I was in the theater for yesterday’s PlayStation 4 Pro unveiling. This $399.99 PS4 upgrade will tout, most importantly, 4K resolution and High Dynamic Range for games and streaming media.
I’m a bottom line kind of guy. My mortgage, car payments, insurance, kids in daycare and after school care, utilities and bills have forced me, like most of us the world over, to be really conscious of my spending. I have to sit down with every purchase and weigh the excitement or need of everything against the cost.
In the theater and demo kiosks yesterday at the PlayStation 4 Pro event? Yeah, there’s no doubt about it, the console makes games look good in motion. Uncharted 4 looked fantastic, and there were moments in the Horizon Zero Dawn demo that had me a bit floored by textures and clarity. It looks good.
Let’s run through my standard research for figuring out if I should purchase something, then. Let’s pretend here that I really want that PlayStation 4 Pro. Let’s also assume (which is correct in my case) that my current television doesn’t support HDR or 4K. In order to really make use of the PlayStation 4 Pro for stuff beyond frame rate stability, I’m going to need a new TV.
When I drop big bucks on consumer tech, I read a lot of reviews. A lot of reviews. I’m going to hamstring that effort and pick a low-to-middle of the road TV. But first, what size do I need?
At what size and viewing distance does 4K matter?
You probably know this as a reader of a tech site, but it might surprise you to learn that average consumers do not. Viewing distance matters when it comes to display resolution. For instance, the ideal distance for a 1080p display that’s 30″ in size starts around 4′. That’s where you can really perceive the resolution at a comfortable distance. You could sit closer, but the living room setting is one that typically requires larger space between the couch and TV. My couch and television sit in a narrow room. The back of my couch to my TV is exactly 8′. At 8′ feet, my 50″ television with 1080p resolution sits at an ideal viewing distance.
If you’re looking into a PlayStation 4 Pro or 4K displays in general, consider the viewing distance. It matters.
There’s even a formula (oh god, math) for this. Here, from Wikipedia. I’ll explain the variables.
VD: Viewing distance
DS: Display’s diagonal size
NHR: Display’s native horizontal resolution (in pixels)
NVR: Display’s native vertical resolution (in pixels)
CVR: Vertical resolution of the video being displayed (in pixels)
What about other sources? I went to five separate sites with completely unique charts and graphs. Each featured what they dubbed either the ideal viewing distance for each resolution and screen size, the “full benefit of 4K visible” distance or even a distance calculator.
Here’s one of the charts I found most visually accessible.
I sit 8′ away. I’ll go low here and assume I can get away with a 60″ display in order to enjoy 4K.
That chart matches or is lower than what other sites say, for what it’s worth.
At 8′ Reference Home Theater put me at needing a 70″ display. THX didn’t give me a calculator, but the site told me that at 10′ 4K wouldn’t be perceivable on a 50″ display. When I set my distance to 8′ with Rtings‘ calculator, they recommended a 75″ display. Crutchfield, admittedly known more for car audio, suggests 65″ or better for 8′. Finally, CNET pointed me towards a chart I’d already found by one Carlton Bale. Bale’s chart indicated that 4K’s benefits wouldn’t even start to become noticeable until 70″, while the full benefit wouldn’t be realized until my TV’s diagonal size spanned 100″.
Okay, so let’s go low here. Let’s assume, despite some rather overwhelming evidence to the contrary, that a 60″ display will work for my 8′ viewing distance.
Before glancing at even a single review, my cheapest option here is the LG 60UH6150 60″ 4K Ultra HD Smart LED TV. It checks in at $899.99, currently on sale for $897. Other sites have the same TV for closer to $1,000. Based on the reviews, it’s an alright TV. Not flat out amazing, but decent.
The next cheapest TV, also an LG, clocks in at over a grand.
At its cheapest, I’m spending $1,300 to make full use of a PlayStation 4 Pro’s features.
I don’t mean to start the parade early for the inevitable wave of commenters, but do you know what kind of monster PC I could build up for $1,300? Heck, my current rig runs most everything today at Ultra settings and it’s approaching a year old and only cost me $1,000.
So here’s me. A father of two sitting in that middle class economic bracket. My wife and I both work. $1,300? I could stretch it, sure. Do I want to? No.
Maybe you’re different! This shouldn’t dissuade you from leaping into that 4K display deep end with a PS4 Pro or Xbox Scorpio in tow. For me? Right now? I’ll wait for the slow dip of television costs before I dive in.