early 80s) to multiband far IR (up through 15 micron wavelengths). I’ve worked with (and helped design) systems where the optical energy densities get high enough that light goes non linear (yes, that is a reality, not pure theory). I’ve implemented imaging systems where the resolution is up to 114k x 114k pixels. I’ve designed and built refractive, reflective, catadioptric, TMA, and other optical systems. I was doing gathered light intensified systems over 40 years ago.

            So… I’m *NOT* an “armchair optics ‘expert'”. I routinely work in the real world of optics. It’s not my prime focus (pardon the pun) anymore as I’m concentrating more on the sensor and the post processing these days, but without exacting optics the rest is mud.

            And, yes, I wear glasses — actually multiple pairs as at my age my depth of field is not what it used to be and I refuse to wear tri-focals — and they all are aspherics. Good aspheric lenses cost well more than triple what regular lenses cost, but for me the difference in image quality — especially off axis — is more than worth it.

            Saying an individual *needs* 85″ or larger screens to justify “4K” (when really there are NO “4K” TV sets as that’s a Digital Cinema standard and TVs are really a different resolution at UHDTV) is just idiotic. It seems you buy into the old “anything less than one arc minute is worthless” lunacy. Many, many studies have shown over the years that anyone with “20/20” non astigmatic vision (or properly corrected to that) can perceive differences in imagery at a tenth of that one arc minute fallacy.

            1. Well good for you you’re not a complete dipshit in the optics dept.. And no it’s not “idiotic” to need a larger screen to appreciate 4K. That’s just a reality. A 60″ 4K set isn’t worth the bother. Especially now. A year or two from now probably. I’ve been working with lens optics, projection systems and the entertainment business since 1976 (as well as being a member of AMPAS) and don’t need to be told by anyone what makes sense in a home entertainment system at this point in time. Resolution is not the be all and end all except for videophiles who will jump on anything come hell or high water even if only a modest improvement up-resing 1080 material. My points are relegated to the current state of home delivery systems and that 4K is not ready for prime time yet. I hear that 4K Blu-Ray may be out by years end which will improve that. But I stand by my comments that a larger monitor will yield the best 4K experience, and it totally stands to reason. The reality is most people are happy with 1080p and will stick with that until their sets need replacement. There’s a big audience out there that couldn’t perceive the difference between DVD’s & Blu-Ray’s, let alone 1080p & 4K.

            2. When HD started in late 90’s / early 2k’s, most people only had CRT TVs. Even ten years late, majority of ordinary folks who were replacing their old tubes with their first HD TVs were hooking them up to their analogue SD cable box output, stretching the width of the image and believing that they are now watching HD. “The picture is amazing!” was the proclamation I heard so many times from those people.

              The difference in image quality between SD and HD is huge and quite obvious to anyone. The difference between HD up-rezzed to UHD (4K) and real 4K content is much more difficult to notice. I’m sure, most 4K TV buyers of today believe they are watching 4k content when all they all they are seeing 720p up-rezzed to 4K.

            3. Hah! Yep. 4K is just a buzzword at the moment until it’s ubiquitous. Took a while for 1080i, 1080p & 720p too. They never did tap all the potential in 1080p either on cable. An HD antennae with decent reception of local channels would give you better results.

            4. You know, the more I read your post and see all the things your friends and associates say, the more I realize how much you hang around really, uhhhh, lo IQ people.

              No wonder your ‘vision’ of America is skewed.
              Oh, well….

            5. I don’t think you should judge the people’s intelligence on their understanding of how HD television works. Most of these people are highly respectable experts in their fields; they just don’t have much of a clue about technology. Which is why they overwhelmingly prefer Apple over competition (you don’t need to know much about technology in order to use it)

            6. Goes to show, a person, no matter all his salesmanship, his knowledge, his copy and paste research or the crap he claims… convincing or not…one can still be perceived as a dip-shit.

        2. Wow you arrogant turd what do you suggest people use other than their eyes, be they perfect or as most are, less than perfect to view these perfect screens? Perhaps we should all be tested so that only a prescribed minority who meet whatever superior visual grade you unilaterally determine can dare judge quality on such matters. There goes everyone over 40 then.

          1. My point was, and is, that most people who make blanket statements that you *must* buy some huge screen to get any value out of UHDTV sets don’t know whereof they speak. And, if they truly value optical quality and want to speak to that then they need to start with their own eyes. So one of my personal pass/fail questions to people who spout off about optical quality and optical resolution who wear glasses is whether they care enough to get aspheric lenses for their glasses (another is the size of those lenses, another is the refractive index of those lenses).

            I made no statement about people needing perfect vision in order to perceive a value in UHDT sets.

            The bottom line is that the average person DOES NOT **NEED** a huge screen to get value out of UHDTV. That is a simple fact. Blanket statements otherwise (as have been perpetuated ad infinitum by idiots in the media) do nothing to change that fact.

            Now, the other reality is that each person needs to assess what is of value to them. Being able to perceive changes on a 40″ UHDTV screen that is 10 feet away may not matter to some people. They simply won’t notice and won’t care. Therefore, for those people getting a moderate sized UHDTV that sits 10+ feet away is of zero value. BUT (and that’s an important but) there are people to whom UHDTV at this distance will be of value. So… blanket statements that you **NEED** a huge screen to get any value out of UHDTV sets is just asinine.

            1. Well you’re full of utter nonsense about screen size and fail to understand the psychology of what people will buy and the reasons they buy it. Precisely because people’s vision may not perceive a difference at 40′-60″, at 70″ and better at 85″ and up they will/might. What’s the point of buying a 60″ 4K if you can’t perceive the difference and the cost is much lower buying into 1080p?

              These are practicalities – this is the real world we’re talking about. You speak as a videophile in a perfect world but the world is less than perfect and people just don’t ascribe to your lofty misguided standards. Technology advancements are embraced by relative few and the rest are brought along kicking and screaming and mainly care about price. It’s like anything, people will buy at whatever price and size is good for them. But honestly the difference between 4K and 1080p at average viewing distances for an average sized set ain’t worth the bother. Bigger is better with 4K, always will be.

            2. Wow, goddam. I don’t care which of y’all is right, I appreciate an argument where I can learn something (hard to do here sometimes….) so, yes, I am impressed by the both of you.

              FULL DISCLOSURE: Read, typed and misspelt through Walgreens 2.0 reading glasses with various scratches, dirt and reflections…..(although I AM listening to Miles’ “Ascenseur pour l’échafaud” soundtrack through ROON via Tidal at CD quality, which I can CLEARLY see is an album I must buy).

              Good luck, and may the best man visually understand the other’s intentions…..

            3. Bottom line is beauty and perceptible resolution is literally in the eye of the beholder, his pocketbook and available media. But if you got bucks to spend, then go out and buy the biggest 4K set you can afford. Just be prepared to wait awhile for your eternal eye-satisfying reward.

              Meanwhile I’ll wait a bit longer and get a better & bigger 4K monitor for cheaper and have something substantial offering-wise to actually play on it by then. 🙂

            4. yeah, well…..I would probably have to start off by getting some decent glasses (even though I have found that I can hear just fine with these…).

  5. I love it.

    My next purchase is a 108″ screen. That way I will rant about 4k and praise the 8k wave…

    Oh! Btw, 16k is on its way around 2022… Mmm, lets wait then and stick to my ipad…

    1. In their defense someone has to be upgrading so enough 4K sets are out there for the industry to justified all the expensive upgrades for this in infrastructure.

      But yeah, I’m waiting too. Because when I buy into 4K the system will already be in place, sets will be cheaper and the set I buy, in Trump’s words, will be “HUGE.”

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