Imagine you find a killer deal on a big, beautiful 4K Ultra HD TV and you bring it home, only to find you can’t actually play any 4K content on it.
This is not an April Fool’s Day joke.
Remember that old adage “you get what you pay for?” In the burgeoning world of 4K Ultra HD television, this saying has never been truer. If you’re excited to jump on the 4K bandwagon, there’s one specification you need to really need to know and ask for by name. It’s called HDCP 2.2, and all 4K TVs should have it – especially if they aren’t smart TVs.
What is HDCP 2.2?
As long as there’s been home video, there’s been copy protection. Movie studios have closely guarded their content by employing various schemes of copy protection to thwart bootleggers. Older VHS tapes were protected by Macrovision, and DVDs are guarded by a scheme called CSS. HDCP – or High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection – protects high-definition content like Blu-rays and HD Internet streams from being intercepted or copied over an HDMI connection.
As resolution and picture quality increase, the copy protection methods have become more sophisticated. HDCP 2.2 is the latest specification designed to protect 4K content, and 4K TVs need to be HDCP 2.2 capable in order to display content in 4K resolution. Devices that play back 4K content, like streaming boxes and newer Ultra HD Blu-ray players, need to be HDCP 2.2 compliant to pass signals to your 4K television.
Here’s where it gets tricky
You would think HDCP 2.2 would be a pretty easy and universal standard, but there are a few caveats you should know. While all TVs feature multiple HDMI inputs, not all of them may be HDCP 2.2 capable. In fact, you may see TVs that are advertised as HDCP 2.2 ready that only have one or two inputs that can accept compatible devices. If they are not labeled as such, check the owner’s manual to make sure they’re compatible. That may not be a big deal just yet, especially if your 4K TV has smart features built in for playing back 4K content from Netflix, but it’s something to consider down the road if you intend to add multiple 4K devices like a Roku 4, a 4K Blu-ray player, a 4K cable or satellite box, or other devices in the future.
If you have a home theater receiver or a soundbar standing in for your TV’s speakers – and we highly recommend that you do! – those devices must also be HDCP 2.2 compliant if you intend to connect 4K devices through them to your 4K TV. Many devices, like the pictured Integra receiver, feature multiple (if not all) HDMI inputs that are compatible.
So why does it really matter?
So let’s say you pick up one of the new 4K Blu-ray players and want to watch your brand new 4K copy of The Martian on your brand new 4K TV. If your TV isn’t HDCP 2.2 compatible, you’re out of luck. If your TV is HDCP 2.2 compatible but your home theater receiver isn’t, you’re most likely out of luck.
So aren’t all 4K ready devices HDCP 2.2 ready? In short, no. It really is “you get what you pay for.” Older 4K TVs and media players, as well as many cheap TVs made by no-name manufacturers are not HDCP 2.2 compliant. We’ve seen a wave of super cheap 4K TVs hitting the market, both online and in local discount stores. In fact, there was one online deal we saw recently that was definitely too good to be true, which advertised their 4K TV as featuring “the latest HDCP 1.4 standard.” Most people wouldn’t even think twice about this TV, thinking that 4K is 4K. This TV, which was also not an Internet-connected smart TV, may have enough pixels to be technically called a 4K TV, but it will never be able to show any 4K content. What’s worse is that those cheap TVs lack the processing power to adequately upscale SD and HD to anywhere near 4K quality, so the everyday picture quality is probably pretty lousy.
Remember, HDCP 2.2 is not something that can be added by a software update. If your TV doesn’t have it, it never will. That’s why it matters to not only stick with quality audio and video equipment from name-brand, reputable manufacturers, but also to work with knowledgeable local experts who can steer you in the right direction.
Do you have other questions about 4K TVs? Stop by our showroom and talk to one of our experts, give us a call at 920-733-6464 or send us a message!