Planet Earth II shows 4K has a chance after all

Here's a whole new reason to upgrade to 4K.

smartcast p series ultra hd high dynamic range home theater display w tablet remote hero

In case you were out exploring the real world this past Saturday, a television show aired on BBC America that might prove 4K has a chance after all.

That's right, it's time for Planet Earth II. To prepare for the show (the series is one of my favorites of all time), I had to make sure all of my 4K ducks were lined up. First, I arranged to test the Vizio SmartCast P-Series 65-inch Ultra HD HDR Home Theater television that costs $1,900 and supports both 4K and HDR. The HDR support is particularly important, beyond the high-resolution display quality, because it gives everything a crisp, movie-like appearance. Blacks look rich and deep, and the colors pop.

Next, I used a DISH Hopper 3 with 4K support. Dish made the BBC America channel (number 540) available for free in 4K for the Planet Earth II premiere. As you can guess, the essential equipment you need for 4K is one thing, but there also has to be content.

Planet Earth II is an outstanding example of how 4K makes a difference -- really, other than the Rio Olympics in 4K last year, it is the first time most of the people who helped me test were so impressed they wanted to upgrade their own living room entertainment gear. In an opening scene with a sloth, you can see individual hair strands in a way that’s not quite possible in HD.  During a scene where the sloth swims across a channel to find a mate, the HDR really shines as well because the water seems more vivid and realistic -- it’s a strange experience, because you feel a bit like you are swimming there alongside the camera crew.

My favorite part of the show was when the camera zoomed in much closer. An insect in a later scene in the episode, called Islands, looked ultra-realistic as though it was crawling on the screen itself. On the 65-inch display, you can see the webbing on the insect. It’s not a slight blur like it is in HD, so you appreciate the fact that the 3840 x 2160 pixels are all working hard to make sure the scene looks convincing.

I also tested a few 4K movies on the Vizio display using a Philips 4k Ultra HD Blu-Ray Player. In the movie Arrival, I noticed how the early scenes that show a dark night sky looked ultra-black -- as dark as the room in my basement without the gray hue you see on lesser quality televisions. It made the creatures in the movie (no spoiler there, since the movie is called Arrival) look darker, richer, and more realistic. In the movie Allied in 4K, I also noticed the same rich blacks on the Vizio 65-inch screen and how colors popped, particularly the faces of the main characters.

Will 4K rock your world? It is getting more likely these days, with Netflix shows mostly showing in 4K, a nice string of 4K movies available, and now Planet Earth II, which runs for six episodes. I highly recommend upgrading if you can before the next episode airs this Saturday.

Copyright © 2017 IDG Communications, Inc.

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