Netflix 4K Review (Why You Don’t Need UHD Blu-ray)

netflix_4k_daredevilWhen the PS4 Pro was announced in September, some were miffed by Sony’s decision to exclude a 4K Blu-ray drive. I had then written a fairly extensive piece on why the PS4 Pro didn’t need such a drive (which would only add to its price) and that streaming was/is the future of 4K adoption. Now, What Hi-Fi?, the mega home theater site, has weighed in on the topic though not directly stating there is a lack of need for the PS4 Pro to have a 4K drive or speaking out against 4K Blu-ray drives in general. Instead, they’ve given their Netflix 4K review. What Hi-Fi? writes:

 But there’s a stack of 4K content available right now, from Breaking Bad to House of Cards, and more will inevitably follow.

In terms of content – bespoke content in particular – Netflix distances itself from any nominal competition.

And if you have an HDR (High Dynamic Range) compatible TV, there’s some HDR content on Netflix too. It’s not immediately obvious, as there isn’t an HDR section anywhere in the menus, but if you type HDR into the search box you’ll find a list of HDR content such as Bloodline, Marco Polo and Marvel’s Daredevil. You’ll see an HDR or Dolby Vision logo on relevant material. 

The most important piece of the puzzle for adoption of any new technology, especially when it revolves around media, is content. The PS VR launch wouldn’t be what it is if it wasn’t for the fact that there are over 30 launch titles to choose from. The same is true for 4K – content is king and Netflix is delivering. As it stands, there are nearly 50 4K titles to choose from, ranging from documentaries to comedies to action series. As for the cost, it’s $12/mo. Good luck consuming that much on physical media without it costing you hundreds of dollars.

Some will argue that streaming simply can’t match the quality of physical media which comes at you uncompressed, and on a technical level, you’re absolutely right. But between improved compression algorithms (thanks to companies like Pied Piper) and processors on 4K TVs, you’d be hard pressed to not be impressed.

 Whether 4K, Full HD or standard definition, Netflix serves video streams at exactly the sort of quality you expect. Watch a 4K stream like Better Call Saul on a 4K display and it’s prodigiously detailed, vibrant and stable.

Colours pop, contrasts punch and the sheer amount of information available for your enjoyment is thrilling. It goes without saying, but for owners of a 4K TV or, better still, a 4K projector, the £9 per month Netflix option should be compulsory.

It’s all equally high-contrast, steady-motion, fine-detail good news for Full HD too. 

With good visuals also comes good audio and Netflix once again checks off what you’d need:

 If 5.1 audio is available, Netflix will serve it up in the same manner as it does pictures: robustly and positively.

Anyone who has invested in a home cinema set-up (or even a soundbar) will reap the benefits with an altogether more substantial and immersive sound than those who rely on their TV’s integrated speakers. 

Don’t get me wrong, if you’ve purchased and/or are planning on purchasing the 65-inch or 100-inch Sony ZD9 alongside a monster 7.1 surround sound system, then by all means, purchase a 4K Blu-ray player and be sure to up your Netflix tier to include Ultra HD. But for the vast majority of consumers, Netflix is going to deliver quality and selection at a price physical media cannot match.

 Sit in front of it for eight hours a day and you’ll eventually run out of things to watch. But for each and every reasonable user, Netflix is an enticing service.

For 4K fans, it’s compulsory. 

Discuss:

For those who’ve given Netflix 4K a try, what are your thoughts on it?

  • rolfu

    For me it’s not a „Netflix vs. UHD BR”. In terms of quality, a stream will lose in every aspect. I use 4k beamer from Sony in a 50 m2 black cave on a 4m wide screen with Atmos. Therefore I buy “real” UHD discs if possible (like the Revenant). And I stream Netflix for the latest series. I like both.

     

    But I still don’t understand Sony’s decision: they are years ahead in the 4k beamer market, they sell ultra high end stuff like a VW5000, they produce movies and still don’t have a UHD BR player. That’s very strange. I don’t buy the Pro neither the Sony UHD BR player.

  • But that’s exactly it right? – you and I are the outliers. The average consumer doesn’t have a home theater room with Atmos sound.

  • Jeremy Arnold

    I find no difference between 4K streaming and full 1080p Bluray. Most streaming HD is on par with 1080p Blu-ray but your audio choices are often more limited which gives Blu-ray the edge with premium offerings (depending on the source).
    I find that nothing compares to the quality of 4K UHD Blu-ray in PQ, color and sound (with options like DTS-X and Atoms which often aren’t available with streaming).The exception is when purchasing and downloading 4K UHD movies like Fandango Now’s Vidity movies but I still noticed a slight improvent with 4K UHD Blu-ray.
    Despite this, it is such a subtle improvement that 99% of the population wouldn’t notice the difference! I generally only notice because I am actually looking for it and pausing frames to compare. 3D Bluray has increased my enjoyment of home cinema substantially more than 4K UHD pulling me into movies and immersing me in wonderful new worlds. 3D bluray was the evolution of home cinema while 4K is a subtle refinement.

  • Huh. I know my experience has certainly been the opposite where 4K streaming compared to Blu-ray is certainly noticeable. However, there might be less of a difference if you’re watching that Blu-ray on a 4K TV since most do 4K upscaling already.

  • Jeremy Arnold

    Only reason I can think 4K streaming doesn’t seem better than regular blu-ray is because (on my Samsung SUHD TV) I haven’t reliably been able to stream HDR and HDR seems to be the biggest improvement when watching 4K UHD. In SOME movies I have seen a significant uptick in detail with 4K but the big difference seems to come from HDR. I also don’t have a huge screen (65″)… if I had a larger screen the streaming 4K may provide a big improvement over regular bluray? One bad example was Home Alone 4K that I bought from either VUDU or Amazon. For that particular movie I preferred the regular bluray to the 4K streaming version bc the 4K version had oversaturted colors and additional noise I found distracting. It’s kind of an experimental time and I actually bought 4K UHD Bluray, 4K Vidity UHD and 3D Bluray versions of Mad Max: Fury Road, X-Men: Days of Future Past, X-Men: Apocalypse and several others and it’s interesting because I feel each format offers unique benefits that the others don’t!

  • Jeremy Arnold

    That is odd huh? And they really pushed a LOT of 4K content early on (and even a 4K media player I believe)? But no UHD player.

  • Alex_Atkin_UK

    So apparently we don’t need 4K movies then? As Netflix UK still has none.

    So yes, we do need UHD Bluray.

  • Alex_Atkin_UK

    The reason that is happening is a lot of people do not value the content, they watch what is available and aren’t really bothered what is not. Also people buying stuff online only haven’t realised the cost of that yet, as no major provider has closed down.

    If I want to watch a movie/TV show on Netflix, odds are they don’t have it. Or they remove a TV series when I’m half way through. That’s not good enough to me.

    But maybe once a big provider closes and they lose every single piece of media they bought from them, people with finally realise its not as great as they thought.

  • nortton

    UHB blurays are ridiculously expensive, but the quality of netflix 4k is a joke, even comparing to youtube 4k. It doesn’t even look better than a hd bluray.

  • nortton

    Couldn’t agree more. 3d was the best, even though it wasn’t perfect. Netflix 4k is a joke

  • Jeremy Arnold

    Well we also have to consider that in the US DVD still outsells Blu-ray by an insane margin which absolutely baffles me when you consider how cheap Blurays and bluray players are these days. Bluray improves PQ as much as HDTV did for television. Night and day! The average consumer just isn’t informed or doesn’t care about PQ.
    They want convenience, which I must admit streaming provides. It’s nice to be able to get a movie 30 days before it comes to physical media.
    I always prefer to purchase the 3D Bluray (or steelbook), if not available I purchase the 4K UHD Bluray. If a movie is offered in neither format I usually stream it or purchase it online. Of course, I also collect limited steelbooks and lenticular slipcovers and this is where I believe there will always be a demand for physical media. I usually don’t even open these because It is the packaging, not the film, that I am collecting!
    So, I use all purchasing formats because I think each offers certain advantages.

  • Jeremy Arnold

    I use Netflix when I want to watch a Netflix Original show or when there is nothing specific that I want to watch and I don’t want to spend any money. I don’t think I have ever wanted to watch a specific movie and then found it on Netflix. Not once. VUDU, Amazon Prime and Fandango have a MUCH larger selection and also offer highe caliber movies (at a significantly larger cost though)!

  • Alex_Atkin_UK

    That’s just the thing though, people are sacrificing so much just for convenience of being able to watch it NOW.

    I have a decent surround sound setup, and the sound quality from streaming services is vastly inferior to from disk. The soft picture quality is a lot easier to ignore than the audio difference.

    The cost of renting a movie a couple of years old is usually very close to the cost of buying the Bluray, the cost of buying a digital copy from these services is usually the same or MORE than buying the diskm for an inferior copy that I do not technically own any permanent rights to.

    The sharp pixel quality and lossless audio is far more immersive than these downloads/streams.

  • Alex_Atkin_UK

    My TV doesn’t support HDR but I still see details on Netflix 4K that wouldn’t be there on Bluray.

    Of course it depends a lot on the source, and Netflix seem to deliberately have long stable shots in a lot of their content made in 4K which is ideal for showing off the extra detail. Older content, like Breaking Bad, its hard to see much improvement as it wasn’t shot to maintain such pin-sharp details.

    I do agree though that I wouldn’t trade 3D for 4K, its why I got a 4K TV without HDR, I wanted to get one that still had 3D support.

    Incidentally, my mum has bad eyesight but she still finds the clearer the picture on the TV, the better she can see it.

    The reason most people don’t see the benefit, is because they do stupid things like putting their TV at ceiling height and WAY too far away, much further than recommended viewing distances for their screen size.

  • Jeremy Arnold

    I hate when they remove content I am in the midst of watching! Or I add it to my wishlist and by the time I get around to watching it it’s been removed!
    I buy physical media 90% of the time. I also still by audio cd’s. I want to actual OWN the product to future proof it. I’ve been screwed over by iTunes on many purchases and after being forced to re-purchase music several time I said never again. Besides, If ITunes became non-existent for some reason I could be at risk of losing everything. It’s not likely to happen, but I want the product in my hands.
    I think they have taken 3D functionality off 4K televisions because they want to force us to re-purchase movies in a new format.

  • Jeremy Arnold

    I agree.
    Fandango NOW is the only streaming service in the US to offer premium sound like ATMOS or DTS:X but you must purchase the movie to get it. You can also buy 4K movies with HDR and though the PQ is almost indistinguishable from 4K Bluray it’s actually more expensive than buying the 4K Bluray most times (or the same price). I’d just assume own the physical disc. I purchased a few of these before the Samsung 4K Bluray player came on the market.

  • Alex_Atkin_UK

    If I were to think conspiracy theory, I’d say 3D will come back in a few years.

    Realistically though, I think its because they want to focus on HDR and you can’t have 3D with HDR as 3D loses too much brightness. Though granted, that doesn’t stop 3D working, you’d just have to choose to watch in 3D or HDR.

    Heck, HDR is sub-optimal right now on 99% of so-called HDR TVs due to not having a high enough peak-brightness anyway.

  • Jeremy Arnold

    I sure hope you’re right. I keep hoping that the Avatar sequels will be salvation for 3D whether James Cameron decides to experiment with 4K 3D or some other variant that my feeble mind has not imagined. What has been disappointing to me is that even thought there are tons of new films coming out in 3D this summer (huge blockbuster films) even the movie theaters in my area have reduced 3D showings to only 1 or 2 screens. When I went to see Underworld, Resident Evil, Doctor Strange and several others all the 3D movies were sharing one or two screens and if you wanted to see it in 3D there were only one or two showings per day of each and after the first week there no more 3D showings… only 2D.