4K is the newest revolution in TV technology.
If you’re new to this TV term, 4K is all about the pixels. Millions of pixels. Millions more than the next best TV which is 1080p.
If you think of a TV screen as a giant grid made up of minuscule squares, a 4K image has about 4,000 horizontal pixels (that’s where the name “4K” comes from). In total, it has about 8 million pixels on the screen, or about 4 times as many as the next best TV. To explain it in a visual way, manufacturers are jamming as many total pixels as there are in all of a 1080p set, into about a quarter of a 4K screen. That’s a lot of pixels.
4K TVs are becoming much more common, and even though there are complaints there’s not enough content to watch, that’s starting to change.
Meeting the 50” Insignia Roku LED 4K/UHD TV
I had several weeks to test and review a new 4K TV to see what all the fuss is about. I cobbled together a temporary set up in my basement to test it out. The TV is the 50” Insignia Roku LED 4K/UHD TV. For the newbies, Insignia is the manufacturer, and Roku is the smart software or operating system platform that the TV uses. Roku is a well known maker of smart streaming devices like the Roku Streaming stick, and it’s a platform that’s bug-free and easy to use.
Setting this TV up is very easy. Unpack it, plug it in, and connect to your home’s Wi-Fi. You’re ready! You can of course also connect to a 4K Blu-ray player (I tested it with the Samsung UBD-K8500 Ultra HD Blu-ray player) or other 4K compatible device. Yes, you can connect other non-4K devices, but the whole point of a 4K set up is to enjoy maximum resolution.
Testing the Insignia Roku Smart 4K TV
I had a chance to watch several different shows and platforms with this device; I watched regular non-4K TV and movies, 4K/UHD internet streams via Netflix and YouTube, and 4K movies using the Samsung 4K Blu-ray player.
Watching regular TV on a 4K set is no more impressive than watching regular HDTV. Of course it looks great, but you likely won’t see any spectacular difference from a current 1080p TV. It’ll be good, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not going to blow you away.
What does 4K look like?
In 4K everything looks fantastic; colours are vibrant, edges are sharp and fine details you wouldn’t see ordinarily become visible. Lines in print and text look like they’ve been drawn in with a razor’s edge.
I found myself noticing fine lines on Matt Damon’s abdomen in The Martian, and even individual arm hairs during a scene where his character is forced to perform self-surgery. I also noticed bizarre details like crumbs on an empty cafeteria coffee table. Distracting? No. Fascinating? Yes.
I also particularly enjoyed a 4K NASA video on YouTube of an astronaut at the Space Station making liquid bubbles with water. The detail was insane, the colours —realistic, and overall it was just mesmerizing.
Specs: Insignia Roku LED 4K/UHD TV
The Insignia Roku LED 4K/UHD TV comes with a remote control that’s small, and simple to use. The TV has 4 HDMI ports which are easily accessible in the side of the TV, allowing for lots of connections if you want them, plus additional inputs/outputs include A/V composite, coaxial, a USB port, and optical digital out.
One feature I loved? The TV has a built-in channel store where you can access strictly 4K/UHD content for free, so there’s no need to surf individual platforms and channels looking for the best stuff.
- 60Hz refresh rate provides standard blur reduction to improve the look of fast-action sports and video games
- Pre-set video modes take the guesswork out of adjustments and feature Cinema, Game, Vivid, Low Power, and additional options
- Dolby and DTS TruSurround audio enhancement help deliver richer sound from two 10-watt built-in speakers 802.11n
- WiFi support lets you connect to your wireless home network and access streaming content 0/100/1000
- Ethernet port gives you the option to establish a wired connection for broadband streaming
- Built-in Roku TV platform gives you access to over 200,000 movies and TV episodes, along with music, games, sports & more
Viewing distance & 4K TV
I played with viewing distance a bit during my testing. I found that if the TV was too far away from the TV, I couldn’t fully appreciate the 4K resolution. Initially my TV was about 10 feet from the sofa, and I after about half an hour we pulled it 2 feet closer, with no noticeable difference in the video quality or detail visibility. I closed the gap again to about 6 feet and found that improved things for me. But the best distance for me with this 4K TV was about 3 feet.
Remember when mom said, “You’ll wreck your eyes!”?
Your mom told you not to sit so close to the TV because it would wreck your eyes, and back in the day that was probably less about your eyes, and more about the fact that if you sat close to an old TV, the picture was a messy blur. But with 4K the detail is so fine, you can sit about a foot from the TV (yes, I did this) and still enjoy a razor sharp picture without blur or visible pixels.
Plus, the closer you are to a 4K TV the more immersive the experience is; you really feel like you’re there because the screen fills your field of vision, not unlike being in a movie theater. Some articles actually recommend sitting just 2-3 feet from a 4K TV, but I can now see why.
Don’t re-arrange your living room so fast…
One other thing to consider? While you may want to close that viewing distance for 4K streams and flicks, the vast majority of other content you’ll be watching on a 4K TV probably won’t be in 4K, and you’ll want to sit further back for that. For some folks, the idea of rearranging the furniture according to the show you’re watching may be off-putting but it’s something to think about. (Read more about 4K and viewing distance on TechHive.)
Overall review of Insignia Roku LED 4K TV
4K is an amazing experience, but you may seriously need to rearrange how you watch TV in order to get the most from it. For me, that was sitting about 3-4 feet from the set. In my home, if I owned this TV that would mean a serious rearrangement of the furniture in my media room in order to get the most from the 4K resolution.
Overall, I really enjoyed this TV, and found it easy to use, quick to set up and encountered no problems with it. I also really like Roku’s platform and user interface.
This is definitely a TV I’d get for someone unfamiliar with technology, since it’s so user-friendly, and because it has streaming capabilities built right in, you won’t need any additional devices for accessing TV via the internet (also making it a great choice for a student apartment or dorm). I’d also get one for myself since it has everything I could want in a 4K TV and it works great with no bugs, no tricky setups or awkward navigation, and it operates perfectly every time.