I have had the same television for the last 6 years. When I bought it, it was the top of the range TV that Sony sold. The 46-inch screen has been an absolute workhorse for me. While most screens probably get used for around 6 hours a day, mine is probably on for over 12 hours a day. Recently, a couple of lines appeared on the side of the screen that wouldn’t disappear. The end was nigh for my beloved TV. On Black Friday I splashed out and got myself a new television. I have always had Sony televisions (while other manufacturers can match the picture quality of Sony, they can’t compete with the sound produced by Sony’s superb screens) so it was a no-brainer to carry on that tradition. What I really wanted to do though was to upgrade to 4K and HDR. I ended treating myself to a 55-inch Sony XD80 and a new Xbox One S (my Launch Xbox One is still working fine, but this way it can go upstairs in my bedroom and I can game both upstairs and downstairs).
The TV arrives and the box is massive. Despite being a considerable step up in terms of screen size, the actual unit is not that much bigger than my last TV as the bezel on the last one was huge, and on this one it’s barely anything (it’s actually less than a centimetre). Getting it out of the box was simple as it weighs less than half that of my old TV. With the new TV in place, it’s time to plug it all in. This is where I had some frustration. I knew that I couldn’t use my trusty 7.1 amplifier to do HDMI switching with the Xbox One S as it can’t pass through a 4K signal. To get around this I plugged the new console straight into the TV and used the optical output from the console to go into the amp. Turning everything on I instantly had an image and sound, result! Well mostly, I had a picture but it wasn’t 4K and it wasn’t HDR. I went into the advanced display settings on the console and it told me that the television I was connected to wasn’t 4K capable and couldn’t handle HDR, what the . . . . ! After an hour of retrying cables, checking the various settings on the console and the television, I found out that only HDMI ports 2 & 3 on the TV were enabled for 4K and HDR, nice thinking there Sony!?! What’s more you had to enable the HDMI ports with ‘Enhanced Mode’, so much for plug and play. With everything now correctly set up I tried my first 4K movie. As my friend John had come over to check this new bad boy of a screen we decided to go for some cheesy action and watched Independence Day: Resurgence. While the film may not be as good as it’s older brother (just like Liam Hemsworth) the picture quality (like Jeff Goldblum) rocked! There were times during the movie that my jaw dropped from the quality of the image on screen, it was incredible.
Having got the TV sorted already and tried a movie on it, now was the time to do some gaming. The first two games I tried were the ones I knew had HDR support, Forza Horizon 3 and Gears of War 4. The latest Forza game is a real frontrunner for my game of the year, so I was excited to know if I could spot the difference between normal visuals and HDR graphics. The game looks fantastic with standard 1080p, but when you add HDR into the mix it’s fantastic. The colours just pop off the screen and I can see more texture in the tarmac than ever before. The Xbox One S also automatically upscales everything to 4K when you have that display setting enabled. This probably gave a minor improvement to the graphic fidelity but not too much. Having played a decent amount of Forza Horizon 3 it was time to move on to Gears of War 4. I wasn’t expecting less of an improvement than Forza, but that wasn’t the case, it was better than the racing game. The thing with the Gears of War games is that there are quite a lot of dark sections to play through. Shadows and darkness are one area where HDR really excels, the darks are much darker but you can see lots more detail in the shadows. Playing Gears 4 with HDR enabled is brilliant, you can just see so much more.
It’s Sunday and it’s a family day. With my little boy not quite into gaming yet (don’t worry I’m working on him), it was time to break out the 4K version of his favourite film, The LEGO Movie. I was unsure how much of a difference 4K would make to an animated movie, particularly one that has more of a rough-and-ready style, but it gets as big an improvement as standard films. Even my wife, who had been dubious about moving to 4K, instantly said that she could see an improvement in the picture quality. Later in the evening, I tried out Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (don’t judge me, there aren’t too many 4K blu-rays available) and I can say that this bland movie had virtually no improvement in picture quality in 4K. The issue with this film is the prominent film grain effect gets in the way of any visual improvement.
By this point, I want to play everything I can in HDR. After a quick search on Google I find that Deus Ex: Mankind Divided and Battlefield 1 are both HDR enabled. After installing Deus Ex onto my hard drive, I’m back in Prague and playing as Adam Jensen. I don’t play for long though as when the post arrives I find that my copy of Final Fantasy XV has come early. After installing the game, I’m playing Final Fantasy for only the second time (I put around an hour into FFX and hated it) and only because it is HDR enabled.
I’ve been completely sucked in by Final Fantasy. The game has few frame-rate issues but the world looks beautiful and is surprisingly fun to play.
Final Fantasy is starting to consume my life right now
I play some more Final Fantasy but I watch Sicario before heading to bed and the film looks incredible in 4K HDR. The skin tones, the low light footage, Roger Deakins’ stunning cinematography all looks incredible with the resolution bump. This is probably the best demo disk I have (though I’ve yet to try The Revenant which is also supposed to be demo-worthy) and really showcases the format brilliantly.
I’m so happy that I have upgraded to a 4K HDR television, but for gaming it doesn’t really warrant the investment at the moment. If you are a hardcore movie fan (I have over 700 Blu rays) then it is definitely worth taking the plunge. If your TV is on the way out, as was my situation, then future-proofing your hardware is certainly worth it. As far as gaming goes, there is an improvement but it’s only really going to be when Scorpio is released (or you get a PlayStation Pro) that having 4K compatible hardware will come into its own.